The Jewish Holiday of Tu B’Shvat is the Jewish New Year for Trees. The name literally means “the 15th of Shvat” so it’s similar to the way American Independence Day is known as “The 4th of July.” As with all Jewish holidays, the exact date on the Gregorian calendar varies each year, and all holidays begin at sundown and end at nightfall the following day. In 2012, it falls on Tuesday night and Wednesday, February 7th and 8th.
Back when the Great Temple in Jerusalem was standing, Tu B’Shvat was used to calculate tithes on fruits and nuts that grow on trees; anything harvested before this date counted as last year and anything from this date forward counted for the coming year. Since we don’t pay tithes or our harvests anymore, Tu B’Shvat has a more symbolic meaning these days.
There are a variety of ways in which Tu B’Shvat is celebrated within the Jewish community. I’m planning to serve a “fruit and nut course” before my regular family dinner. Some families hold a Tu B’Shvat Seder, similar to the Passover Seder, but not nearly as formal. Others serve a wide variety of fruits and nuts alongside the meal but with no special ceremony. There may or may not be a large group of guests at the meal, or a party-like atmosphere. All serve several kinds of fruit. Some have 15 or 20 different kinds of fruits and nuts in all; most will serve all 7 of the special foods associated with The Land of Israel: wheat, barley, dates, figs, grapes, pomegranates, and olives.
Some of those 7 special foods are problematic for my family: none of us should be having barley, only my son should be having wheat, he shouldn’t have pomegranates, I shouldn’t eat dates, etc. It’s HARD balancing our differing diets with the demands of religious Judaism. But I remember that these foods are merely symbolic; it’s not like Passover when there’s a commandment to eat matzah.
I’m going to make omissions and substitutions as needed for the health of my family. But I’m also bearing in mind that there are foods we *shouldn’t* eat and foods we really *can’t* eat. A crumb of wheat could sicken me for weeks, but ¼ of a date won’t do me any harm. I plan to serve the 5 fruits that symbolize Israel, even though they’re not perfectly compliant for all of us. We’ll each eat small amounts and enjoy them, guilt-free. I’ll make spelt bread for the children to symbolize the wheat, and rice bread or crackers for myself. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll make quinoa to symbolize the barley or simply omit it. I’ll also get a variety of other fruits; whatever looks good when I get to the store.
It’s a time to thank the Creator for the bountiful variety of foods that He created, and for making us able to appreciate them. The physical becomes spiritual when we use food for a holy purpose, both by making blessings over the foods we eat and by choosing our foods with a higher purpose in mind.
Certainly the laws of Kashrut are one such “higher purpose” to a Jew’s selection of foods, but physical health is equally important, and is applicable to everybody. If you knowingly eat foods that make you unhealthy, you’re defying the Creator’s will. How can you fulfill your purpose in the world if you’re sluggish from eating too much wheat or sugar, or if you’re bed-ridden from a chronic illness that a proper diet could have prevented? Dr. D’Adamo has given us the tools to nourish our bodies and help reach our physical potentials; I feel a moral obligation to follow those guidelines now that I know of them.
I can almost always find plenty to eat at a pot luck dinner, but last night was an exception. The funny part was what all of the ladies were saying after it was over.
My Honorable Husband sings in the choir at our church. Last night the choir had a party and a pot luck dinner. HH signed me up to bring a salad. At the grocery store I found strawberries and pineapple on sale. I thought that would make a pretty Valentine month salad. I served it in a bowl shaped like an apple that we received as a wedding gift.
The people who organized the party were so creative with music related games and table decorations. We had lots of fun playing and visiting. Then it was time to eat.
There were three salads: my fruit salad, a pasta salad, and potato salad.
There was one vegetable: hash brown casserole.
There were five entrees: spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken with a cheese topping, a chicken and noodle casserole, spicy venison sausage, and meat cooked with onions and green peppers.
There were at least six cakes and one plate of cookies.
You are thinking the same thing I was thinking as I approached the serving line – there is not much here for a Type O. I took some of my own fruit, some of the sausage, some of the meat, and a little of the chicken with cheese topping. The meat turned out to be pork, but even if I had known that ahead of time, I think I would have taken some, though perhaps not as much. There were just no other choices.
