Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016: Just Fucking Do It

One thing I've learned this past year is that a person should do what it is they really would like to do, regardless of whether or not they believe themselves to be qualified or prepared. The most accurate embodiment of this idea from the last year, of course, is He Who Shall Not Be Named (i.e. Donald Drumpf). Though I would rather not have to acknowledge him as the next president of the United States of America, I have to admire the fact that he identified something he wished to do and just fucking went for it.

So here I am again, sitting on my drooping grey Ikea couch with a mug full of hot lavender chamomile tea. Writing. Attempting to channel vulnerability in a way that doesn't come off as too confessional, more of a Statement of Unfortunate and Encouraging Personal Facts From My Everyday Life.

The holiday season & the onset of 2017 somehow coincided with my mind being forced to recognize that something is wrong with my body. A year ago, during the second week of January, I was awakened in the night by abdominal pains unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I spent hours doubled over, moaning & crying, trembling with pain. I considered going to the emergency room but the pain was so intense that the thought of getting dressed & into the car & my body not being in the 'right' physical position to accommodate the pain seemed like the worst possible idea. So, instead, I popped some ibuprofen & genuinely suffered through the pain until I eventually drifted to sleep.

Throughout 2016, I experienced a fistful of these painful episodes of varying degrees. I missed a few days of work here & there because I literally could not stand for longer than it took to force myself to hobble back & forth from my bed to the bathroom. For awhile I didn't know what was wrong with me & thought that perhaps it was related to food, that I had eaten something horrible, except the fact that I never vomited or had digestive problems or even had eaten anything out of the ordinary. Stupidly, despite the fact that I have health insurance, I didn't go to the doctor (somewhat but not entirely because of my PTSD regarding a hospitalization in 2010). Soon enough, however, I came across something about endometriosis. The descriptions I read & heard about the condition described my pain perfectly.


If you're not familiar with endometriosis, Bitch Media produced a very informative podcast entitled 'Women & Pain' wherein one of the stories features writer & endometriosis patient Maya Dunsenberry; I highly recommend taking a listen. As Wikipedia states it, 'Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus (endometrium) grows outside it.' From what I've read, a lot of other problems can also arise - such as infertility & organ dislocation. An appropriate diagnosis can also take a great deal of time: "In the US, as of 2007, about 27% of women with endometriosis had had the symptoms for at least six years before it is diagnosed."

The pain most recently hit me again this past Thursday, the 29th of December, & my body hasn't felt 'normal' since. I finally bit the bullet & made a doctor's appointment with someone who seems as if they could help me manage this condition.

My options for treatment, as I currently see them: intrauterine device (IUD) with progestogen, possible pelvic ultrasound, laparoscopy (a surgical procedure using a camera to diagnose & treat lesions), minimal alcohol use, exercise, a heating pad, etc. There is no cure for endometriosis.


So suddenly I'm in 2017 & I have an appointment to see a physician in a little less than two weeks & I'm telling myself I can only drink once a month in an attempt to prevent the debilitating pain & I'm trying to eat more nutrient-dense foods that give me energy because my body is in a near-constant state of fatigue & I guess I could take up a new exercise regimen? I feel like one of those stereotypical 'resolutioners' that steals the good machine at the gym in January only to stop showing their face completely by the end of March. However, instead of feeling 'new' & 'determined', I'm afraid of what my body is trying to tell me. I'm watching my partner drink a pint without me & I'm eating a big salad for breakfast. Don't get me wrong, I'm still eating chocolate cake in the evening & sampling cookies at work - but I'm more aware of what I'm eating when I need my body to be productive. 'Disaster Management', if you will. No diet, all fear.

Treating & managing my newfound endometriosis with the help of a licensed professional is something I feel I have to do, but last month I also plunged myself into something I wanted to do: Pies for PDX.

I didn't know if it would 'work', but on Christmas Eve I offered up Turtle Pie (flakey buttery crust, chocolate, pecans, salted coconut cream caramel) & raised $335 for End the Backlog. Some of that money was my own, & admittedly some of it came from my incredibly considerate coworkers, but a lot of it came from strangers I had never met before & may never meet again. I was prompted to begin Pies for PDX after the results of the last election. I felt as if a lot of rights I had taken for granted under the Obama administration were suddenly being threatened & I wanted to get out & do something tangible in an attempt to combat those threats. This is a project wherein local vegan bakers handcraft & sell pies to donate 100% of profits to causes we believe in. We work once a month out of the Sweetpea Baking Company kitchen to offer a delectable pie whose flavor & purpose we put much thought & consideration into. 

