I knit. And I cook, write, take pictures. All for one low price.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dear Thanksgiving Turkey

Dear Thanksgiving Turkey.

I know it's not Thanksgiving here in the US for a couple of weeks yet, but I wanted to catch you while you still had some time left on this earth. Give you time to digest this news I am about to deliver to you.

O this is going to be hard.

You see, I've been a vegetarian for twenty years, but I think ducks to avoid flying rotten eggs that I am going back to eating....meat. Meat as in chicken and turkey. (The thought of bacon has always grossed me out.)

Please hear me out. I think that avoiding eating 20 Thanksgiving turkeys, and I am not even going to count the Christmas ones at my sister-in-law's house, should at least count for something, and buy me twenty minutes of your time...thank you.

Twenty years of being a vegetarian for political, animal rights, and dietary reasons is a tough thing to leave behind. Repeated reports of meat recalls and E. coli horror had me glad to be avoiding meat entirely. We raised our kids vegetarian too, even though we never "forbid" them to eat meat: if they wanted to try it, they could. When they had questions about the meat and seafood departments in the grocery store, we stood there and visited steaks, hot dogs, and lobster. But they never ended up trying it, until Tall Son went to college. He does have an occasional burger now.

Twenty years of having to explain to one's relatives the reasons why, and why I was doing that to my kids, we felt like oddballs for a very long time. We were labeled as birdfood eating crunchy granola types by some. We were told that we were going to be iron-deficient, emaciated, protein-lacking, miserable people. Honestly I have no idea how Tall Son got to be 6'2" and Crafty Girl at age 12 has caught up with me in height? There were years where we only saw the pediatrician at the annual check-up. Twenty years, and we were never miserable because of our diet. Never.

However. Things started to change for me a couple of years ago, when I found out that I have IBS (probably since childhood) and also a gluten sensitivity. There are 4 celiacs in my immediate family, so the odds are pretty good that I would have an issue there, too. 2006 was a very high stress year for me. Autoimmune disorders are sometimes triggered by stress.

Now my diet excluded wheat, rye, barley, oats, and cow's milk dairy. And still no meat and no seafood. I love my nut butters, and am OK with gluten free foods, and am just fine with goat's milk cheese. (Most of them I cannot afford, but that's another story.)

This spring, I was having more than the usual seasonal allergies, and I finally figured out that eating peanuts in any form makes my chest constrict. Not a fun experience. But I am happy to not eat peanuts. Being able to breathe is more important to me. Switching to almond butter or cashew butter is not an option, as they are made on the same equipment as the one used for peanutbutter.

After several months now of not eating meat, seafood, dairy, grains, and nuts, I started to gain weight in the weirdest way. Was it all the rice? Rice bread, rice crackers, rice cereal. While I was grateful to be eating something that didn't make me sick, I was getting sick of it.

Oh, and did I mention that if I have a full serving of carrot salad, or butternut squash, pumpkin pie, or any other deep yellow vegetabe, I get diarrhea? Did I tell you that eating most legumes has me blowing up like a hot air balloon, but without the exhilarating feeling of floating high in the air? I do love potatoes in all their myriad ways of preparation. I am fond of millet and quinoa. Corn, I am OK with, but it doesn't thrill me too much. I am never quite sure of its nutritional value, either.

I considered being a vegan, but that was an impossibility due to me being restricted in the nut department. I have since found some dry roasted almonds which are like manna to me, which cause no adverse reaction. I need to go purchase some good dairy free, non-grain sweetened dark chocolate to coat them in. A girl does deserve a treat every once in a while.

Always thankful for any kind of food that doesn't make me sick to my stomach, content with my choices, happy to have any food at all in the face of so many millions on this earth who never have enough...I had another piece of rice bread toast the other day with imitation cream cheese, and it suddenly hit me:


I am so so sorry. I realized that I was spending so incredibly much time thinking about what to eat that didn't make me ill or nauseous or bloated or kept me from breathing. I realized I was sick and tired of tofu and simply could not think of yet another way to prepare it. Already pouring soy milk (thank goodness for SILK!) over my corn chex, I knew I could easily overdo it with the soy protein and then where would I be. Trust me, I had explored many of the glutenfree, allergy free, vegan, vegetarian cookbooks. I knew what my options were.

I was also in the middle of reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, so that may have had something to do with my sudden change in attitude. Yes, I was supremely grateful for the food I had, but all that scrounging for protein was doing something to my psyche. I am glad I can literally just go to the store and find something to eat. (It means spending twice as much time there because I have to read labels all the time, but I've always been ready to do whatever it takes.) I know there are people right around me who have deadly deadly allergies to some of the most common foods. I can truly appreciate what they have to go through each and every day.

But I hit my very own personal wall. I started to fantasize about bratwurst. I know. 20 years. Wiped out. To take the edge off, I went to the market and got a 1/4 pound of all natural turkey breast, sliced thin, and it lasted me for two lunches. That was two weeks ago, and I have since had some tuna salad. (Dear husband and I actually put the occasional fish on the grill over the summer, but that was going to be it. Didn't want to bring that smell into the house.)

The biggest decision I made was that I want a Thanksgiving Turkey. I am going to find a free range one, because I refuse to eat something that had endured torture. Now I need to find a recipe, because I have no idea how to cook a turkey. I do want to do it justice and want it to come out right.

I guess basically I want to make sure that I can be grateful and mindful again of whatever I'm eating, and not spend all my time worrying, because that just seems wrong and serves nobody.

Dear Thanksgiving Turkey. Thanks for hearing me out. Now go live out your life with wild abandon.


duraknit said...

Wow, Karin, sounds like quite a struggle! It's OK to say it's hard even if other people's problems are even worse. I hope you start feeling healthier and less stressed about food very soon.

spiderwomanknits said...

Great post Karin! I really feel this. I find it's so hard to have to THINK so much about something that should be so basic, at least that is how I feel as a GF girl. Having all those other restrictions makes it even more of a challenge I am sure.

It must be quite a shift to go from vegetarian to meat eater (although Jorn will be excited to hear it, he loves 'meat eaters'!) I have great turkey recipes and such. I also know someone who raises turkeys but I have a feeling they are all spoken for by now.

Next year, why don't you raise one here? We'll watch over it and help along. We will be getting meat birds and a turkey for our family.

Also, The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books!

Harriet said...

Terrific post, Karin. I'm gluten sensitive, and know that if I had to limit my proteins to the non-animal kind my life would be so much more difficult than it already is. Go slow adding animal proteins, though, it might take your body a while to adjust to the heavier food.

Anna said...

Try www.vanwienaturalmeats.com for your turkey (my sister's (SO (boyfriend, companion, gentleman caller?)'s store).
Hope you have a wonderful meal--and I know I mentioned it before, but The Art of Simple Food should be first on your list of cookbooks. Also, feel free to peruse my cookbook shelf any time.

Leslie said...

Making major changes is difficult. You've obviously thought this through and I admire you for writing about it.

Now go get your Julia Child on, cook sensibly and well :)

Anonymous said...

Eat it. Enjoy it. And then make soup. Cathy

Elizabeth said...

Get guidance from a qualified nutritionist. If you don't have a rapport with the 1st one you go to - try another. Find out what the optimum amounts of protein and carbs and fats are right for you and your health challenges.

Stabilizing your blood sugar is an important step when changing your diet - obviously you have been undergoing dietary changes for awhile - not just this issue of introducing meat into your life.

Find out what nutrients are deficient in your diet.
After a time you may be able to re-introduce foods you have become sensitized to (as opposed to those you are allergic to).

Hope you will feel better.