The funny part came at the end of the party when we were cleaning up. All of the venison was gone. There were a few stray strawberries in the bottom of my bowl. More than half of the meat and onions was gone. There were lots of leftovers in every other dish.
Suddenly the other ladies began trying to give their food away. The lady who brought the spaghetti said, “Someone take this home, we are both on a diet and can’t eat it.” The lady who brought the potato salad said, “This only lasts a few days and we don’t eat potatoes.” Several of the ladies who brought cakes were saying, “Please take some cake, I don’t need this in my house.” One lady was offered a take home plate. She waved it away saying, “Not for me, I don’t need all that starch.”
Someone could have brought green beans, or a green salad, or a crock pot of legumes. I’m not sure whether the high carb dishes were brought because our friends wanted to offer comfort food at the party, or whether high carb dishes are less expensive for people on tight budgets in this bad economy.
Regulars on the BTD don’t need me to spell it out, but for the benefit of guests I will gently and kindly say that the people at the party preferred the healthier choices when they served their own plates. Yet they brought food to a pot luck that they didn’t want to take home.
Several months ago I read about someone on the Forum who was trying to determine their GenoType, so they asked their dentist about Carabelli’s cusp and incisor shoveling. I thought this was a great idea, and made a note to ask my own dentist at my next appointment.
Yesterday was the day. My dentist says that virtually everyone has a Carabelli’s cusp. Some people’s are very prominent, others are very faint, more the hint of a ridge than a cusp. Often the size of the cusp varies from one first molar to another. He was giving me a lot of detail about people groups. The GTD had asked yes or no to Carabelli’s cusp, so this was not helping.
I changed my question, and said, “On a scale of 1-10, how prominent are my Carabelli’s cusps?” He looks for a while with his mirror, and said that I would be a 6.
Next I asked about incisor shoveling. Again he said that it’s not a matter of whether you have it, but a matter of how much. We applied the scale again, and he said I had slightly less shoveling than average. He gave me a 4.
Overall the results were disappointing. I have never been completely confident about my GenoType because my significant fingers are virtually the same length. Now I find out that these other two indicators are less of a yes/no and more of a degree. Again I fall right in the middle of the scale.
So I’ll stick with the Blood Type Diet, tweaking certain foods based on the two GenoTypes that I might be.
The dentist had one parting comment. “You need to eat more sugar,” he said, in his dry humorous way. “If all of my patients ate as healthy as you do, I wouldn’t be able to make a living.”
My Honorable Husband walked into the kitchen this morning and said, “I have a brilliant idea. On the weeks that you don’t have your Hiking Club, let’s go out into the Hill Country and do a hike ourselves.”
When we were younger, we loved hiking together. Most of our vacations have been to the mountains. The two of us enjoyed mountain trails before we had children. Our son was on the Cub Lake trail when he was 3-years-old and our daughter hiked to Nymph Lake when she was three as well. As the kids got older, we took longer trails. Even the years when we did historical vacations, we did a lot of walking – like the Freedom Trail in Boston.
In 2004 HH hurt his knee. He did physical therapy and fortunately avoided surgery. Under normal circumstances he has no pain. But he learned that his strenuous hiking days were over. His knee does not like steep inclines or large rocks. He exercises every day walking on the roads around our home. When we are on vacation, we take long walks on smooth paths. It is the mountain trails that bring back the pain. It was hard for me to accept that when his hiking days ended, mind did as well.
Two years ago God blessed me with a ladies hiking club. I am one of the younger women in the group. A few of these hikers are in their 70s. We are all in the club for the same reasons: we want to stay healthy, and our husbands for one reason or another, do not hike. I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know these ladies as friends as we hike together twice a month.
One day in early January it was sunny and warm. HH and I drove to a lake with the dog and took a long walk on a hike & bike trail. There were no inclines and because the path was for bicyclists, it was smooth enough for him to enjoy without having to watch his feet. Last week we had a coupon for a new restaurant out in the Hill Country. We decided to drive up for lunch and take an equestrian trail that was nearby. I enjoyed both of these outings. It was great exercise, of course, but it was more than that. I realized how much I had missed the camaraderie of being on the trail with HH. Conversation sprang up naturally about issues that we never seem to have time to talk about on an ordinary busy day.
