Monday, 25 January 2016

Thoughts From A Juice Cleanse

Hello from the other side.

Why did I do a juice fast? I know, only assholes do these things. But I wanted to use the New Year and resolution time to jump start a healthier lifestyle (I know, #basic, but don't fucking judge me okay? I'm trying to better myself). In the last year, I went off the deep end of indulgences. Too much wine, too much beer, too much pasta, and then one day, nothing fit properly. I also felt like shit a lot of the time. I was exhausted from about 2:00pm-5:00pm, I can't sleep through the night, and I got sick this summer and had to cancel my own 30th birthday. So I was ready for something a little different.

But enough about me, back to the fast. 
I was hungry, but not any hungrier than I've been, and I've certainly gone a full day without eating before (usually thanks to my friend, Bombay Sapphire.)

I absolutely had cravings too, things that wouldn't normally tempt me seemed impossibly delicious- like how Burger King selected January 4th as their 2 Can Dine marketing flyer launch date, "coincidentally" coinciding with the same day I couldn't find a parking spot at my gym. But, the cleanse certainly gave me an opportunity to reflect about what I love about food. And, it increased my appreciation of food, in the sense of food being a tangible thing we shop for, prepare, eat, chew, since I was getting plenty of nutrition without food in that sense otherwise.

So yes, I was hungry. And I certainly missed chewing food. But what I missed most was the ritual of eating. Let me describe the scenario for you: 

It's Friday night, 7pm. I've walked the dog, I've had a hot bath, everyone is leaving me alone like I like, and the rest of my night consists of a bottle of wine, a GIANT bowl of pasta, and Netflix. And like, you can't eat until you find the right Netflix show, but you can't start something and then stop it to make food. It's a delicate ballet of food, film, and my couch. It's my absolute favourite Friday night. It does not get better. So while the juice fast was clearly short term (you can't settle in for a cozy night on the couch with a Spirulina-Spinach-Beet juice) it made me wonder how I might indulge these rituals but make better choices. It also caused me to think about what food means culturally. I also binged on several of my favourite food documentaries during the fast, which gives me deeper perspective on food, culture, poverty, and access. 

While my Friday night pasta and wine isn't necessarily a cultural enjoyment, its most important quality is that it is best done alone; it's part of a beautiful ritual I've created to unwind from my week. I think these food rituals begin to shape our perceptions of ourselves. For example, I've read some great books and articles on people who quit drinking, and the thing I most identify with is the re-shaping of oneself when you stop drinking. "I'm the party girl- without vodka, who will I be?" As someone who did tone the drinking for a while, I tried on the Superior Perrier Bitch persona, but that didn't quite fit. And as it turns out, Moderate Mary isn't who I am either. But that's for another day (and possibly a therapist).

My enjoyment of food is a pivotal element of my persona. I love food. Like, I LOVE it. I love going out to eat, I love cooking at home, I love trying new food, I love experimenting to see how to make things more delicious. I've considered being vegetarian or vegan before, or cutting out other things that are bad for you, but ultimately it comes down to having to redefine myself, and that's the hard work. I mean, I think cows are dopey and cute and I feel terrible that they're slaughtered in horrendous ways. But I like the Bailey who orders her steak rare. I want to be a rare steak kind of girl. Just like I want to be a pasta-loving kind of girl. Or the kind of girl that can go to a dinner party and be game for absolutely anything. A vegan Bailey is a new person. Maybe she also volunteers at an animal shelter. Perhaps she really likes snuggling up with a spirulina smoothie on Friday nights. I don't know. But I know that I want to eat baguettes and brie and rosé this summer on a patio. Because that Bailey eats her steak rare. And won't turn on Jessica Jones until the pesto is on the fettuccine and the Rhône is in the glass.

Ultimately, I suppose Moderation Mary is our friend. Healthy-ish, that's what people are doing now, right? As I mentioned, I did the fast because I wanted to jump start healthy eating habits, and I do want to feel better. So in the spirit of being the Rare Steak Bailey, but with a streak of the Spirulina Sally, plant-based meals are the ticket. Indulgence is okay, once and a while. And yes, I do want to feel better, and sleep better, and be well, but I also really want my fucking expensive jeans to fit, and I want to wear sexy underwear without it hacking into the flesh of my hips and making me look like two baguettes are actually stuck to either hip.

Bottom line- how do you LOVE food without becoming a glutton and getting gout? One advantage I have is that I'm actually not too into processed food, and the preparation of food is something I enjoy, so it’s immensely easier for me to wean myself off the sugar and chemical laden food we typically think of as unhealthy. And, as I’ve found in the days since the juice fast, we can still make food taste delicious and have it be healthy(ish). Take for example this meal, courtesy of Tasty, which I played with a little and found something delicious.

My main changes to this recipe were to use brown rice vermicelli instead of regular pasta; I used homemade almond butter instead of peanut butter (because regular peanut butter is basically just hydrogenated oil and sugar), and added a splash of coconut milk with honey instead of brown sugar. You need:
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Sriracha 
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger /minced
  • 3 cloves garlic /minced
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • Vermicelli 
  • 1 cup carrots /finely cut into matchsticks 
  • 2 cucumbers /shaved using vegetable peeler 
  • 1 red bell pepper /thinly sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper /thinly sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup green onion /sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro /chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Crumbled roasted seaweed

This is the easy part. Bring your noodles to a boil. While that happens, mix the first nine ingredients together, either whisked or in your blender. I did mine in my brand new Blendtec and it was awesome. Slice the rest of the ingredients. When the noodles are ready, toss everything together except the avocado and seaweed, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve on a bed of greens and garnish with the avocado, seaweed and a drizzle of sesame oil. 

It’s delicious, healthy, gluten-free (if you use gluten free soy) and an excellent option for #MeatlessMonday. And if you participate in Meatless Monday at least, that Saturday Steak is a little easier to enjoy.