Thursday, 4 October 2012

Vittles And Sustenance.

or How Pinterest Saved The Day.

If you did not grow up in Dublin in the 70's and 80's, then it is impossible really to explain just what it meant to have a mother who knew how to cook, and cook beyond what she had been taught by her own mother, or in school! We were encouraged to cook too, all five of us, and all things were endured, no matter how unusual or challenging, through our various fads and fancies, including my announcement at 11 that I had decided to become a vegetarian.
To this day, my absolute, hands down, favourite thing in the world is our family gatherings, when we all converge in the kitchen of my parents house, and proceed to put together a Meal of Excellence, overseen, of course, by our own Maitre d', our Mum. Like any good meal, there are many layers to it, and that goes for the preparation too. One person is an excellent saucier, another likes to be given the role of tournant, filling in wherever needed, another is definitely the patissier, and there will always be a number of sous-chefs, happy to interchange with one another, depending on how busy, or enthusiastic they are on the day. And of course, there is the one or two who are happy to act as stewards, a fine Meal of Excellence in return for clean up duties, a fair exchange, in their book. All of these roles happily transposing between us all.

Goat's cheese stuffed butternut squash.

Over the years, my own interest in food and nutrition has been a constant, initially, as a young teenager, due to my choice to not eat meat in a country that thrived on the meat-and-two-veg variety of meals, but there was also the influence by my inheritance of books from a great aunt that really helped to set me off on a path of bettering things. I didn't really pay much heed to books like 'How to Levitate', but it was the old home remedies ones that really got me. Two in particular, Folk Medicine, A Vermont Doctor's Guide To Good Health by D. C. Jarvis, and Folk Remedies by Lelord Kordel. I'd like to say thank you to my Mum for her patience with me in my explorations in this as a young teenager!
I'm not sure if I somehow knew I would need this knowledge and dedication in later life, but it turns out I did. As I have mentioned occasionally here, for years now I haven't eaten gluten or sugar, and at this point in my life I find, while I am not a vegan, per se, I do eat a largely plant based diet, with little or no dairy, or animal protein.

Rice noodles with crispy tofu.

This has been a long and gradual journey, with many bumps and rocky bits, and I can tell you it is by no means over. It is not easy. I have gone through so many different phases, diets, versions of diets, it'd make your head spin. However, it is quite amazing to look around now and see just how common it is, this whole food exclusion thing.
I am aware that there are lots of people out there who 'don't believe' it all, that think it's a fad or fashion, but I don't believe it is, not given the very real symptoms I, and many others I know, are living with daily. I also have my own theory about why we find ourselves increasingly unable to digest, or process, a growing list of very ordinary, and common, foods.

Lentil cakes with homemade pesto, wilted greens, and lemon thyme courgette fries.

So here it is.
In the last twenty years, for the first time in the history of the world, humans in the western world can eat whatever they want, whenever they want.
All year round.
And that is the problem. We eat what we like.
All year round.
Our bodies have reached saturation point.
If we were eating locally and seasonally, as our not so distant ancestors did, then we would be rotating food, and our bodies would get a break from things throughout the year. Let's take wheat, for example, probably the most common food intolerance going. Think about it, your average person eats wheat literally for every meal. Every day.
All year round.
It's no wonder our bodies reach a point of 'WAIT! I've had enough, I don't NEED any more right now!' But we continue to eat it, because, sure what else would we eat? And we like it. The same could be said of dairy, another extremely common intolerance.
We simply eat too much, too often, of too many things.

Butternut squash gnocchi with sage butter.

Now this, of course is my inexpert, and non professional, tuppence worth about the whole thing, but it makes sense to me.
But it is so hard to eat any other way, isn't it? Eating habits are extremely hard to break, or change. I know, I've been doing it for many years now. And it's been an incredible journey, and I've learned a few things about myself along the way which have surprised me. The main one being that I have willpower and can actually do something difficult that I really don't want to do! I always thought I couldn't.
So, in the process of all this discovery, food has become quite a focus for me. From the time I finally gave up all the things I couldn't eat, I spent about four years in a bit of a downer when it came to food. Eating held no pleasure for me any more, everything was such an effort and with such little reward, because it rarely tasted anyway remotely delicious, and always like a sad excuse for food. It was dreadful.

Red lentil and hazelnut patties.

So, about six months ago I decided I'd had enough, and I set about finding food that I could not only eat, but that I could relish, and also confidently serve to 'normal' dinner guests. All I can say is, thanks be for the internet! Thanks to Pinterest, and through it the discovery of incredible food blogs out there, I now have a growing menu of delicious recipes and food ideas that are beyond anything I've eaten before, and over the next while, mixed in just the right proportion, I hope, I'd like to share some of these recipes with you. I promise you don't need to be intolerant to anything, in fact, you don't need to be anything other than interested in Good Clean Food. I promise you won't be disappointed!
These photos are to whet your appetite, so to speak, and I hope they do!

But I am curious, do any of you find you can't, or choose not to, eat certain things? Or if not, do you have someone in your life who does? I'd love to know what your experience has been, and I welcome all questions and comments!


yew tree nights said...

A lovely post, and your food photos look so amazingly delicious!!

As it happens I also declared myself a vegetarian at about the same age. Though we lived in Canada, my family had the same idea of food as your family, but so many of my friends came from families who were vegetarian for religious reasons so I knew there were other options out there. Then I was vegan for 3 years when I was a little bit older, and I can completely understand the food downer you felt (and especially going to a restaurant was the ultimate nightmare). Due to some years in France where vegetarians are treated like a menace, I changed things a little and these days I very occasionally eat a bit of meat. After all those years of vegetarianism I don't feel like the traitor my younger self would have considered me though. It feels like I keep a balance. Except with chocolate.