He obviously felt the same way. So we now have a commitment to hike together on the weeks when I don’t have Hiking Club. We will look for more bicycle and equestrian trails. Some weeks we may invite couples from the city to come and join us. This is going to be fun!
Everybody has to make hard choices from time to time.
Choices are funny things. We can turn routine choices into difficult choices by looking at them too deeply. We can make a farce of difficult choices by not looking at them deeply enough. Sometimes we don’t even know that we are making a choice or that a choice needs to be made.
I recall from my youth an episode at a restaurant when the family went out to eat one evening. That particular night the meal I wanted came with a choice of soup or salad. For some reason I was not expecting to have that choice, so when the waitress spoke what I heard was “Would you like a Super Salad?”
I was baffled. Looking around to get a clue all I saw were expectant faces. Faces waiting for me to make a decision! The conversation continued something like this:
Me: “What’s that?”
Waitress: “The meal comes with a Super Salad.”
Me: “Okay. I’ll have that.”
Waitress: “What do you want?”
Family Member: “She wants to know if you want a soup or a salad.”
Me: “What kind of soup is it?”
At first I didn’t know I had a choice. It can be disadvantageous not knowing when one has options. In this case it didn’t make much of a difference. After hearing the varieties of soup available I chose to have a salad. With the retrospect of a lifetime of experience I can see other levels of complexity such as possibly substituting tomato wedges, or some other side dish that the restaurant may have had available. Maybe just saying “No soup or salad, thank you!” should have been considered.
All our lives we are offered choices. The normal course of events is to be steered in our decisions. We are often not offered competitive choices. If a competitive choice is offered, often it is in the form of an unattractive comparison. The one thing that can be counted upon is that you usually won’t know all your options without looking for them.
We do it to ourselves, too. Most of our decisions are self-directed. It starts with the routine every morning that is rarely, if ever, varied. That’s a series of decisions. How often do you think about changing a routine? As an example, I find that if I don’t change my routines then I never have enough time. It’s hard to accommodate new things if space is not made for them. Often it is a matter of being a little more efficient.
Not changing or not introducing new things is also a choice. Deciding not to explore other options is a choice. Choices can’t be avoided. Right now, I’m choosing the best way to attack my fatigue issues from an allopathic perspective. New health insurance is making more options affordable. More tests. More chances to view the issue from a more informed basis and thereby make better choices in treatment of any form.
It’s time to make a Super Salad for dinner. I have those several nights a week now. It is nice to have the option.
If you’ve ever wondered if an “avoid” really bothers you or not, keep reading.
This has happened in the past once before but that didn’t stop me from testing my liver one more time. You see, my wife has been complaining that when we go out to eat the food I choose always costs more because I “special order” to comply with ERFYT. I always counter with the fact that I only order water to drink which offsets the increased cost of my meals. Well last week I finally had enough of her complaining and decided to order a raspberry iced tea with my meal just to see if she would say anything. The tea tasted wonderful and went down easy….too easy…so easy I ordered a second. I of course drank the second raspberry tea all too easily too.
After our meal we did some driving around and in about 30 minutes I started getting some sharp liver pains. This lasted for about 20 minutes. This episode gave me a flashback to about 5 years ago when on a very hot day at work we were treated to Gatorade. I thought at the time I could “cheat” a little since I had been following ERFYT for so long. I drank 3 bottles of grape flavor Gatorade- and they tasted soooo good…but within about 30 minutes I started having sharp liver pains that lasted 20-30 minutes. Back then I realized the corn syrup in the Gatorade was causing me all this grief and I learned that once you have been following ERFYT for awhile, you can really discern when certain foods or beverages do not agree with you.
My little experiment didn’t quite go as expected but gave me even more conviction that Dr. D’Adamo is the man.
I can understand why food manufacturers lace their products with salt and sugar. Both are addictive. Because I eat natural, unprocessed food most of the time, I feel the difference when I get too much salt or sugar. I don’t like the way too much salt makes me feel. I am thirsty, and the inside of my mouth tingles. I don’t like the way too much sugar makes me feel either. I am sluggish and lazy. That is my logical, healthy, informed self. But once I get started on salty, sweet food look out. Logic, health and wisdom abandon me, and I am as vulnerable as any ordinary gal in a fast food drive through line.
