New Year!: We Met One of Adrian’s Colleagues for a Drink

New Year’s Eve, for our après ski, we met one of Adrian’s colleagues at a distillery. This particular colleague, like most, doesn’t know our son has autism, and whereas the colleague has typically developing children in the same age range, he would be able to spot any differences. We didn’t want Martin to “stand out.”

One way Martin still stands out is ordering food. When we are in a restaurant, he likes to order by himself. That’s fine, if we are in a restaurant whose menu we already know. When we are in a new restaurant, I have to ask eight million questions. The hamburger—is that just ground beef, or is the beef mixed with bread crumbs? The sweet potato fries—do they have any breading or coating? What kind of oil are they fried in? What else is fried in that oil? The grilled calamari—could we get that without the garlic butter? And the whole time I’m asking, Martin interrupts, usually to yell what he wants: No, no! I can get the calamari! Can I get the calamari? I don’t want salad! Occasionally he also has a mini-meltdown over what’s available (or not available) for him to eat, in which case I take his hand and lead him outside until he calms down.

So we were glad to arrive twenty minutes before Adrian’s colleague, have a chance to peruse the menu (the colleague suggested the location), and come up with the best option, both nutritionally and in terms of avoiding a meltdown. By the time the colleague joined us, Martin was occupied with my iPhone while happily downing a grass-fed steak and French fries cooked in canola oil.

Wait. Potatoes? Canola oil? Do we allow Martin to eat potatoes and canola oil?

Generally speaking, we do not. Potatoes are an occasional summertime treat, organic and roasted on our outdoor grill. Canola oil almost never works. Most canola oil comes from genetically modified crops, and even non-GMO “Canadian oil” is refined (hexane-processed?), bleached, degummed, deodorized rapeseed oil in which omega-3 fatty acids have been turned into trans fatty acids. Why would I let Martin ingest that?

Well, because we were traveling, and when we travel, and encounter new situations, and have to “perform,” some restrictions loosen. A bit.

Traveling, depending on where we go (for example, I can do more at my parents’ in Texas than I can in a suite in Chicago), alters:

  • Diet, to a modest extent. Martin’s diet is always free of gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and refined sugar. Beyond that, some specifics slip, including the aforementioned potatoes and canola. It can be hard to ensure organic food, or even non-GMO. He might also miss a day or two of broth. We traveled to Utah on a Saturday. He went without bone broth Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. By Monday afternoon I’d got my hands on a marrow bone and simmered a pot of broth.
  • Cookware. Even at home, my cookware isn’t perfect. Stainless steel remains puzzling, in terms of purity, and I’m never sure if my cast iron is seasoned properly or clean. In any event, at home I cook with All-Clad and cast iron, with mostly stainless-steel or wooden utensils. Whenever we travel, we rent accommodations with a kitchen, and unless we are staying long enough to justify a purchase—for example, when we were in Europe for ten days and I bought a fine strainer and a pot, both of which I brought home—I use what comes with the place. That might mean a plastic spatula, or even, egads!, nonstick pans.
  • Detox baths. At home, Martin takes two or three detox baths (two cups Epsom salt and one-half cup baking soda) a week, depending on whether he’s also used the sauna. Epsom salt is heavy to carry, and I don’t always trust other bathtubs. What product was used to cleaned it? Could I rinse it well enough? There is no point in trying to detox Martin in a tub with excessive chemical residue.
  • Exercises. Right now, we don’t have HANDLE exercises to do. Martin does, however, have four short exercises per day for his vision/neuroplasticity. At least, he has four short exercises when we are not on the road.

We do have absolutes, stuff that doesn’t change, regardless of where or when we travel. Martin takes his supplements, always. I’ve handed him pills in rental cars, measured drops at airport gates, mixed powder into restaurant beverages. I also find him fermented foods, daily, wherever we are. Martin no longer takes probiotics, so fermented foods are his probiotics. Plus, it’s easy enough to find sauerkraut or another cultured vegetable these days, if not kombucha.

The last absolutes? Love, and plenty of attention. Martin always gets those.

What’s Disappeared

It’s accounting season. Adrian’s assistant has prepared a summary of what our family spent last year on recovering Martin. Supplements, therapies, unreimbursed doctor bills, plane tickets to see specialists, that sort of stuff. It does not include expenses associated with Martin’s restricted diet, like buying only organic or making weekend farm visits for meat. Nor does it include my kitchen make-over, continually purging plastics and aluminum in favor of glass or stainless steel.

Even without the foods and cookware, the total is a large number. Not astronomical. Not bank-breaking. But large.

“Did you think it would be this much?” Adrian asked me.

I replied, “I’m looking at it like this: If someone told us last January, ‘Give me this amount, and within a year Martin will respond to his name, will make eye contact consistently, will interact with friends, will move like a neurotypical child, and will speak in complete sentences,’ we would have written that check, right?”

