March 24, 2011 § 2 Comments
Food extremism is nothing new to my husband Steve. He grew up in a home that was a bit of a nutritional house divided: his mom serving the foods most people were eating in the mid-west in the seventies and eighties- pot roast, mac and cheese, pudding, etc.- while his dad frequently ate a different meal altogether, experimenting with various different nutritional theories he was reading about in specialty magazines like “Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review.” (motto: “Let Us Have Truth Though The Heavens Fall.”)
Steve’s father, who passed away a few years ago, was a vegetarian before people even knew what that was, back when health food stores were still fringe operations frequented and operated by folks who still thought communes might be a really good idea. But Bill Schaub was no long-haired hippy; he was a trim, clean-shaven lawyer who would one day rise to become Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board and be conferred the rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service by President Bill Clinton. I try to picture him walking into the Toledo-area granola shop in his suit, his aftershave clashing with the smell of patchouli and wheat grass.
My husband recalls the time his father took him to see the watershed movie Star Wars. Steve was not very excited to go, because outings with his father were often nutrition oriented and pretty dry stuff for an eight year old: “I thought we were going to a lecture on carrot juice or something.”
In another favorite Bill Schaub story, he grew a mustache, (of course! it was the seventies!) This development coincided with the peak of his interest in the nutritional value of mangos and his decision to import boxes of the fruit himself, which of course resulted in his brown mustache turning mango-colored from the sheer volume of orange fruit that passed his lips.
There are lots of Bill Schaub anecdotes like this, illustrating his passion and single-mindedness when it came to the subject of nutrition and food. Steve is his father’s son, and inherited from him not only an attentive attitude toward food and nutrition, but also the unusual ability to endure strange and restrictive diets for various goals.
For example, in addition to our family’s ongoing No Sugar Project, Steve has for the last seven weeks also been shunning all dairy, and all bread products. Also no potatoes. Basically just meat, eggs, and any vegetable and fruit which you could eat raw. You can imagine how much fun we are in restaurants.
Eve: “I have a strange question. Does the lasagna have sugar in it? And also, what about the soup?”
Steve: “Can you tell me, is there gluten in the sausage? What about in the cabbage? I’m also not eating dairy…”
Eve: “No, the kids don’t want lemonade, could they just have water…?”
Oh yes, the waitresses just love us.
The thing is it has worked. I mean, Steve looked completely fine before, and thin compared to your average American profile. But in a few weeks on this Paleo / Raw diet he’s lost over twenty five pounds. I know! We’ve been buying him new pants since nothing fits anymore- he looks great. More importantly, he’s clearly happier.
Interestingly, Steve’s father had an addiction to sweet things- cookies, ice cream- which he battled with all his life. Steve’s own addiction is much more specific: diet Dr. Pepper. Not to put to fine a point on it, Diet Dr. Pepper is Steve-crack.
The other day Steve sheepishly brought home a case of the stuff, justifying, “well, I thought it could just drink it in the evening as a snack…”
After I gently pointed out the Steve-crack phenomenon, even he agreed it probably should stop. I know it’s not easy- we all like to have our crutches to lean on when we feel depressed and deprived. For me, “mother’s little helper” is more vague… once upon a time pre-project I would’ve enjoyed a bit of chocolate or cookie after every lunch and dinner- a sweet of some kind albeit a small one. I still miss that ritual, that sweet little ending to a meal. Lately I supplement that desire with an alternate treat- a banana, an unsweetened cappuccino, a GoRaw granola bar with raisins in it. It gives rise to the question: do we have to chose between health (long-term happiness) and desire-gratification (short-term happiness)?
The other day Steve was talking about his dad. “If my dad was alive today he’d be fascinated by this project,” he said. “He’d be sending us articles and talking to us about it all the time…” I know. It’s sad he isn’t here to share it with us.
March 15, 2011 § 5 Comments
Lately, I’ve been feeling like the anti-Charlie Sheen… no tiger’s blood, no rock stars from Mars, and I am definitely not winning. After getting back bleary-eyed from my marathon odyssey to Minnesota, I crashed at home surprisingly hard: I slept for most of the first day home, unable to move off the couch for more than a shower. And because I recently wrote about not getting sick yet this year since beginning the No Sugar Project, it was kind of inevitable that I came down with a nasty head cold on the plane ride home.
Meanwhile my husband has valiantly been keeping the home No Sugar fires lit while trying to juggle kids, school, work, after-school activities, meals and pets. He made a few very helpful discoveries in my absence such as the fact that we can eat a great deal of the food at Al Ducci’s italian foods shop in Manchester Vermont, including most of their homemade prepared salads and breads. Also, he discovered the first real, honest-to-goodness, no sugar cookies we’ve found- adorable tiny Ginger Snaps by ”goRAW”- as well as some delicious granola bars by a company called “Two Moms in the Raw.”
Unfortunately there is one catch… the granola bars are amazing, but they do have organic agave nectar in them… technically a no-no. But we’ve getting desperate around here. So far we’ve been adhering to a “one exception” per person, (inspired by Barbara Kingsolver doing the same in her family’s “eat local for a year” project documented in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) as follows: the kids’ exception has been Polaner All-Fruit Jam (which contains fruit juice as a sweetener), Steve’s and my exception has been wine. So maybe we can have that one granola bar on days when we aren’t having jam/wine? Oh, I’m just not sure about this…
And then I found something out that blew my mind. Mayonnaise. Yup. Check. Go check now- I’ll wait.
See? You see what I’m up against here? How, I ask you, how am I supposed to make it through the year without mayonnaise? Tuna fish? Egg salad? Chicken sandwiches? Have you ever tried to make homemade mayonnaise? I did once- I have a distant memory of a glop in a blender that ended not so much in a tasty condiment as disaster.
It is moments like this that make me seriously question what the heck we’re trying to do here. Are we just torturing ourselves, I wonder? Splitting hairs and starving ourselves and antagonizing waitstaff throughout Southern Vermont? Only to find at the end of the day sugar is hiding under our pillow, laughing at us all along?
Yes, folks. Only eight weeks into our fifty-two week project and I’ve become a raving, paranoid lunatic with a head cold and an obsessive ingredient-reading disorder. As my Dad used to say when he was trying not to swear in front of us kids: “Ohhhhhhh… SH–ugar.”