I am in a Book Club in my neighborhood. Last year several of us read a book called True Women, about women pioneers in Texas. We also enjoyed a follow up book called The True Women Cookbook. The club was meeting at my house in January, and I decided to do recipes from the True Women Cookbook along with recipes that have been handed down from my early Texas ancestors.
I moderated the recipes a little so that my husband and I could eat the leftovers. I used neutral flours in the cookies and substituted feta cheese for cheddar. My book reading friends loved the theme, and the food was delicious, if I say so myself.
Though there weren’t any avoid foods (except for coconut), there was still more sugar and salt than I am accustomed to eating. One of the cookies was a no bake recipe that called for making a sauce with sugar, butter and milk (I used almond milk). Another cookie was dusted with powdered sugar. Several of the recipes called for dried fruit and one for honey. The asparagus was topped with both cheese and a crunchy salty topping.
The night before the Book Club I did quite a bit of taste testing – but I told myself, I’ll eat moderately tomorrow. The day of the Book Club I decided to yield and enjoy myself – tomorrow I’ll get back to eating normally. The day after the Book Club the leftovers were too tempting. Sugar and salt were calling my name.
This morning I got up resolved to get back in control. I know that the best thing for my body is to eat my food as close to the way God made it as I can. Concentrated salt and sugar are not the way He intended for me to eat.
I know today will be filled with temptation. There are still a few leftovers in the house, though most of them are going in the freezer after I finish writing this blog. I am drinking lots of fluid. I added l-glutamine to my morning green tea to head off carb cravings. I’ll take more l-glutamine late this afternoon before I start dinner preparation. Writing this blog makes me feel accountable to all of you who are reading it.
As my logical, healthy, informed side begins to reassert itself, I have a renewed sympathy for those around me who are trying for the first time to wean themselves away from processed foods. It takes a while to savor the flavors of grains and vegetables without excessive sugar and salt. I’m eager to get back on track, and I’m glad I have l-glutamine to get me past the moments when the cravings would try to drag me back.
My life is so full these days that I’d be lost without my routines. I wouldn’t be able to co-ordinate everybody’s diet and the food budget without the routines of knowing when to go shopping, what to buy at which stores, and which foods to keep cooked and prepared in the house. I save a lot of money by buying things like flour instead of bread, and dried beans instead of canned, but this means I need to be organized. I have to remember to soak and cook the beans and then freeze them so they don’t spoil before they get eaten. Flour can’t be eaten if it’s not baked into bread, pizza dough, or cookies. I can’t pack my son rice and beans in his thermos if I forgot to cook the rice!
So I have a system that keeps me going. I usually go food shopping in the mornings, when the kids are all at school, then have a few hours to unwind before they come home and life gets busy again. I try to pace myself so I’m not going to five stores in one day, or doing all the housework AND all the shopping on the same day. I have a few basic things I prepare for dinner repeatedly, to save me the mental work of “figuring out what to cook.” Routines give me comfort, as well as enabling me to “get it all done.”
But this month everything seems topsy-turvy. My oldest daughter attends a private school, while my other two are in public school, so their school schedules differ. Our normal routine developed around the fact that Hannah comes home around 2, Jack is home at 3:30, and Leah comes in at 6. Since Leah has mid-terms this week, she’s home early in the afternoon. She has mid-terms next week as well, followed by her school vacation. It’s wonderful having her home more, but it still upsets the “school day routine” we’ve been following since September.
This week was extra-stressful because I was called for jury duty. Sunday is normally a day that I take my son to Hebrew school in the mornings, and pretty much spend the rest of the day at home. But I had to prepare for being gone on Monday, and possibly for several days in a row, so all my “Monday chores and errands” had to get done on Sunday. I managed to stress myself out completely over some of the details, such as misplacing my juror summons and then having trouble locating the court building. It all worked out fine in the end, but the added stress fatigued me.
I don’t like change, so I’m not happy that this month is different from what we’re used to. But it’s also an opportunity to develop new routines, and maybe make things even better than they were before. Leah is hoping to use this time off from school to establish an exercise routine. This will also be a good time to experiment with new recipes, which may then be added to the list of weekly dinners. Sometimes we need a change of pace to improve our lives.