When I was first advised to go on a restricted diet over two years ago, I though I would die. For years, food had been central to my life – not only the food itself, but the ritual of preparing it, making it look beautiful on the plate, and the best part, presenting it to and sharing it with friends. And what did I love best? Montreal bagels with lox and cream cheese, red wine, rotini with clams in cream sauce, prosciutto, pickles, garlic spaghetti with obscene amounts of parmesan … it still makes me drool.
Was I now relegated to carrots and rice cakes? Steamed greens and lettuce? Rice cereal, rice crackers, rice pasta, rice? I could think of no worse fate. I recall visiting my parents one day at lunch time, only to find everything in the house on my restricted list. I cried as I ate the carrots I found in the fridge, and cried even more when they were all gone and I was still hungry. Was this what I had to look forward to?
Fortunately, my frustration turned to anger, and anger quickly to action. (It’s often like that – once I get “riled” about something, I have the energy to make changes.) I hit the health food store and bought everything that I was allowed I could find. In most cases, I had no idea what I would actually do with these foods, but I had nothing to lose. I made pilgrimages all over town, to Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian food shops, and in doing so met some wonderful and dynamic people. I filled my kitchen with grains, noodles, crackers, shrimp chips, creamed coconut. My refrigerator overflowed with vegetables. Now I couldn’t cry because there was nothing to eat.
I learned to use my new foods, more by intuition and exploration than instruction. (You begin to develop a sense of what works if you pay close attention to your food.) I discovered that a little olive oil and lemon juice goes a long way to enhance the taste of all vegetables, whether steamed or sautéed. Where before I used cheese as a garnish, I now used ground sesame seeds. I learned how to make a mean salsa for my organic corn chips, and started to snack more and eat big meals less. Not only was this new approach to food not a drag, it was beginning to be fun!
Two weeks into the diet I was feeling clearer and stronger than I had in years. So good, in fact, that I thought I could sneak in just one croissant and my body wouldn’t notice. Ha! I was quickly punished for my foibles. At that point I realized that my new regime was going to be a lifelong journey rather than a short trip.
I now enjoy eating as much as, or even more than before. Food is central to my life. I prepare it with affection, take great care to make it look beautiful on the plate, giving it back what it gives to me. I’d like to share some of my discoveries with you.
3 large tomatoesPut all ingredients into a food processor and chop, or cut into small chunks and mash with a potato masher. Serve with (organic) corn chips. Very zesty.
1 cup organic brown basmati rice, rinsed wellBring water and rice to a boil. Turn to low, adding curry powder, cumin, cardamon, and mustard seeds. Leave for 20 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and cover until vegetables are cooked but retain their colour. Eat around the cardamon pods if you can. Very fragrant and delicate.
1 small cauliflower, cut into chunksHeat oil in large pot. Add fennel, garlic and cauliflower. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients except for the watercress and simmer until cauliflower is tender. Puree in blender. Float watercress in the soup and serve. Earthy and delicious.