Iím still doing a lot of thinking about food and nutrition.

Itís amazing to me that how we eat is so imbedded into culture, experience, family, and taste preference, that most people are fiercely protective of their food choices. In some cases, itís considered to be too personal a topic to discuss with many people.

So, let me tell you. It was not easy for to have my dietary choices challenged, when I had to mix with a vegan. Sure, I ate things that were accidentally vegan, we all do; pb&j, etc.

Even as a vegetarian, I was a foodie. When I had cable, if my tv was on, it was on the food network. I didnít care that most of the dishes werenít vegetarian. Many dishes were easily adaptable, and Iíd often watch the shows, and adapt the recipes in my mind, as it went along.

I loved the connection to history, tradition, and culture. I had no family stuff in my family. No traditions, no recipes that were handed down over generations, and no bonding over food.

As a vegetarian who watched the food network to get her familial bonding, the most luxurious, historic, culturally rich dishes I knew contained dairy and eggs. Maybe things have changed, but back then, the food channel was pretty Eurocentric.

Then my cable provider decided to move the food channel to a higher subscription level and I decided that I didnít really need it that much.

Then the vegan moved in. Again, I knew some recipes that were accidentally vegan, but not many. Adam likes to cook, but heís not very good at it. Heís also not very good at caring about his nutrition.

His biological mom wasnít the cooking type. They ordered take-out most nights, and she kept the house stocked with the unhealthiest processed foods, for snacking.

When I met him eating meant, going to a restaurant, getting take-out or eating something utterly lacking in nutrition. For example, six slices of dry bread for dinner. Not even the good kind! He ate just plain, processed, white bread. So, there was no learning how to cook decent vegan food from him.

We can eat separately, and we often do, but for larger meals, thatís just not very cost effective. Also, I wanted him to see that being a vegan doesnít mean you just suck it up and deny yourself; end of the story.

Or, at least, I hoped that wasnít the end of the story.

Anyway, I think we know how the story ends. Itís still a work in progress. Iím still far from being a vegan, myself, but I have learned a lot.

Changing dietary habits was a huge exercise in open-mindedness. Not just for me, but for him, too. I hated the way he did vegan. When I experimented, and sometimes offered him foods that were totally outside of his realm of food expectations, he ate, anyway.

As open-minded as I like to think I am, I also discovered that I have some prejudices. There are some foods that I associated with things that I donít like. I didnít want to be seen as a grass-eating hippy or even looked upon as a non-conformist.

It was disheartening to me when I found out that besides soy milk, hemp milk is the most nutritious non-dairy milk. I associate hemp products with people who wear twine and tie-dye and donít shower. I have purchased a box of hemp milk, but I havenít tried it, yet. Itís still sitting on my kitchen table, un-opened. I love foods that can last forever in the pantry.

Luckily, Iím not just open to trying new foods and recipes, I enjoy learning about those things. I like weird grains that Iíve never heard of. I look up the nutritional information on foods for fun.

I like finding out how other people prepare their tofu, seitan, grains, beans, TVP, etc., and their preferred brands. Itís like bringing the food channel to life, I suppose.

I learned that besides open-mindedness, it also requires a lot of tenacity. If something didnít work right, or didnít suit our tastes, I went back, tweaked, and tried again.

Tenacity was also required when it came to just cooking, in general. I donít like to cook. Adam does like to cook. He doesnít do it well, and he has virtually no cooking knowledge. Iíve taught him just enough to be dangerous.

On tired evenings, there were plenty of times that I just let him go for it, and just kept my eyes closed as we chatted in the kitchen. I learned how to keep my eyes closed when my ex-husband drove, so doing it while someone else cooks is easy.

Sometimes, Iíd try to teach, but that was frustrating for both of us. A bad meal is easier to stomach than a bad argument.

Ultimately, though, Iím the one with the know-how and desire to change our eating, so if it were going to happen, it had to come from me.

The other thing is the palette change. Iíd experienced a palette change before, but that had to do with sugar. I used to eat an ungodly amount of sugar, especially in college. When it turned out that my ex-husband was diabetic, I got rid of it all. I stopped eating sugar, even outside the house, in solidarity.

Six months later, I couldnít take a swallow of soda without gagging from the sickly sweet of it. This, from a girl whose most commonly eaten snack had previously been M&Mís chased with Mt. Dew. Oh, you thought I was always a healthy eater?

Anyway, this summer, I experienced a palette change, again.

I know that when we first start eating differently, it seems like thereís no way weíll ever stop liking x, and start liking y, but oddly enough, it happens.

I found that with the right recipes, it can be a smooth transition, a long on-ramp onto a different dietary highway. Thatís what I discovered this summer. My palette changed without me even noticing.

Iím really grateful that I ended up being challenged this way. I started learning about foods and cultures that werenít featured on the food network. I have a lot more variety in my diet.

Iíve improved nutrition for both of us, which makes me happy. I used to eat a fairly balanced diet, but it seems that research is showing us that our old-fashioned ideas of balancing our diets might not be so great.

Speaking of which, Iím off the market, to get food.

1 comments so far

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011 at 5:04 PM