I was terrified I was getting myself into a promise I couldn't keep, but the city of Portland showed up & donated & ate pie & everything turned out as I imagined it could (except for some crumble/collapsing with crusts - note: deep aluminum pie tins do not work as well as glass pie plates!).

I do not have any New Year's Resolutions, only goals I would have already pledged for myself otherwise. I'm forever learning about my own body, learning about what being a vegan baker means to me, learning about my relationship with food & the city where I reside & the people I come into contact with every day. 

And if I want to do something, I'm going to fucking do it & hope for the best.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Decadent Food Dreams (MoFo Days 11, 12, 13)

Isa's Green Lasagna Rolls that I have made twice & are so so delicious & 100% worth the effort.

Prompts: 11) Where does your favorite food come from? 12) What would you eat on your dream holiday? 13) An alien lands on your doorstep. What are they going to eat?

Toasted almond & green tea biscotti I baked for a friend.

My favorite cuisine was difficult to pin down because I love so many different types of meals, but I think my preferred cuisine as of late is Italian-inspired. Espresso-soaked tiramisu with a perfect balance of tangy creaminess & deep chocolate bitterness. Biscotti, a cookie designed specifically with coffee in mind. The wonders of homemade pasta & gnocchi. The brilliance that is vegan piccata over mashed potatoes. Eggplant parmesan. Fresh pesto, hot crusty pizza, cold beautiful gelato. Vtopia's mozzarella, caprese. Minestrone. Focaccia. Risotto. Polenta. Pairing a gorgeous simmering dark red marinara with a robust red wine. The fantastically heavy casserole dish full of heartily rich & satisfying lasagne that could feed you & your whole family for at least two days. It's all just so absolutely inviting & fulfilling.

The tiramisu at local vegan restaurant Portobello, photo via Yelp.
Best tiramisu I've ever eaten, vegan or not.

Isa's seitan piccata. I really love her recipe for chickpea piccata in Isa Does It.

On my dream vacation, I would uncover buttery-decadent-delicate traditional French food done the vegan way. As a baker who is constantly thinking about pastries, I would love to be able to walk into a 'traditional' French eatery to discover that I could eat every-beautiful-thing without worrying about eggs and dairy. I found this top 10 list of vegan eats in Paris from which I found Gentle Gourmet Cafe, a 100% vegan restaurant that serves faux-gras & so many decadent-sounding menu items (check out their instagram for some stunning dishes). So, on my dream holiday, I would be in Paris drinking wine & coffee & eating croissants, faux gras, baguette, vegan cheese, French truffle, cream sauces, macarons, & all the locally grown fruits & vegetables. Then I would cry.

Photo via Gentle Gourmet on Facebook.

My partner & I are planning a trip to Europe next year, so I actually may be able to eat vegan in Paris! I have also discovered the helpful Paris Vegan & Paris by Vegan, so suddenly eating plant-based in France seems like such an easy & enjoyable thing to do.

If I had to feed an alien right at this moment, I would hope they would enjoy two of my favorite things, made their best when consumed alongside each other: coffee & pumpkin pie coffee cake.The coffee cake is beyond moist to the point that it almost tastes like pumpkin pie filling and is given crunch with a nutty streusel topping.

Bon appetit, alien!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Something Different, Something Fusion: Gumbo Spaghetti (Days 9 & 10)

Vegan Gumbo meets Cincinnati Chili! Okra Gumbo from Isa Does It over spaghetti
with diced onions & Miyoko's Kitchen artisan cheese in Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash.

Prompts: 9) Cook a cuisine you’ve never tried before. Or, one you don’t make often enough. 10) Take two cuisines and make them work together.

I have never prepared nor eaten gumbo before. I have been eyeing Isa's recipe since she originally posted it on her blog five years ago, but for some reason haven't made it...until today. I also recently learned about Cincinnati chili:
"[...] a Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce used as a topping for spaghetti (a 'two-way') or hot dogs ('coneys'), both dishes developed by Macedonian immigrant restaurateurs in the 1920s. Ingredients include ground beef, stock, tomato paste, cinnamon, other Mediterranean spices and sometimes chocolate in a soup-like consistency. Other toppings include cheese, onions, and beans" (Wikipedia).
Vegan Cincinnati Chili from Oh My Veggies,
a photo which happens to feature one of my favorite beers (Old Rasputin).

I have also never eaten Cincinnati Chili. Even though I am admittedly unfamiliar with how both dishes are 'supposed' to taste, I decided to 'fuse' them together & hope for the best. The result? I cleaned my plate! Unlikely combination, but definitely a work of genius.