Health

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photos by gluttonforlife

7.22.14 Blenheim Bouquet

A good apricot is an elusive thing. As in the quest for a good man, you have to bite into quite a few before you find a winner. I read recently that Frankenstein farmers are taking the best elements from an apricot and the best from a plum and creating delicious hybrids with names like pluot, plumcot and apriplum. And yet I still want that perfect apricot, with its faintly downy curves, rosy bloom and fudgy flesh. Once in a blue moon, you might come across such a specimen, most often of the Blenheim variety. (Those of you familiar with Penhaligon's fragrances will remember Blenheim Bouquet, a bracing mix of citrus oils, spice and woods that has nothing to do with apricots but provided inspiration for the title of this post.) But somehow even the very best apricot never seems to quite live up to the taste I carry in my sense memory. Which is where roasting comes in...
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7.4.14 Born Free

Well, the first thing I have to say is that you all are poets. Talk abut using your words! In telling me what summer means to you, you conjured up so many ripe images, so much nostalgia. (Those of you who have not yet had a chance to leave a comment on my last post, still have time to do so before midnight on Sunday 7/14 to be in the running for a box of summer treats from the Glutton for Life kitchen.) Turns out we all love being outdoors more. Swimming, gardening, visiting those green places we return to every year. School's out. We kick our shoes off. Everything loosens up a bit. How fitting then that on this day of high summer, on this Independence Day, we celebrate freedom. In this country, it's a bit tattered but there's always hope that we'll rally and reclaim our birthright. In the face of all that is so blatantly bleak, I choose optimism. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
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photos by gluttonforlife

6.3.14 Oil Slick

A few months ago, yet another large and important study was released with irrefutable evidence that 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease could be prevented if high-risk individuals switched to a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, beans, fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. It's been established that low-fat diets simply can't achieve these results and this is good news for those of us who love olive oil in all its diverse splendor—from mellow gold to vivid green, from rich and buttery to bracing and peppery. Quite frankly, there are few foods it doesn't improve.

Although you might not think of it this way, olive oil is essentially a fresh fruit juice and thus is fairly fragile. It needs to be extracted in a process that doesn't involve nutrient-damaging heat ("cold pressed") and it has to be properly bottled and stored to protect it from air, light and extreme temperatures. Finally, it should be consumed fairly quickly, generally within a year or two of production. Without all of these protections, olive oil (and all high quality oils, really) can quickly turn rancid, developing an off taste that some people liken to crayons or old peanuts (I swear) and a greasy mouthfeel. (For more horifying facts, see this.) The sad truth is that the average American has grown accustomed to consuming rancid oils because that is what is predominantly available. Intrigued? Read all about it in Tom Mueller's excellent Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. If you don't have time for that, just be sure the olive oil you buy has been produced and cared for with integrity.
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photos by gluttonforlife

5.21.14 Char Woman

This is going to be short and sweet because I'm about to head out to hunt for morels with my mushroom club. I sound like I should have grey hair and wear those polyester khakis from Patagonia. Oh wait! I do have grey hair and I am wearing those Patagonia pants. Whatever, if I come home with freshly picked morels, who's going to notice anything else? In the meantime, let me distract you with this easy and indispensable recipe for grilled pineapple salsa. It's perfect to slather on everything this summer—a season which officially starts prematurely on Memorial Day weekend! The pineapple is actually charred in a hot skillet, but you could make it on the grill, of course. It's delicious on fish tacos and pork kebabs, scooped up with chips, and stirred into a simple bowl of brown rice, especially if it's drizzled with a little crema.
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photos by george billard

5.13.14 Work in Progress

Just shy of a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Imperfectly Fine about my struggle to find balance in life. I had just had my first session with a health coach and, as I do every summer, I was dreaming of spending more time in the hammock. After nearly 50 sessions with my coach, I'm here to report back. I have a meditation practice now. Taking this course in the city kicked it off and, though I may not sit in meditation every single morning, mostly I do. And it's there for me when I really need it, which is most of the time. I am back to exercising regularly. I ferreted out a gym in my town—it's a fairly ghetto set-up at the local high school, but it's open to residents three mornings a week and it's enabled me to reconnect to weight training. All incipient back issues have totally cleared up. I now see a Chinese acupuncturist every couple of weeks and take herbs twice daily and my herpes outbreaks have nearly vanished.

I'm learning to say no to the things that take me away from what I really want to do. After a couple of publishers expressed interest in a Glutton for Life book, I am finishing up a proposal. (I am elated and terrified in equal measure.) My coach helped me with all of this. She gave me the support, encouragement and love I needed to explore my fears and desires and goals and failures and successes. But the process is not "over." It will never be "over." Just this past week I fell into a giant pit of despair, feeling overwhelmed by my life and everything I still have not managed to accomplish. I am not thinner, richer, more famous or more successful than I was a year ago, and I panicked that I was no happier either. But I am taking deep breaths, sitting in meditation, remembering all the things I have to be grateful for, making plans to do the things I care about most, strategizing for the future and trying to fully inhabit the moment. It's incredibly hard work. But it's also exciting and fun. 

