Dear Rice Milk, I NEVER loved you

it all began when i met herb.
up to that point, breakfast consisted of little more
than a bagel smothered in butter.
and i am not talking about the oversized new york style bagel,
boiled to chewy perfection
and then slathered with words that are
as equally timeless as they are disturbing.
like lox.

i grew up in missouri.
in the 80's.
nothing trendy.
nothing particularly glamorous.
my existence as a foodie,
even at the young ages of 11 and 12,
was reflected in my breakfast biscuit choice
only in so far that i always sacrificed
my otherwise pubescent brand of self-consciousness
for the pleasant burning sensation
of the onion variety of Lender's Bagles.

as i grew older, i added the occasional smoothie
to my breakfast repertoire.
low-fat, artificially sweetened yogurt -
artificially vanilla flavored, of course -
orange juice,
and a banana.
maybe some strawberries.

my morning food consumption was not a reflection
of my overall relationship with food.
it was not what one might expect from
a girl who so committed to her food,
so aware of its healing powers,
that while her peers eased the malcontent
of post-adolescent angst by
using their book money to buy the perfect fake idea
and thereby, the perfect six pack of coors light,
she perfected the art of boiling gourmet ravioli
in the lounge of Dobson Hall;
using little more than an electric tea pot
and served in a plastic bowl.

you must understand that growing up,
while my dad and i bonded over pine nuts toasted to perfection
and the golden hue of a roux,
breakfast at my house was rushed at best.
it was difficult to really indulge in my food when,
as the oldest child,
i assumed the self-appointed role of
guardian over the Log Cabin.
because i knew, even at the age of 11,
that it was my sisterly duty to ensure
that the little brother,
already inflicted with ADD, poor impulse control,
and a propensity for "flooding" his plate of waffles
with imitation syrup
should not be sent out the door hyped up on sugar.

between that and the infamous "boy haircut" of 1982
(my mother's way of communicating
"when i say if you get syrup in your hair one more time
that i will have it cut off . . .
i mean it"),
i had completely lost interest in all customary breakfast foods.

but when i met herb, i was reintroduced to breakfast.
and not the low-fat attempt at breakfast
that i adopted in my early 20's.
omelets, full-fat bacon, Belgian waffles.
and all of this at home, all week long.
as a very committed atkin's dieter,
this was the daily grid for herb.

(minus the waffles, of course.
that was just what you made to impress the girl
when she came over on saturday mornings.)

for the next two years i made nice with breakfast.
my favorite creation was blueberry cottage cheese pancakes.
with only a few tablespoons of flour, herb and i could share
an otherwise off-limits treat for an anti-carbite like himself.

about two years ago, i was diagnosed
with fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue.
my weeks quickly became filled with
blood tests, IVs, and filling pill boxes.
i became willing to try anything to regain
my sense of restedness, clear thinking, and pain-free living.
the root of sleepless nights were difficult to diagnose
because on top of a relentless and difficult-to-treat illness,
herb and i were horrified by the discovery that after saying "I do",
we were in for countless months of marital turbulence.

perhaps far more difficult than my committment to
nightly muscular injections
was my dedication to a very difficult change in my diet.
several months into treatment,
i was told that, among multiple diagnosis,
that i had candida -
the presence of profound yeast overgrowth in the gut.
candida can become so serious if left untreated
that it can pollute the blood stream.
the prospect of managing my symptoms
with a strict diet was presented to me
and within days i had eliminated entire food groups
in effort of creating an internal environment
near impossible for yeast to grow in.

though i had long-since graduated to herb's
school of breakfast thought on the weekends,
it was only then that my weekday smoothie was finally retired.
low-fat, artificially sweetened vanilla yogurt was benched
and replaced by full-fat unsweetened plain yogurt.
bananas, too sweet for my diet, were traded in for frozen berries
orange juice was banished
and coconut milk introduced.
and in case the nectar of the gods
(and brazilians)
didn't provide enough liquid to the blended concoction,
i learned to enjoy rice milk.

that was over a year and a half ago.
since then, i have lost 25 pounds,
(ceased my strict diet and re-gained 15 of them)
and made some strides with my health.

about a month ago, i shared with one of my doctors
that i continue to struggle with stomach cramping, fatigue,
and an overall lack in my sense of physical well-being.
this doctor, known for her holistic and natural approach to medicine,
prescribed a detox-diet plan and a daily "shake".
the parameters are not unlike those of the candida diet which,
aside from my mid-week smoothie re-mix and absence of soda,
i have long since abandoned.

i face this diet with similar hope
(and even stricter parameters)

but this time i know what i am doing.
and instead of embracing a diet of exclusion,
i will shift my focus to a celebration of inclusion.

instead of mourning the loss of blue cheese and ice cream,
this time i will celebrate the room that is being made for things like
homemade pesto, starwberry papyas and walnuts.
i will learn about the foods that i can eat
and embrace the healing qualities they, in and of themselves possess.

and i have made one more change to that time-tested breakfast smoothie:
almond milk.

now produced without added sugar,
i have a sexier, creamier means of bringing liquid to my local smoothie.

stay tunes for more stories on the healing powers of your food and mine.


Blogger Melanie said...

i bet i have this candida thing. i'm a classic candida-ate. (LOL)

i hate my belly. i'm sorry belly. you did give me two lovely children, but your work is done in that department so you can re-inflate at any time.

we'll have to talk about this when you come to chicago. xo

11:18 AM, March 29, 2008  
Blogger Rhi said...

please email me more about this.
it sounds like the strict diet i lived by, but now no longer do.

but i did keep to the rice milk. i think the rice milk saved my life at one point.

9:34 AM, March 31, 2008  

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