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Going Raw: Part One

(My Life-Long Love Affair With Food)

I don’t normally put sub-titles to my postings, but I felt this one deserved one.  There is no way I can share my “adventure” at going raw without giving some background as to my relationship with food.  And it is a love affair.

I have had an intimate relationship with food ever since I can remember.  Some of my earliest memories of food are:

– sitting under the dining room table in the middle of the night eating rice paper (don’t even ask!!)

– sitting for what seemed like hours on the garden gate or at the front room window waiting for Aunty Polly to arrive with ice cream and candy

– going to Aunty Peggy’s to have wonderful four course dinners that included incredible appetizers, cheese and crackers, dessert with coffee (like in a “grown 
   up’s” restaurant)

– going down to the kid’s secret den to eat as many candies as I had been able to take from the pantry without it looking as though someone had taken them
   (I’m sure my mother realized!)

– finger-swiping the frosting off a freshly baked “chocolate horror” cake (bliss!)

– sneaking teaspoonful’s of Fry’s chocolate spread (pure paradise!!)

– biting into the crusty heel of a fresh loaf of country bread slathered in real butter

– English cheddar cheese and crunchy pickled onions

So as you can see I was pretty much addicted to food from an early age.  I could describe in detail, and still can, the sensations of different foods hitting the different taste buds in the various areas of my mouth just the way someone can describe the details in a picture.  I think God proved that He really, really loved us when he gave us taste buds.

I discovered “ethnic” restaurants in my mid to upper teens and a whole new world of tastes and flavors opened up to me.  English food is usually so bland and much of it, particularly vegetables, is simply boiled into oblivion and mush.  Indian curry and crisp Chinese vegetables were like heaven, and the awesome blend of herbs in authentic, freshly cooked, Italian cuisine can still send me into a swoon today. I think you get the picture.

Moving to Sardinia, Italy in 1979 was a dream come true for this foodaholic.  The Sardinian cuisine is unique and is as beautiful as the island itself.  Home-made pasta was the norm in a Sardinian home in those days and if you have never eaten fresh home-made pasta you need to before you die.  Roast lamb, kid, and pig are nothing like anything over here.  I have eaten some of the best bar-b-q pork since coming to the States but nothing touches a succulent roast-in-the-ground pig in Sardinia. 

From Sardinia I returned to London in 1978.  It was mainly a “big mistake” but forms part of my life journey so it was important.  During the five years I remained in the UK back then the only time that I ate well was when I cooked Italian pasta or I ate ethnic.  I missed Italy badly, not just the food but the whole culture.  So it was with a happy heart that I returned in 1983 to live in Naples, Italy.

Naples, rather like Sicily, gets a bad rap in some tourist books, but I fell in love with Naples very quickly.  There’s an Italian saying that goes, “see Naples and die”.  There’s a Neapolitan saying that goes, “Napoli ti prende per la gola” – Naples grabs you by the throat.  The people are warm-hearted and friendly and the food, well I’m not sure anything I could say about Neapolitan food would do it justice.  There are amazing pasta dishes with incredible sauces and fresh seafood cooked in the simplest but most divinely-tasting ways. “Dolce” (cakes) are out of this world and the pizza, oh the pizza!!!!!  You have not eaten real pizza until you eat pizza prepared and baked in Naples.  Not even the pizza in other parts of Italy is as sublime as Neapolitan pizza. 

And then there’s REAL mozzarella cheese freshly dripping in its own liquid.  This is an absolute delicacy that is only made in Naples, Italy.  There is only one place over here that I know of where you can find real, fresh Mozzarella cheese and that is at the Fratelli La Buffala restaurant in the beaches area of Miami.  They have it flown in fresh from Naples two or three times per week.  

So, with all this love of marvelously prepared and served food, how do I get to going raw?  With great difficulty let me tell you!  I guess with age comes some sort of wisdom, and my brain began to tell my body that two hundred pounds on a five foot four inch frame was not so healthy.  And, as usually happens with the fat accumulation, my blood pressure had risen and my cholesterol was fast following it.

Thankfully, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Back in 2005, about eighteen months after getting to Jacksonville, Florida, my church hosted a series of classes on the vegetarian diet.  I was interested not only because I thought it would help me lose weight, combat the BP and cholesterol issue, and improve my overall wellness, but also because the classes were offered by the Cancer Society as a way to help people prevent cancer or live cancer free once they were in remission.  Because there is a history of cancer in my family I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.

