Preface: I am not a health “nut” per se, but I do pay very close attention to the foods we eat, in the least OCD way I can manage. J
Every once in a while, I’ll read about something new in the world of healthy living…could be a new workout routine (damn you, Jillian Michaels), a new vitamin supplement, a new vegetable I can add to our “salad in a blender” breakfasts, or a new way of eating (I refuse to call it a diet – Weight Watchers trained me well). About a year ago, I met one of those “ways of eating” that I knew we just had to try.
It was going to change our lives. It would cure Evan’s (undiagnosed) gluten intolerance. It would help us thwart the (conspiracy theorist’s idea of) government’s control over the nation’s grain industry. We would sleep better, feel better (after three weeks of the “Atkins Flu”), and look better. It was a revolution in food…a foodolution, if you will.
We were going paleo.
What is Paleolithic eating, you may ask? Simple, really. It’s following the same diet as our hunter-gatherer ancestors. You know, spearing free range, grass fed buffalo; gathering nuts, berries and twigs. Catching salmon with our bare hands from cool, Alaskan streams. Did you know Paleolithic man was in better physical health than today’s average man? Eating all-natural whole foods, protein without chemicals and hormones, and never, ever under any circumstances ingesting dairy (Louis Pasteur wasn’t around back then). Also, never eating potatoes. Or legumes. Or grains of any sort (no flour, wheat, barley, etc.) No alcohol (gasp!), caffeine or sugar. Big deal if the average life expectancy was only 34, right? They were in rockin’ good shape! Probably from being chased down by mountain lions, setting up camps and literally fighting to survive. Sort of like a trip to Publix on a Saturday morning when the Apron’s lady is prepping the “meal of the week.” I know that I always seem to find myself surrounded by ravenous senior citizens on those days.
Fruits and veggies: If you can eat it raw, it fits (hence no potatoes or legumes).
Meat: If you can catch it, you can eat it. I’m looking at you, annoying raccoon who won’t stop sneaking through the pet door and drinking out of our pool every night…
So, paleo we went; albeit my husband, begrudgingly so.
For a few weeks we did lots of fish, free range chicken and organic veggies. With veggies on the side. Topped with veggies. And veggies for dessert. Oh, and some fruit. I’ll admit, I lost three pounds and wanted to keep on…but that little voice inside me kept telling me there was no stinkin’ way I could keep this up.
Southerners, imagine a life with no baking or starches. No cornbread, no biscuits, no cakes, no cookies. No chicken ‘n dumplings, no chicken pot pie, no shepherd’s pie (gosh, we love pie for dinner, huh?), no baked potato with your steak.
Others, imagine a life with no coffee (gasp!) or wine (double gasp!) or ice cream (faint!)
Oh yeah, it was exactly as much fun as you think it was. By the way, we had also taken on the challenge of P90X at the time (oh, that will be its own post, trust me).
After spending the better part of an afternoon at work totally goofing off and reading paleo blogs, I found the solution to my weakening fortitude – PALEO BROWNIES! Yes! Finally, I could bake something besides tilapia and cauliflower. I was stoked.
Evan took me to Mother Earth so I could get the necessary supplies: coconut oil, walnuts (LOTS of walnuts), eggs, unsweetened cocoa squares (80% caocao? Something like that), and some other items that are still hiding in the back of my pantry. Now, the recipe called for zero flour, zero sugar, and zero butter. But I would not be deterred. I was baking brownies, and because baking is one of my many talents, I knew they would be awesome.
We got home, and immediately went to work. By now, you might be wondering how you can have a brownie with no flour. Well, in the paleo world, it’s rather simple. You grind two pounds of walnuts in your food processor until they turn into nut butter (yes, you read that correctly) then you mix everything in with it. Seriously.
So, Evan processed the walnuts into oblivion while I finely chopped the dark chocolate squares. Normally when I bake, I have a glass of wine. But, this is restricted on the paleo diet, so I’m blaming this injury completely on the lack of fermented grapes in my kitchen at the time.
I was on my very last square when it happened. My knife skills have slowly improved, but in my famished-brownie-craving state, I slipped. The 7” Santoku slipped off the chocolate, and into my ring finger. Blood. Everywhere.
Evan quickly grabbed a kitchen towel, and instructed me to apply pressure and hold the gaping wound over my head. All I could do was stare as blood dripped into my $12 organic dark chocolate squares. I finally took a good look at the damage I’d done to my finger, and my knees began to buckle. He slowly guided me to a chair, wrapped my finger, and held my arm up for me. Because I was nearly catatonic, I stayed in that chair and in that position while he finished the brownies (side note: he finished the brownies at my request…something about not letting the chocolate go to waste…)
Finally, the brownies were in the oven. With my arm still draped over the top of my head, my finger throbbing and screaming, cursing me for ever buying things like coconut oil and brussel sprouts, I joined Evan in the living room to watch Jeopardy. Eventually, the excitement of a “true Daily Double, Alex” took my mind completely off my wounded finger. I would periodically pay closer attention to the smells coming from the kitchen, waiting for that delicious brownie odor to fill the house. It never happened, but I was not deterred.
At last, the timer buzzed…the brownies were done! Man, I was so excited to have a big old brownie with a glass of…water. And a scoop of…bananas? But it was still a brownie!
I won’t lie; they actually looked delicious. Tall, gooey, dark brown…exactly what I expect to see in a brownie. We carefully cut them, with no difficulties (probably because of the lack of butter, flower, sugar and milk) and served ourselves our very first paleo baked goods. Back to the living room for Final Jeopardy. I hoisted our soon-to-be new favorite dessert to my piehole, and took a great, big bite.
It. Was. Awful.
Absolute worst baked good I’ve ever put in my mouth (and I’ve had SPAM cupcakes). I could taste walnut butter, coconut oil, and that horrific 80% pure cocoa those paleo nuts tried to tell me was “just as good as Ghiradelli!” LIES.
I spit it out. Evan didn’t even try his. It was that terrible.
And that was our last day of paleo. Nearly losing a finger in my craze to have a simple baked good told me one thing…if my body was that starved for something decadent, this was not the “lifestyle change” for us. And we’ve never looked back.
Oh sure, I regained the three pounds. But I also got to eat things like sweet potato soufflé, cornbread, ice cream, Belgian waffles, and cous cous. I could also have wine and coffee again. I was finally sane again.
I know a few folks who stick to the Paleolithic lifestyle, and kudos to them. But I won’t lie; every time I have a glass of merlot with a giant hunk of brie, a fistful of Pepperidge Farms crackers and a cupful of grapes, part of me cries a little for those people.
Thanksgiving must be miserable.