Whatever your health goal, I think we can all agree that nutrient-dense vegetables are integral to the cure.
But healing is not a linear journey. For many, especially those of us with an autoimmune disease, you can’t just make a few quick changes with food and watch your health improve each day until *tah-dah!* you are fixed. Sure, taking gluten out yields powerful results for many of us, and taking a close look at other common triggers for auto-immunity has helped me see even more improvements.
But really, healing the body is a long, winding, complicated road.
I’m still learning each day how to do it gracefully. And without driving everyone around me crazy.
Recent digestive struggles I could not get on top of sent me back to my Family Nurse Practitioner for an updated food sensitivity panel. I was not surprised, but still sad to find out that I had developed some new food sensitivities. To garlic. And onions! And coconut. And black pepper! Foods I was using in nearly every single dish pretty much every single day.
As if giving up sugar, gluten, grains, dairy and 18 million other things was not enough, I now had to lose foods that made cooking and eating really damn enjoyable?!
The whole thing felt like a punch to my already weak stomach.
While food sensitivity panels are not 100% reliable, and I think they can be interpreted too militantly by some, I intended to take my new trigger foods out of the equation to truly test their effect on me.
One night I tried to cook a familiar skillet-bowl that I can normally whip up in my sleep. Each time I pulled out an ingredient, though, I realized I couldn’t eat it. I started to do a lot of plate slamming, muttering serious hate talk to my body, shouting sarcastic comments to my husband, and generally making a scene.
The one-woman show came to a nice climax when I pulled some coconut aminoes out of the refrigerator to season my hate-filled skillet, and realized that they were on the list of things I could not eat. In a fit of rage, I declared “I’m using them anyway!” and shook the bottle over the pan. The top fell out, and the entire contents emptied themselves into the pan, soaking, and ruining, my skillet full of food. I completely lost it, collapsed into my husband’s chest, and sobbed big heaving, wailing cries.
He allowed me to get it out, and then he told me all of the things I needed to hear to stop this behavior and make a choice to become better from this, not bitter. I took a deep breath, salvaged the meal, and resolved to start anew.
There are always 3 things that set me straight when I feel this way.
#1: I stop feeling sorry for myself. There are people in this world who truly have nothing to eat. People who are starving to death, who literally die for lack of food. And I’m pissed I can’t eat garlic? I went back to my gratitude journal and made myself write down 3 things I am grateful for each day. It’s amazing how much perspective this brings.
#2: I stop thinking about what I can’t eat, and think about everything I can. It starts with a YES list. As I learned from my very first round of food sensitivity testing, making a list of what you CAN have is incredibly empowering. Whether you have decided to cut out gluten, or dairy, or have a series of food sensitivities to address, making a “yes!” list is a way to frame your experience in the positive! I can still eat nearly every vegetable out there, enjoy wild salmon and grass fed beef, and create dressings and flavors with countless ferments, fragrant fresh herbs, and of course, avocado.
#3: I go back in the kitchen. Ok, so I couldn’t have onions and garlic, and cooking with coconut oil was no longer an option, so I needed to reconfigure a few things. I set to work playing with new cooking fats, spices, marinades, and dips, and challenged myself to start cooking some vegetables in different ways. My favorite collards were out, but I was getting kind of sick of such well-cooked greens, and longing to taste something fresher and crunchier and brighter anyway. So new collards were begging to be born!
I thumbed through some old cookbooks for inspiration, and found a recipe in one that caught my attention. Collard ribbons. Oooo – it sounded like a present was involved! (Trust me, there is.) The key is taking care when you chop them, and slice them into gloriously thin ribbons. The texture is perfection and they are much easier to eat than giant sloppy leaves of greens.
These ribbons have been a bright-spot for me this past month. A way to feel nourished and full with simple, fresh ingredients.
A reminder that even when I feel deprived, there is always a gift hidden in the struggle. A tasty little gem I never would have opened had I not chosen to see this situation in a new way.
LEMON COLLARD RIBBONS
1 bunch collard greens
1-2 Tb your favorite cooking fat (coconut oil, olive oil, lard/bacon fat, etc.)
sea salt to taste
optional; garlic, fresh grated ginger.
- Wash greens, remove large thick stems, make a flat pile of the leaves, and roll them lengthwise, so you have a tight roll of greens, like a cigar.
- Thinly cut up the length of the “cigar”, so you have thin ribbons of greens.
- Melt the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Put ribboned greens in skillet, salt and cook, stirring regularly, until greens become bright green. About 2-3 minutes.
- Add garlic or ginger if using, stir to incorporate, and cook for 1 minute more.
- Turn off heat and squeeze fresh lemon over the entire skillet.
- Plate, fork them in your mouth, and enjoy!
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