Archives for: December 2012
Right now it’s the middle of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It commemorates a time in Jewish history when a small group of Jewish soldiers, called the Maccabees, defeated a much larger Greek army. Following the miraculous battle, another miracle occurred in the Great Temple. At that time, extra-virgin olive oil was used to light the large candelabra, called the Menorah. The Temple had been ransacked, and most of the lamp oil was desecrated, but one small jar of pure oil was found, just enough to light the Menorah for one day. At that time, it took 8 days to get more oil, though it’s not clear if it was an 8 day process to make the oil or if there was a large supply a 4 day journey away.
Miraculously, the small amount of oil burned for 8 whole days, until more pure oil was obtained. To commemorate this miracle, Jews all over the world light 9 branched candelabras called Menorahs or Hanukkias, and eat foods fried in oil. Some use actual olive oil for the Hanukkah lights, but candles are much more common. My family has always used candles.
For generations, Jews of European descent have eaten potato pancakes, called latkes, for Hanukkah. Israeli Jews usually have jelly donuts instead. My shul serves both. Wheat AND potatoes- what more can an O nonnie ask for?
I limited myself to water and seltzer at my shul’s Hanukkah celebration, though I let my children eat whatever they wanted. They’re healthy enough to handle a few “avoids” occasionally. I’m still detoxing from Hurricane Sandy and can’t afford any “cheats” right now.
At home, I’ve created some new holiday traditions. Before I found BTD, but had identified my problems with gluten, I made gluten-free potato pancakes. I started with boiled potatoes, mashed them, added salt and onion powder and eggs, then fried in olive oil and served with apple sauce and sour cream. The traditional recipe calls for grated raw potatoes mixed with eggs and flour or matzah meal, but I found a way to make it without the added wheat.
Not being able to eat potatoes presents an added challenge. I’ve successfully substituted sweet potatoes in other recipes calling for potatoes, so I did the same with my latke recipe. Start with cooked sweet potatoes, add salt, onions, and eggs, and fry in olive oil. It didn’t hold together very well, though, as sweet potatoes are much less starchy than white potatoes. A little rice flour in the dough fixed that right up.
On Sunday, Leah wanted to make latkes but we didn’t have any cooked sweet potatoes in the house. Instead, she grated raw sweet potatoes and mixed them with eggs, spices, and rice flour before frying in oil. They took longer to cook, but came out delicious! Monday I baked sweet potatoes to make latkes with my usual recipe, and found that they weren’t as good. It’s more work to grate them than it is to mash up cooked sweet potatoes, but I think it’s worth the effort. I plan to use the grated raw recipe for the rest of the week.
Another problem with traditional latkes is the applesauce served alongside. I buy unsweetened applesauce for my family, but O nonnies shouldn’t have apples. Last year I bought a jar of pear baby food to eat with my latkes, and it was delicious! This year, I wanted to stay away from the ascorbic acid added to jarred baby food, since I can’t guarantee that it’s corn-free. So I bought two large bags of pears: one for eating and one for cooking. I peeled and chopped the pears, then put them in my crock pot with a little water. I cooked them on “low” overnight, added a little nutmeg, and then blended with my stick blender before putting them in a jar in the fridge. I think this batch came out a little bit too runny; I think I’ll use less water the next time I make this. But overall the recipe is a winner- I’ll be making pear sauce for Hanukkah every year from now on.
I’ve been on BTD for several years now, and I’ve long since discovered that I need to be very careful with my diet. Even small amounts of “avoids” can wreck havoc with my system, causing pain and fatigue. I couldn’t understand why some people were so hesitant to give up things like restaurant meals or bottled salad dressings. I’m doing it, so why can’t everybody else?
My kitchen was well stocked with compliant ingredients in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. On days I’m too tired to go out food shopping, I’d pull some meat and veggies out of the freezer for dinner. There was never a reason to buy less than perfectly compliant foods.
Then Hurricane Sandy hit, and we lost electricity for 9 days. My pantry was safe, but I had to throw out food from both my refrigerator and my freezer. The contents of the chest freezer in the basement melted and then re-froze, so it was another week before it thawed enough for me to clean it out. I was also hesitant at first about re-stocking the fridge and freezers, since there were power lines on my lawn and I feared we’d lose power again soon. Those power lines are STILL on my lawn, a month later, but power has been consistent so I’ve let go of that worry.
Jack’s 11th birthday arrived during that time, when power had newly been restored and the basement freezer wasn’t cleaned out yet. I’d promised him a special dinner for his birthday, separate from his postponed birthday party with friends. He wanted tacos; something we’ve stopped eating regularly since corn is an “avoid” for all 4 of us. I figured on a relatively healthy meal with organic taco shells, ground beef, smashed spiced pinto beans, guacamole, shredded lettuce, and salsa. I could easily skip the taco shells and have a compliant dinner of beef, beans, guacamole, and salsa on a bed of lettuce.
I’d made a few compromises on compliance when we were still without electricity and fuel for my car. I could only purchase what was available locally and that could be prepared without an oven. I tried to resume 100% compliance in the following weeks, but I wore myself out in the process. I found myself going to 2 or 3 stores in one day, if one store was out of an item I usually bought there. I’d run out of the house before eating lunch, then find myself skipping meals altogether. I soon realized that skipping meals was as toxic for me as eating avoids, at least when it turned into a consistent pattern.
So, I made some compromises. I bought some almonds and a kombucha with chia seeds for lunch, even though kombucha is a “black dot” for me- it’s better than skipping a meal. I couldn't find ripe avocados, and hadn't been able to purchase them 3 days before, so I purchased ready-made guacamole with vinegar in it. I bought ready-made salsa with vinegar rather than the ingredients to make my own. I then came home from food shopping ready to put together the taco dinner- I wasn't weak from skipping lunch, and food prep was easy when I had to open up two containers rather than start making a bunch of sauces.
Compromising on compliance for Jack’s birthday was the smart thing to do. I wish I’d thought to take some shortcuts a few days earlier- I might have saved myself some extra stress during an already stressful time. However, 3 weeks of carelessness is starting to catch up to me. I've been fatigued, brain-fogged, and plagued with rather severe sciatica pain, along with some low-level muscle pain all over. The fatigue, brain fog, and muscle pain have responded well to careful compliance in the past, and I suspect my diet is affecting the sciatica too. It’s time for me to resume my prior “zero tolerance” for avoids.
However, I now have a much deeper appreciation for why people choose convenience foods and feel like they “can’t” be more compliant. It’s not all a bunch of excuses! I’ll try not to be such a “compliance snob” in the future.