Travels of a Gluten-Free, Vegan(ish) Gypsy Mama

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It is possible to be gluten-free, and it is possible to be vegan; but it is nearly impossible to be both in certain situations, for example, on an 8 hour flight.

And yes, I brought my own food with me. And no, the tepid, ten-hour old slices of cucumber in the baggie in my purse did not seem savory when presented a steaming plate of chicken and polenta (the BEST gf meal ever), courtesy of the kind chefs at Lufthansa.

As for me, the vegan thing is by choice, not politically or morally motivated, and therefore it can be neatly packed in my carry-on at will.

While I am beyond craving meat, I would eat that particular airline meal again and again, until it gave me coronary artery disease, in which case I would have to limit myself to dreaming about it post-op.

I admit it: I ate meat during my travels. But a lot of people who love me bent over backwards to make me gluten-free meals, vegan meals, or  both, and I don’t want to be that annoyingly neurotic sort of person who disdains food presented–especially when I’m lodging (free) with very generous people.

My husband and I have a saying, “Fifi only drinks champagne.”

I’m not sure where it came from, but at some point, we started saying it whenever one of the kids vocalized a food aversion, and then we would laugh.

Thus, not to be a Fifi, the only neurosis I allow myself is the gluten paranoia, only because I don’t want people to feel bad for inadvertently poisoning me.

*Editor’s note: if the author is glutened, it is ENTIRELY her own responsibility! The host is NEVER at fault. NEVER.

Before my trip to the US, I specifically requested my Grandma O. create a gluten-free version of her famous ham balls.

If you are vegetarian, I apologize for the image that may be in your mind at the moment, and I can only say, if you commit vegetarian impropriety just once in your long, untainted life, it should be with Grandma O’s ham balls.

While the kids and I did eat out a few times, we purposely boycotted fast-food (though Tasty Tacos, Chilie’s & Applebee’s blur the distinction).

And the rumor is true: with my consent, Grandpa took the children to IHOP–a place that could now kill me.

*Editor’s note: after the author returned home, she found a ‘Frequent Customer’ card from IHOP in an old purse. The author wants to make it clear that her life has changed drastically from six years ago!

But if the kids eat IHOP once every six years, I think they will survive (with large doses of veggies in the middle).

I also had lattes & cappuccino while I was traveling. Because seriously, if I’m going to have milk with my espresso, I’m going for whole milk. Milk gleaned from rice, soy or almonds just isn’t the same.

Before my vegan and/or vegetarian readers begin posting angry and/or disparaging comments to my blog, let me change the subject by asking: Is true veganism something you can turn off and on by choice?

Was I a convert to begin with? Am I just a backslider? Maybe I’m not a vegan at all. I already find myself fantasizing about the steak I’m going to consume after my marathon this summer.

I’m most likely someone Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book Eat to Live, calls a Nutritarian, which simply means someone who, for the most part, eats a veggie-based diet.

While not recommended, the occasional fling with meat & dairy is permissible.

And occasionally really means ‘on occasion,’ as in ‘special’ occasion; not as in It’s three o’clock again–bacon cheeseburger time! 

You might be wondering how I felt with all this fat and cholesterol floating around in my bloodstream, trying to attach itself to places it shouldn’t.

By the end of my binge, I felt bloated, fat, tired, and quite ready for my lean green.

The surprising thing is that I didn’t gain any weight. However, I’m quite sure daily bingeing would put me back into elastic-waisted jeans in no time–an endeavor I do NOT wish to put to the test.

After getting through the jet-lag, my husband and I began a detox. He had lost nearly 20 pounds while I was gone (making a total of 80 pounds since this year began), and I think he joined the Reboot simply to humor me.

But regardless, this week’s juice fast has been tough. I even cheated by eating a fresh fig, a strawberry, and a handful (okay, an entire can) of garbanzo beans. Oh, and there was the mushroom soup I had to sample, since I was cooking for the kids; but that was purely a quality control issue.

But my husband was supportive of my deviation by remarking, “At least you weren’t sucking down hunks of chicken!”

He meant it as a compliment.

And he’s right. In just four days, my cravings for sweets and dairy went away.  Now I fantasize about fruits, veggies, and legumes.

A juice fast will do that to a person.

I don’t want to sound like I don’t enjoy my juice–because I do. I have missed the tangy flavor of my Lean Green.

And knowing that my body is receiving an entire bag of spinach’s worth of nutrients in one drink is satisfying on both mental and molecular levels. If someone were to see my cells under a microscope, I’m sure they would be cheering.

With no trips in my immediate future, I can better control my eating environment; and my cells can slap on their shades, sit back, and take in the liquid sunlight.

Home sweet home.

Recipe of the Week: Don’t Make Fun of Me Cashew “Cheese”

Friday night is pizza night around the Wellman ranch, and since becoming vegan (or mostly vegan), I’ve struggled to find something to replace cheese on my pizza. Well, I found this recipe in the Forks Over Knives cookbook–and it does the trick.

Not only is it scrumptious on pizza, but it’s awesome on gluten-free crackers too. It bears little (if any) resemblance to real cheese, but the flavor is delicious! Don’t make fun of me! Try it!

The Raw Materials

1 cup organic cashews

1/2 lemon (I used one whole lemon, but it was small)

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 cup water

The Method 

Toss ‘cheese’ ingredients in the food processor. Puree, adding water slowly until it reaches a thick, cream-cheese-like consistency. You should be able to form little ‘cheese’ balls, so don’t add too much water. Add seasonings (salt if you want it) to taste.

You can form this into ‘cheese’ patties (similar to mozzarella, Italian style) and place it on your pizza. Or, you can crumble it over the top. Or, you can spread it on crackers. Or, you can lick the spatula.

Whatever your method of delivery, it will be good (and filling).

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