I’ll leave the “vegetarian experiment” for my next posting in this series.  

Musings: Re-Entry

I’m recently back from an unexpected trip to the UK to visit family.  It has taken me almost a week to feel truly over my jet-lag.  I guess this is about normal because it is said that it takes one day for each hour of time differential, and there’s five hours between here and the UK.

The first couple of days are usually the worst for me.  My body clock is so off kilter that I’m never sure when I’m going to sleep and when I’m going to be awake.  But this time was different and I thought perhaps I was going to get back on track quickly – but it didn’t happen. 

I didn’t sleep at all on the return flight which was almost nine hours long.  This would have been understandable because it was a “day flight”, leaving London at about 9am.  However, I had only slept for three hours the previous night, the three days prior to departure were extremely emotional, and I was still recovering from jet-lag from the flight over there!!  I felt sure I would sleep.

I got into Atlanta, GA at about 1.35pm local time (already 6.35pm by my body clock!).  I was very pleasantly surprised at the ease and speed of the immigration (I’m a green card holder), baggage claim, customs, and re-check in process for my final flight home to Jacksonville, Florida.  We had plugged in a good five and a half hour layover for me here to allow for any hold-ups, but I was already cleared and through by 2.30pm.

Because we had only had brunch and a snack on the flight from London, and I knew there would be nothing served on the one-hour flight to Jax, I decided to get a decent meal before heading to my gate.  If ever you are passing through Atlanta airport and you’re near Concourse B needing a meal, check out the Intermezzo Cafe.  Great menu choices, excellent food and presentation, terrific service from super-friendly staff. 

Once my tummy was happy I headed over to my departure gate.  There were plenty of empty chairs and not too many people.  I made myself comfortable took out my book and settled in.  An hour later I could feel the waves of sleep wash over me but there was no way I could sleep in an airport chair without ruining my back or my neck – or both!  So I figured I’d take a walk around, get some water, and clear my head a little.

It was coming up on 5pm when I settled back into the gate area and I thought I’d make it through to the 6.30pm boarding and 7pm departure. (Keep in mind that’s midnight by my body clock; I’d been up and on the go since 2.30am!!)  But fate was not working well with me.  A delay announcement was made for the flight pushing it back to 8.49pm.

I was about to get frustrated when I suddenly remembered seeing a sign for “Minute Suites” at the entrance to Concourse B.  I decided to go and check out what that meant. This is another recommendation coming: if you’re passing through Atlanta airport and you have a long layover and want some quiet rest time or just some privacy to do some computer work or watch TV, go and check into “Minute Suites”. 

It costs thirty dollars for an hour then you can add on in increments of fifteen minutes.  You get a small private room with a comfortable pull-out couch with blanket and pillow.  There’s a TV, a work station, an alarm clock, and a white noise machine.  The light is on a dimmer and you can control the room temperature.  It is an absolute God-given gift for the weary traveler.  I managed to get a wonderful 50-minute cat-nap and I was good to go.

We finally got off the ground at 9.30pm and landed in Jax about an hour later.  By the time I got through baggage reclaim, made the shuttle, and got into my car it was 11.15pm.  Thank the Lord attendant at USA Park, which is the parking lot we regularly use at the Jax airport, hands out small bottles of water as you leave the lot.  I was running on fumes by now (4.15am of the next day on my body clock!!) and, with all the windows open, headed home.

I walked in my front door shortly after midnight.  My beloved husband had a plate of fresh fruit ready for me and he put on the kettle and made me a nice cup of herbal tea.  I fell into bed about forty five minutes later and thankfully slept until morning.  But it has taken my body until now, making small adjustments and taking the occasional nap during the day, to truly get back on track.

Musings: Prisoner of the Cold

The thermometer that is incorporated into the clock located on the wall in my lanai has not registered higher than 44 degrees Fahrenheit at about 7.30am for the past week.  This morning it indicated 34 degrees Fahrenheit at 8.35am. It has not climbed above 58 degrees Fahrenheit in the past seven days at any time of the day!

