For reasons that are too boring to explain, I packed a 576-page book in my carry-on when I ventured to the southern hemisphere last month. To visit the country of my childhood.
I was doing my utmost to pack sensibly, to mimic those Influencers on Instagram who take bird’s eye photos of the contents of their suitcases, arranged in impossibly beautiful and cohesive mini-piles. A book the size of a child’s backpack felt frivolous bordering on stupid as I imagined traipsing through security checks and crowded airports with a millstone on my back. Even the title went against my sought after holiday aesthetic: How Not to Die.
But with 80-plus Calgarians chomping at the bit to borrow this very title from the library, I felt slightly coerced to spend my holiday reading about how to reduce my chances of dying from one of the Top Fifteen Killers.
The bottom line, if you’re mildly curious but know with complete certainty that you would never (a) go to a library, (b) put a hold on a book, or (c) pick up or flip through a book entirely focused on disease and nutrition, is to eat plants above all else. With a bit of turmeric and flax seed thrown in for good measure.
Some people, when presented with compelling information encouraging lifestyle changes can shrug their shoulders, mutter ‘we’re all going to die of something’ and continue on as if nothing happened. And other people feel compelled to act, to incorporate the newly acquired information, however short-lived their conviction may be.
I mostly fall in the second category of people – willing to make changes to my lifestyle as long as they make sense to me. As in, if I read an article tomorrow that urged me to exercise for 2 hours a day, I would shrug and pretend I never read it. Same if some doctor somewhere tried to tell me that homemade chocolate chip cookies were taking years off my life. Those were probably going to be the years I didn’t want, anyway.
But cutting out meat? Eating more vegetables? Sure I’ll try it.
I tested the idea with the other members of my household. ‘Would you be willing to eat vegetarian for ten days?’ ‘Sure,’ the children replied enthusiastically, ‘as long as we can keep eating meat.’ ‘Meat is my life,’ my middle child resisted. Which seemed, frankly, like a sad statement. The professor, bless his heart, has gotten used to these impulses of mine and just rides them out. No sugar? Okay. No meat? Okay. He knows I eventually move on, and as he has minimal interest in cooking, he is mostly willing to eat what’s in front of him.
As soon as I returned from my idyllic two weeks of no cooking, no cleaning, no driving and did I mention no cooking, Operation Eat Plants was on. Much to the [loud, constant] lament of my family. I have to believe the biggest obstacle for parent-chefs to considering vegetarianism is the fear of backlash upon serving their kids copious amounts of vegetables at every meal. The imagined complaints, protestations and tears would invoke a sense of dread in even the most unflappable of people.
‘What’s for lunch?’
‘What’s for dinner?’
[Outrage. Visible Disappointment. Tears. Resignation. Any and all of the above.]
Herein lies another problem rarely discussed: increasing one’s consumption of vegetables, beans and flax seed by 200 or 300 percent will result in digestive ‘challenges’, to put it mildly. Even though no one on the interwebs will attest to this; just a few sporadic voices offering pitiful concessions like ‘you might experience discomfort for a day or two.’ (Undoubtedly the same people who tell you that going off sugar will give you a headache for a couple of days and then you will feel a surge of energy unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.)
Bull-fart, I say.
Because every time I turned, someone had farted, was farting or was about to fart. Followed by ‘What?’Or maniacal laughter. Or both.
We were a toxic, bloated bunch, unfit for public consumption.
The professor and I went out for
dinner vegetables to celebrate our 22nd (?!) anniversary, and upon cinching my wrap dress, I was keenly aware that I looked like someone at the end of her first trimester, despite my advanced maternal age and running routine. ‘I like your dress,’ the waitress enthused as she escorted us to our table, while I contorted my shoulders in an attempt to disguise my distended abdomen. We pored over the menu of the restaurant, eliminating the meat items and the blatantly unhealthy ones. The professor also nixed the plate of cauliflower ‘I can’t’, he shook his head, motioning toward his stomach, shuddering.
So I ordered, without apology or explanation, a plate of green beans, a plate of beets and some sort of green tomato-burrata crostini. The waitress seemed perplexed by the strange selection, offering to leave us a menu in case we wanted to order ‘something else’. Later I glanced at the hipster couple sitting at the table next to ours, and by hipster I mostly mean ‘not married for 22 years.’ They had ordered all the same dishes as us, including the cauliflower.
‘I think they’re vegetarian,’ I whispered to the professor.
[The Silver Lining: Three, or is it four weeks later, I can report we survived the experiment and will likely keep going with some modifications. Though my boys are, what most people would consider ‘good eaters’, I’d definitely fallen into the trap of limiting the kind and amount of vegetables I serve, for fear of dinner table backlash, or the dreaded ‘Oh’ when I tell them what’s for dinner. But this switch has enabled me to see they will survive, even willingly participate in, eating more vegetables.
Though the presence of eggplant continues to induce tears in 33% of my children.]