Monday, February 23, 2009

Going back in time

Recently, I have read items from a couple of books about current events and culture that were written either before September 11, 2001, or just after George W. Bush took office but before the Iraq war. I would love to call these writers and have lengthy conversations about how they now view what they wrote then, given what we've all been through. Because what they wrote then makes no sense now. It's like watching a movie or tv show filmed before 9/11 in which anyone can walk through the automatic sliding doors of the airport and right up to the gate, ticketed or not. Remember those days, when you could wait for you loved ones' airplane to pull up to the gate in the chairs usually reserved for passengers, instead of on the cold tile next to the baggage carousel? It may be such a little thing, but it reminds us of how much has changed in these 7 and 1/2 years.

One of these books I've been perusing is "Partly Cloudy Patriot" by Sarah Vowell. One of the reviewers uses the word 'droll' to describe the book, and droll she is. She has a lengthy chapter about the election in 2000, and her comments meld with the chapter about Al Gore to contrast the bumbling foolishness of the president we got with the egghead president we actually elected. This chapter was written just after Bush's inauguration, and she couldn't possibly have guessed what would ensue. In any case, this was all put in the context of the horrors of high school, in which the jocks rule the school and the nerds get teased and ridiculed for their inability to do pull-ups in gym class. Sarah pined for the day that nerds would run the world.

Now they do. And as much as our country has changed from the beginning of Bush's presidency to the end, it has changed doubly in the month since then. A country run by propeller-heads - if they can fix what's wrong, we may never go back to brush-cutting plain-talkers again. I shudder to think about what could happen if we get this wrong.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cruel joke (and revolt of the parentheses)

Aside from a short jaunt off the wagon, I've been vegetarian for about 3 and 1/2 years (although I still eat sustainably raised and harvested fish, eggs, and cheese). It was mostly for environmental reasons, but also an attempt to maintain a healthy diet. (Do M&M cookies count as a food group?) Being vegetarian leads you to learn to make really weird meals out of things that shouldn't go together but have a complete array of vitamins, carbs, and proteins, so you shove it down and don't share with others for fear of the dreaded "you eat this?!" look. But despite my salads with beets and fennel, despite my oatmeal with protein powder and flax seeds, despite my scrambled eggs with mushrooms and peas (YUM!) and my 4-times-a-week gym habit, I couldn't lose weight and often felt gross enough to wish I could wear sweatpants to work.

Enter a dalliance through the local chain bookstore one Friday evening, in between a boring workday and dinner with friends. The Buy one Get one Half off shelf called my name. On it, a book called Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type. Grammar wonk that I am, I refuse to read anything that has a number instead of a word in the title, and am far less willing to read any diet book whatsoever. But I might have just fulfilled my Recommended Daily Allowance of said M&M cookie food group, and thus, the guilt won out, so I picked it up and glanced inside. And what of this blood type diet? What do my platelets wish for me to consume? No wheat at all (except for Ezekiel bread, which is not a loaf of baked flour at all, but rather a living thing itself, apparently) and no corn either, no coffee (wha?!), no dairy (blasphemy!), no peanut butter or other legumes (okay, now this has gone too far). Alas, my veggie burgers and tofurky (main ingredient: wheat gluten), gourmet Trader Joe's-type snack crisps, lentil soup, corn tortilla'ed fajitas, have all been working against me.

Instead, meat. Meat, meat, meat. Bison and chicken and fish (oh my!). Many of my beloved fruits, veggies, and nuts are still okay, as are most beans and some other types of grains, like funny little quinoa. But basically I should be eating like a caveman. The "highly beneficial" foods include: meat (no pork), the gamier, the better; dark leafy greens like kale, chard, collards; almonds, walnuts, flax, and pumpkin seeds; berries (but not strawberries, those acidic little rascals) and other red fruits; artichokes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and other such roughage; pinto beans and black-eyed peas. Basically, a lot of the foods I already eat, but not some of the foods I always thought were best for me. Green tea is the new caffeine, vodka is the new taboo (I never liked it much anyway).

Here's the best news. Chocolate: okay. Beer and wine: okay. Sushi (with brown rice): okay (in fact, more than okay. Enter the kelp/seaweed food group). I think I can do this, if I can just get over the fact that raising animals for food is an eco-no-no. The famous favorite ag advice folks say to cut out the meat, eat less animal, plan a night of meatless meals. And here I am, chowing down on bison jerky and chicken stir-fry. It will be hard to slice off the cookie-and-muffin section of my food pyramid, but the franken-bread and quinoa helps. The book seems to be pretty scientifically based, from what little I remember from high school biology, but I'm still skeptical. However, it's been 10 days, and I feel better. No obnoxious diet-devotee testimony here, but my stomach feels better, my skin cleared up a little bit (pure coincidence, I say. There's a mega zit waiting to take over my chin, I can feel it). And I feel more satisfied when I eat. For what it's worth. I vow not to eat cow, and I promise to purchase my meat from the farmers markets and Whole Foods. There might be some cheese involved though. Feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, you better hide.

The caveman diet: all of the flesh, none of the fashion.