“Of course,” Adrian said.

He seemed mildly offended that I’d asked the question. But I was on a roll.

“And if someone told us last January, ‘Give me this amount, and within a year Martin’s lethargy and toe-walking and aimless drifting and low muscle tone and sleep problems and clumsiness will be gone, and his echolalia will be nearly gone,’ we would have written that check, right? Because that’s where we are. That’s what’s disappeared.”

Adrian waved his arm in agreement, putting an end to my roll. “We would have paid ten times so much. You know that.”

“So let’s keep it going,” I said.

And we fist-bumped.

Crunchy Granola (Not a Recipe)

Because I’m vegan, many people assume I wear billowy tunics over yoga pants, enjoy camping, and/or engage in frequent protests. You know—that I’m the crunchy-granola type.

Generally speaking, no. I prefer designer clothes, detest sleeping anywhere that lacks a clean bed and private shower, and have a don’t-rock-the-boat personality ill-suited to getting in people’s faces. Though I respect everyone’s views, I won’t be occupying Wall Street anytime soon.

At the same time, trying to recover Martin is making me crunchier. I’ve already banned artificial-chemical-based cleaning products from our home. Our food is organic, and I spend a lot of time on farms picking it out. Our water is filtered, twice.

The ingredient list of Martin’s body wash reads like the recipe for a fragrant dessert: organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic aloe leaf juice, organic vanilla bean extract, organic orange oil, kosher vegetable glycerin, potassium citrate, organic shea butter, and organic calendula extract. I firmly believe that, in the event of New York City food shortage, my family could live several weeks, quite salubriously, off Martin’s body wash.

Martin uses a natural, BPA-free toothbrush. Fluoride-free toothpaste.

Blackberries get turned off in the car. Electronics see their plugs unsocketed without mercy. The microwave sits forlorn, idle, wondering what he did to piss me off.

Martin spends more than 12 hours per day in contact with his mattress and sheets, so I’m on the hunt for a natural mattress. I’ve found them for babies. So far nothing in toddler/child size, though. Same for sheets. I may need to replace his toddler bed with a big-boy bed in order to get organic, undyed sheets that fit.

And now I’m learning about flame retardants applied to most children’s pajamas, and how they might affect Martin’s brain. In fact, dyes and treatments used on children’s garments in general may pose neuro-sensitivity hazards. So I’m shopping for organic clothes. Jeans, a three-season coat, and pajamas arrived today.

Have you ever had occasion to note the cost of organic clothes for kids? Martin’s wardrobe is about to get a whole lot more limited.

Shower curtain liners are made with PVC. Get them hot and steamy, it seems, and they’ll release those chemicals into the atmosphere. I used to worry about litter-box fumes. Now it’s eau de PVC. I just ordered a hemp shower curtain. I’ve become Woody Harrelson.

Bottom line: The crunchy-granola life may be my destiny after all. I just can’t believe the toxins to which we expose children every day.

It’s almost enough to make a protester out of me.

Kitchen News: An Update on the Hunt for a Food Processor with Glass Bowl

I amaze myself. I’m anxious to replace my food processor, which has a plastic (and, by now, cracking) bowl, because I think high velocity, blades, and heat are a recipe for chemicals from plastic to get into Martin’s food. What my anxiousness means in practice is that I’ve just managed to kill an entire morning searching for a food processor with a glass or stainless-steel bowl, with marginal success.

Between being on hold and actually conversing with a representative, I spent half an hour on the phone with Robot Coupe. That company sells numerous commercial models with stainless steel bowls (though the feed shoots, pushers, and blade components may contain plastic). The only models possibly appropriate for home use, according to the representative, are the R100, which has a plastic bowl, and possibly the R2N Ultra, which has a metal bowl (some other parts plastic), weighs 36 pounds, and sells for more than $2,300.

Another option is an Electolux, the Dito Dean MUGXU, with 3.2-quart stainless-steel bowl, a commercial model nonetheless small enough for countertop use. But at 35 pounds (how can I store that?) and more than $1,000, well . . . .

I’m hatching a new plan.

I use the food processor primarily for puréeing and for getting rid of chunks in soup. My first thought was to get a glass container for my Vitamix, which resembles an extra-powerful blender capable of puréeing. Unfortunately, a call to Vitamix got me the bad news that, although the company has glass containers in the R&D department right now, none are expected to be available for at least a year. In the past, Vitamix manufactured stainless-steel containers, but those would not be compatable with my more recent model.

So for the time being I’m going to invest in a new stainless-steel immersion blender. I already have a KitchenAid blender with a glass jar, though it does have some plastic around the blade that comes in contact with food. I hope to use those two appliances to work around the food processor as much as possible.

For tomorrow evening I have broccoli-and-greens purée on Martin’s menu. Time to blend in batches and hope for the best.