The corner of the lanai where the clock is located is the most sheltered and the warmest spot in my garden.  It is protected from wind chill and receives sun for the better part of the day. Now that the lanai has been built it is even more protected from the elements.  And it is “bloody cold out there” as my true Brit self would say.  And I know that it is even colder out in the open, more exposed garden.

I am not a happy camper.  I feel like a prisoner to the cold.  Today especially the sun was shining and it looked glorious outside.  The sky was blue and everything was in clear and sharp focus – including the frost that sparkled like diamonds on the house immediately across the street from mine!!

I have waited patiently for the number to go higher.  I have waited patiently not to feel the immediate chill when I slide open the lanai door.  It feels just like standing in front of an open freezer door.  I have waited patiently to be able to go out to my sanctuary, lap top in hand, to invite the Muse out to play. 

I can wait no longer.  So I have dragged a small table over and placed it right in front of the sliding door that looks into my lanai and I have set up the lap top so that I can at least see out into the garden via the lanai.  It’s not quite the same; the fresh air, the usual Florida warmth, and the songs of the birds are missing.  I don’t feel the usual joy in my heart, but it’s better than succumbing any longer to this sense of total imprisonment.

It’s not that I cannot or have not been outside the house this week.  I am not a wimp and I do carry some memory in my bones of dealing with a cold English winter.  In fact a few days ago I received an email from an old school chum who reminded me of the previous “worst English winter” that we all experienced as students returning to our various colleges and universities in January 1963.

The college that I attended, Coloma Teacher Training College, was set in a very rural area (read “out in the sticks”, or perhaps here in America you say “out in the boon docks”), south of London.  It was located a couple of miles outside a very small village called West Wycombe.  We were so isolated that the local villagers thought we were a college full of unwed mothers or mentally handicapped women.  Being typical college students, we made sure our behaviour did nothing to change their minds.  Many was the evening that, bolstered by a drink or two and with pillows stuffed under our coats, we would carousel through the village singing slightly “naughty” songs. 

Other evenings would find us trudging down to the village store with the hoods of our duffel coats up over our heads. Like most female (and male) students in those days we all had long long hair and we would comb it forward over our faces.  We limped along, one foot in the gutter, the other on the curb, muttering indecipherable words and stopping suddenly to peer through our hair at people we passed.  We thought we were being very risque’ and very avant garde.  (It was cool to think in French phrases in those days.)

But that winter was quite spectacular.  I remember returning after the Christmas holidays, getting off the bus (I lived outside the college with a college-picked family), walking through the village and thinking how picturesque it all seemed with the flurries of snow swirling all around me.  I walked out the other end of the village and turned the corner to cross the recreation fields that separated the village from the college.

I clearly remember stopping in my tracks, jaw dropped, and not sure quite what to think.  It suddenly seemed as though I was at the North Pole as a vast expanse of pure white opened up in front of me.  The falling snow was  thick enough that I couldn’t see to the other side of the field.  There was not another soul in sight.

I stood there for a few moments just taking in the whole God-beauty of the scene.  I was well dressed for the weather and had on a pair of knee high boots.  When I took my first step out into the field I sank into soft snow so deep it came over, and into, the top of my boots.  I think I took maybe three or four more steps before I realized this was not a very wise thing to do, and jumped back quickly onto the pavement, all the time aware of the icy cold that was surrounding my feet.

I tramped back a hundred yards to a small cafe and sat down to empty out the snow from my boots.  My feet were soaking and freezing cold.  I looked up at the woman who owned the cafe and to whom we had been very risque and avant garde on several occasions.  I guess she overlooked my past transgressions and took pity on me because she handed me a dry tea towel. 

These were not the days of cell phones.  She allowed me to use the telephone in the cafe to call the college, and I found out that they had not been able to telephone all the out-students in time to warn them not to attempt to come into college.  Grimly I made my way home with very cold feet.

The snow lasted well into March that year.  We were all sick and tired of it by the time the last little mounds had disappeared from the sides of the road.  I spoke to my sister in London two days ago and she too remembered that winter. She confirmed that the snow at the moment is very reminiscent of back then.  Let’s hope for their sake that it doesn’t last so long.

Well, I have beaten the cold and done my writing.  The Muse was fairly happy at playing indoors because she could at least see the outdoors.  But I will be much happier when the temperatures rise a little and I don’t feel so hunched up in my body and my soul.  Warmth has a liberating effect in both areas.