Kerry O'Gorman said...

My hsuband is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy and despite my Irish heritage, I am not. When my dad and I came over to your Island, I was so pleasantly surprised at the variety of foods, especially vegetarian. I try to avoid wheat and eat it very seldomly, sugar is a treat, usually being of the dark chocolate kind and I must say that I love cheese. But I am finding so many alternatives like using cashews for gravy and sauces and ground mushrooms in place of beef. Right now in Canada there is a major beef recall across the country and it just reinforces to me that we should know where our food comes from and how it is processed. Look forward to tasting some of these photos!

Lorraine said...

I'm salivating at what look like some sort of veggie burger? :)

I was a veggie for 18 years - and now I'm not. But any meat I eat I have to know where it comes from. Until we get our own chickens to slaughter I'll only eat organic chicken from one farm in Wexford (where I know they take good care of their animals), pork as to be free-range - the pig has to be living outside and be allowed to forage for food, and raised to a good age before slaughter.

Fish has to be sustainably-caught (line fishing rather than dredging).

Oh I never eat eggs when I'm out - we have our own chickens and ducks and no egg could possibly come close in taste!

So basically when I go to someone's house I'm a veggie - it's way easier than asking about what farm the meat came from!!!!

Mairéad said...

If these dishes taste as good as they look, you're on a winner!
I generally try to buy free-range chicken and make sure the fruit & veg haven't clocked up more airmiles than I have, but other than that I don't really have the time or money to look beyond whatever's in the discount supermarket. Husband has given up cows' milk and drinks soya or goats'. I know if I thought about it long and hard I probably wouldn't eat meat, more because of animal welfare issues.

Rebecca S. said...

Good Clean Food is right up my alley, and as for your new blog focus I say GO FOR IT!
The pictures are drool-worthy...yum. I noticed that I can eat very few carbs at suppertime and I also try not to eat at all in the evening. This approach has helped me not only lose 10 pounds and keep it off but has helped me gain in energy and a better digestion all around.

Mimi said...

Your food looks absolutely delicious, especially the patties...can't wait for the recipe for those!
I come from a staunch meat-and-two-veg family (oh sorry, the meat was interspersed with fish caught by my father), where the vegetarian option was to leave the meat off the place!!!
My eldest daughter is vegan, next one is vegetarian, the rest of us are omnivores. I love fish, nobody else eats it, the others love pasta but I don't eat it.
Had enough? It's 5 different dinners here most days!

Poetry24 said...

A very interesting post, Ciara. I look forward to the recipes.

We only eat meat once a week. A little chicken breast with loads of veg. My fat intake has always been low, but I cut it further about six years ago, after gallstones were diagnosed. We've always aimed for modest portions and a balanced diet.

Jess said...

Some of your pictures look really scrummy, I'd love to have the recipes! I have bad symptoms if I eat any dairy especially cheese or eggs. Itchy rash and an acid stomach that's become worse over the years. The trouble is I love cheese! I have it occasionally but each time suffer the consequences.
Jess xx

Cait O'Connor said...

I have been catching up reading all your previous posts. All have whetted my appetite, your words and the food.

Ciara Brehony said...

Well, thank you all for your very interesting and surprisingly similar comments.
It seems we are all now thinking about what we put into our bodies, we all want to know where our food comes from, and not just from a personal health point of view, but all from an environmental and animal welfare point of view.

And yes, Mimi, I'm done with the 5 dinners every night! That was part of my food fatigue! Now they all, mostly, eat what I eat, but they do get dessert occasionally!

Shiva rei said...

love this post
because your article is very interesting to read

Ulan News said...

nice post ..
really very nice your post

Senja Berita said...

very nice your post

Gigi Thibodeau said...

I really needed to visit you today, Ciara. I haven't eaten meat in nearly twenty years, but I still eat some dairy and some fish. Recently, though, I've found myself eating less and less of either of these things, not because of allergies or intolerances, but because they don't taste as good to me as they used to. I find myself actually craving totally veg food nearly all the time. I don't know if I'll every go totally vegan but I'm excited to move more and more in that direction.

My biggest stumbling block is wheat. I adore bread. Toast is probably my favorite food. What a problem for me! I am certainly learning to eat less of it, but wow, it's hard.

My other challenge is that Todd is a meat lover, and so we often eat very different meals. He will happily eat many of my vegetarian meals, but he does love steak and other meats. It often makes cooking complicated and tiring for me, and for him. I don't expect him to adopt my eating habits, nor he I, and we make it work, but I'm hoping to help both of us eat a healthier diet. He has a very rare autoimmune disease, and believe shifting his diet to more veg proteins and as much local, seasonal, whole organic food as possible will help him manage it even better than he already does.

Yes, yes, yes about pinterest! I'm finding so many great recipes there! xo

Anonymous said...

I follow your Pinterest boards because you have unique tastes that are very similar to mine. We seem to have a lot in common in a lot of different areas, so I decided to click on your blog link. I must say that I am not a blog reader, but for the first time in a very long time, I read your whole entire page down to this point. We even have similar diets. Haha! I choose to be a pescatarian, or if you want to get technical, a "pesca-lacto-ovo, blah, blah, blah...." But, I have a mostly plant based diet by choice and I love savory food. Please keep writing and I will keep reading!

-From the shores of South Carolina,

Slamet Riyadi said...

looks rice noodles with crispy tofu very tasty. I love this post.