Tag Archives: Vegan

This Is My Brain On Cheese

It started Friday evening with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat and ended last night with a Twix bar in bed watching The Good Wife. Yup. I fell off the no-dairy wagon. I fell mightily.

I’d been off of dairy and eggs for a little over 2 months. The first few weeks were rough, I hadn’t been “clean” in a while, but after that it wasn’t bad. I bought a new cookbook and experimented with a few new things like seitan (pronounced like Paula Dean might say Satan). I was feeling pretty good, getting in the groove, and then about a week ago I started craving cheese. Mainly pizza, but other forms too. So Friday night, after everyone else in the house had a grilled cheese sandwich, I broke down and made myself one–with real cheese.

It went from bad to worse. I wound up sitting at a Panera Bread for a 4 hour stretch on Saturday (long story). During this time I wrote, read, surfed the web, eavesdropped and had a large helping of their macaroni and cheese. I swear they put crack in that shit. It is friggin’ amazing. My taste buds went insane. I wanted more. I pictured myself selling everything I had on me, my netbook, my cell phone, my 16-year-old’s paperback copy of The Language of Flowers, my BJ’s membership card, my Lamy fountain pen, my wedding ring, my contact lens solution. I might have written the term paper for the college kid I was near or let the creepy guy spilling coffee and talking to himself sit next to me and cop a feel. I’d wind up sitting in the middle of the mall, mac and cheese smeared across my face, empty Panera containers piled around me like bedding, eyes glazed, hands shaking, saying things like, please Dude, and com’ on Man.

Once you’ve had cheese, why not other things with milk? That’s right, like Halloween candy. Now there’s a bottomless pit of an addiction if ever there was one. A few Lindt balls here, a Kit Kat there. Oh yeah. Mama’s back.

They say if you do something for 21 days it’s a habit and you won’t want to break it. That’s what this guy says anyway–and he teaches at Harvard so he must know what he’s talking about. His name is Shawn Anchor and I saw him on PBS in the midst of my setback. I think he had some really interesting things to say and I am secretly (actually not so secretly) fascinated by neuropsychology. After listening to him I can say with certainty that he’s never had to battle a cheese craving. However, he talked about seven little tricks he’s devised through his research to get you to happy. I liked the one that encourages you to take 2 minutes every day and write a few sentences to someone in your social network. You do this for 21 days (of course) and it helps you feel more connected and I suppose ultimately, more happy. You can’t just do a Facebook post about visiting a pet store or drinking martinis with your ex. You have to make it personal, to someone you care about. You have to individualize it, let it take you back to that place that connects you and this friend in the first place.

I miss a lot of friends. I wish we could have tea together, take a walk, listen to street musicians in Harvard Square, watch an old movie, gossip, grab a bite at Flour or La Paloma or Nick’s, solve the world’s problems, talk about writing and books, laugh until it hurts.

I’m one day dairy free. I’m working on connection. I’m blogging because I need to. Maybe it will keep me out of the mall.  Maybe it will get a few neurons firing in the direction of my novel. Maybe it will connect me to some new friends. Maybe it’ll make somebody smile, which this guy Shawn says, eventually, will make somebody happy.

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Fifty-Five But Who’s Counting

Today is my birthday. I’m not that fond of birthdays. I think it takes a certain amount of courage and energy and self-confidence to really enjoy your birthday, and in general I cannot muster all these things at the same time on any given day, let alone on a hot muggy day in August. But I’m pretty old. I’m not trying to be morbid but I do think I should take advantage of the fact that I’m still around and post something. Here’s what I thought about today.

1) I definitely look better in mirrors that are slanted forward. They hide my double chin and make my eyes look bigger. Maybe I should try to stand leaning forward (or maybe backwards?) to get the same effect.

2) Betsy Lerner has the same birthday as me. I find this remarkable. I’m a huge fan and read her blog religiously. If you’re a writer you will recognize yourself somewhere in Forest for the Trees. Buy the book, read her blog, like her, friend her, tweet her, build a shrine to her. You’ll thank me.

3) It’s getting harder to care about my day job.

4) I got calls, cards, and emails from friends who know me and love me beyond reason (you know who you are). This is such a gift. To have people in your life who know you in a way you barely know yourself. To realize there’s a piece of you out there walking around in someone else’s heart–that’s something worth having a birthday for.

5) This is a message from my dad–“Why the hell do you have a cell phone if you don’t answer it?! OK, Happy Birthday.”

6) The birthday cake: lemon strawberry. All you chocolate fiends are booing, I know, but it was delish. And it was vegan. I’m back to no dairy which is tragedy of Oedipal proportions but it had to happen. It’s been 13 days. They say you need to get to the 3 week mark and then it’s a piece of cake (vegan cake, of course). Had to go off my anti-inflammatory meds so I’m feeling pretty inflammatory. No dairy should help. But cheese-less pizza is like when my dog humps a stuffed animal–you just know it’s not the same.

7) It’s almost midnight. I made it through another one. I’m hoping to wake up tomorrow and face the next year with a little more stamina, a little more humor, a little more faith. I’ll keep you posted.

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Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear

The other day I had a hankering for a bagel with cream cheese. The thing is, I am trying very hard to go back to a dairy-free life. I managed it for about 8 months when I was told I had a food sensitivity to all dairy products that was causing inflammation and exacerbating my fibromyalgia. I felt 1,000 times better off dairy and was really getting the hang of it. Then a year ago I fell off the wagon and since then haven’t managed to get back to all that tofu and kale.

Now, if you are a full-fledged vegan please do not hate me for what I am about to say. But every fake cheese alternative I have tried, well there is no other way to put it, just sucks. I decided it was time, however, to try again and I picked up some vegan cream cheese spread.

You can imagine my shock and delight when I discovered it was amazingly good. I was besides myself! My whole life was about to change! It tasted just like the real thing.

Which, unfortunately, made sense because it was. I misread the label. It was good old-fashioned 100% from the cow organic cream cheese.

What the heck?

How could I have 1) mistaken this obvious tub of full-on fat dairy product for some unpleasant healthy soy alternative, and 2) continue to believe it was vegan even after slathering it on a bagel (or two) and joyously devouring it?

We are complicated creatures. We want things so much at times we just believe they are what they are not. And to make things more difficult, sometimes it really is hard to tell. Is it a healthy snack or will it give me cancer in 15 years? Are you smiling at me because you think I’m attractive or is there spinach in my teeth? Is white wheat bread white bread or wheat bread? Was that wild adoration and affection you showed me in the first 6 months really you or some planetary alignment or hormonal surge? Are you complimenting my writing because you really like it or are you trying to make me feel better? Are you trying to make me feel better because you like me or do you just want to seem like a good person? Are you a Democrat or Republican? Obi-Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader? Prince or The Artist Formally Known as Prince? Half-empty, half-full? And tell us Sigmund, how do you tell when a cigar is really just a cigar?

As my father often says, nothing’s easy.

Sitting here at the computer, staring at the blank screen–is it unlimited opportunity or am I shackled to a cold dungeon wall? And if we don’t quite know the truth, the answer, the absolute, how do we write about it?

With flair. With gusto. With utter abandon. Weaving truth, lies, perception, irony, duplicity, memory, delusion, candor, confusion into story.

Again and again.

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