I read something by Annie Lamott yesterday that wrenched me to the core and reverberated through my whole being. I am humbled by her ability to write so completely in her own voice. She expresses her wisdom in a way that is so accessible and friendly, yet so profound. I just love how these words give us permission to be equally at home in our own skins. They came to me at a time when I needed them most and reminded me of what is truly important. I hope they fill you with hope and purpose.
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5.7.14 Wild Green Yonder

If food is fuel, don't you want to be powered by something that looks this amazingly alive and vibrant? Are you willing to go further afield to nourish yourselves in all the extraordinary ways you deserve? Foraging is one practice that brings you so much more than food. It's a wonderful way to get outside, connect to nature and discover the abundance that is available to all of us. One of the very first wild plants to emerge in spring, and one of the most commonly found in meadows, parks and fields, is the nettle. It's a little dangerous, as anyone who has ever tried to pick it without gloves on knows. But, like most prickly characters, with a little understanding and the proper care, it reveals its better qualities. Before you know it, nettles become putty in your capable hands.
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4.13.14 Vegetative State

I know a true vegetative state is no joke, but I couldn't resist this as the title for my current vegan existence. On day 12 of the Spring Detox/Cleanse, I am more than halfway through and I can officially say that this has not been about feeling limited or deprived. If anything, I have noticed how comparatively little food I need to feel nourished and full, and that is without consciously trying to reduce my intake. Although the cleanse calls for three meals a day—with the last one being a simple bowl of soup—G and I have mostly been satisfied with just two. I think this is because we eat our biggest meal of the day somewhere between 3pm and 5pm, something I doubt we'll sustain as it's just not that practical given our work schedule and our desire to socialize with others. Come Friday, I tend to like a cocktail, but have been content with my latest obsession of coconut vinegar with seltzer. Cinnamon tea and the occasional medjool date have been enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. As for some of the vegan dishes I've been enjoying (already previewed on Instagram @LauraSilverman), please read on...
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4.8.14 Energy Crunch

It's day five of my 21-day vegan cleanse. It's not really going to be a big deal for me, I told my health coach (discover her wisdom here). I basically eat like this all the time. Plus I'm not an emotional eater. Right.

My coach told me to use the advent of spring and the inevitable awakening and clean-up of the garden as a metaphor for my own self. And on Sunday, as I knelt on the still-frozen earth, hacking away at dried twigs and grasses, pushing aside sodden and broken-down leaves and pine needles, I saw that I, too, was badly in need of a refurbishing. It became clear that the extra pounds I have acquired over the last 5 years may well have helped buffer me against the particular pains and hardships of that time. Though I may not be the kind of emotional eater that relies on chocolate to mask a feeling of vulnerability, I am no stranger to taking comfort in food. But things have changed: my husband is healing; spring is here; I am reconnecting with a kind of movement and wholeness that I had begun to forget. Oh, and the cleanse? It's also meant a renewed commitment to daily meditation, which is good since my mind has been racing a lot. Could be that no sugar, no cheese and no alcohol really does have an impact on me. I've been falling asleep early, sleeping for 9+ hours and having vivid dreams. Tectonic shifts. I fear many things, but change is not one of them.
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photos from the interwebs

4.1.14 Make Peace

As I write this, there are two tiny ants crawling around on my desk: proof positive that the world is waking up and spring is imminent. I heard the low trill of an Eastern screech owl the other morning and witnessed four robins sprinting across the lawn. There have already been rumored sightings of bears. Soon the frogs will come out of their deep thaw and the woodland orgies will commence. Tempers can run hot at this time of year, as even emotions lie dormant and come bubbling up as we begin to move and shake our creaky limbs. Be gentle with yourself, and with others. Stretch. Stimulate your blood flow by taking a natural bristle brush or a dry loofah and brushing your skin in long strokes toward the heart. Lighten the load on your organs (especially the liver and gall bladder) by eating fewer processed foods and meat and increasing your intake of greens, especially the bitter ones like dandelion and the chicories.

I was lucky enough to jumpstart my seasonal transition with a few days at Kripalu, a wonderful yoga and wellness center in Lenox, Mass. I've been there several times and really appreciate all it has to offer: yoga, massage, hiking, meditation, privacy, community and delicious, healthy food. As it happened, my reading for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers took place there on the last day of my stay, so it was incredibly serendipitous and convenient.
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photo by gluttonforlife

3.21.14 Spring Forward

Can you feel it? The axis of the earth is increasing its tilt toward the sun. Days are longer and filled with more light. I’m not fully rejoicing yet because I hear there may be another nor’easter in our near future, but I’m getting ready for greatness. Our palates are preparing for the change, eager for the delicate flavors of spring: fresh goat cheese, the first slender stalks of asparagus and rhubarb, tender greens, sweet peas. These lighter foods act like a tonic upon us, awakening what has lain dormant, much as the sweet air brushing against our skin is revitalizing. This is a wonderful time to do a detox or a cleansing fast, to purge, freshen and take stock. There is something about that sparkling feeling, wiping the slate clean, that allows us to move ahead with great optimism. I urge you to shed some layers and wipe away the cobwebs—literally and figuratively. Soon we will be loosed from the shackles of winter and there is promise of great things to come.


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