Food Porn: Weekend Breakfast

Depending on how much time I have, weekend breakfasts can be extravagant and, because on the volume of organic vegetables involved, expensive. I photographed my way through a recent weekend breakfast, prepared when we were all awake around 7:00 am but no one had to be anywhere before 11:00 am.

Dish No. 1 was sweet potato hash, and Dish No. 2 was vegetable scrambled eggs. First, I diced/processed my veggies and arranged them for those two dishes.

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In this photo, the middle mixing bowl contains the veggies for the scrambled eggs: carrots, garlic, red bell pepper, Jerusalem artichoke, and several sorts of mushrooms. Martin has declared that he doesn’t like mushrooms, so I sneak them in wherever I can; in this instance, the pre-cooked mushrooms will reduce enough that he doesn’t notice them in the scrambled eggs.

Also in the photo are—

a small glass of yellow “base,” which comprised onion, garlic, and turmeric root (there’s that turmeric again!), processed into a paste, which I put first into the pan, along with cooking oil (usually coconut);

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the diced sweet potatoes, which require the longest cooking time, so I added them as soon as the base became fragrant;

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onions and red bell pepper, which I add until well after the sweet potatoes, because they would have burnt before the sweet potatoes were cooked;

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and a glass of minced herbs, which on this occasion were parsley and sage, which went in last, just enough to heat them.

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When the sweet potato hash was about half done, I set the egg veggies to cook in coconut oil, separately.

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While both the sweet potato hash and the egg veggies were cooking, I prepped the vegetables for juice. I am very into juicing right now. Juice does have “all the sugar without the insoluble fiber,” which is not great vis-à-vis Martin’s yeast troubles. On the other hand, juicing is GAPS-approved and makes vitamins, minerals, and even enzymes rapidly available, which is terrific for those times when Martin is not so into eating vegetables. (Yes, even super-healthy-diet Martin behaves sometimes like an American seven-year-old.) On this morning, I made “green lemonade”: collard greens, celery, cucumber, kiwifruit, green and red apples, lemon, and turmeric. (Again with the turmeric!)

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Finally I juiced, added eggs and sea salt to the egg veggies, and served. For Adrian’s breakfast, I added a slice of toast, made from Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free bread.

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I think the Canyon Bakehouse product is good-quality, but it’s still too starchy and processed for Martin. So when Martin insisted that he too wanted toast, I substituted a couple Lundberg Family Farms Red Rice & Quinoa Stackers. Not perfect. Still a grain. Still processed to some degree. But these “toast crackers” made Martin happy and brought peace to breakfast.

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I don’t eat eggs. For my breakfast, I ate the sweet potato hash and drank the juice, and substituted the eggs with Fakin’ Bacon, which is spiced organic tempeh. I try not to eat too much soy; when I do consume soy, organic and fermented is the best way to go.

And I almost forgot: There was one more item that brought peace, and for me and Adrian, a lot of joy, to the morning kitchen—

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Sneakin’ and Foolin’

What’s this picture? Any guesses?

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It shows the makings for meatballs. More specifically, it shows tiny pieces of carrot, garlic, onion, and parsley.

I, like many parents, at least the kind of over-the-top parents I hang around, use meatballs as a vessel for veggies. Martin loves when I send meatballs to school for his lunch. He finds many ways to tell me how much he loves when I send meatballs to school for his lunch. For example, last night after his bedtime, I returned to the family room to find that he’d written “MEATBALLS FOR LUNCH?” on a balloon and left it on the toy chest.

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If nothing else, he’s subtle.

So meatballs it is. But I shall insist on concealing veggies in those meatballs. I process onions, fresh garlic, and whatever else I have on hand, then mix them with ground beef, maybe a 1:1 veggie-meat ratio, or slightly less.

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Then I form the mass into balls and store them in a glass container.

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For the next three mornings, I will cook meatballs in olive oil, add strained tomatoes (from a glass jar), and pack them, hot, in a stainless-steel container for Martin to take to school. (I also fill the container with near-boiling water for five minutes, then empty the water and add the meatballs. This helps keep them warm.) As I mentioned on October 29 (see the paragraph numbered (3.), which begins, “I’m an empiricist”), I have Martin down to one serving of meat daily, not counting bone broths. For the next three days, the meat serving will be meatballs at lunch, and I’ll be happy to think I’ve snuck in almost the equivalent of a side salad. If I could find a way to keep the veggies raw while cooking the meat, they would be more salad-like still.

Time for a confession: Martin’s not the only one getting fooled these days.

Although Martin has been gluten-free for almost four years now, I’ve never made our household gluten-free. I like bread, and occasional seitan. Adrian likes to take a sandwich to work each day, along with crackers for his hummus or raw-milk (over the top!) cheese. This summer, after reading a few opinions and reviewing my own experience, I became more concerned about cross-contamination between our gluten-containing products and Martin’s foods. Although I have separate toasters for gluten and gluten-free bread, they both leave residue in the cabinet. Although I wash the cutting boards between uses, it’s not like I never find a few bread bits clinging to the edges. Crumbs are untamable. They fly everywhere! Cheese and yogurt, the two dairy products that Adrian likes, so we have them at home, are much easier to subdue.

I knew I should make our house gluten-free. I also knew that I’d be pushing it with Adrian if I told him my plan. Adrian is super-duper supportive about what we do for Martin. That being said, Adrian works long, tough hours and hates to have his little pleasures denied. I can see his point, or the point he would have made had I told him that the house should be gluten-free: How necessary is that? Is it too much to ask that I take a sandwich to work as part of my lunch? That I have toast with weekend breakfast? Enjoy a plate of cheese and crackers and grapes when I come home late?

So I did what any sensible autism-recovery mom would do: I kept my mouth shut. Over a couple months, I searched for the best tasting gluten-free products that I could substitute without Adrian realizing. Crackers were easy; he’s always liked good-quality rice-, quinoa-, and seed-based crackers. The challenge was bread; most varieties I found were crumbly, or dry and nutty tasting, or both. (The chicken-and-egg bread I make for Martin is not an option, because Adrian doesn’t eat chicken.) Finally I found a variety at my local Stop & Shop that is almost indistinguishable from gluten bread. It is less dense and the slices are smaller. Other than that, hard to tell. It’s been more than a month since I’ve brought gluten into the house. If he’s noticed, Adrian hasn’t said anything.

Wait! you might say. This post has just gone public. Isn’t Adrian about to discover his unwitting gluten-free lifestyle?

He doesn’t read my blog every day.

Maybe I’ll get lucky.

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Two of these products (I won’t say which two) are more processed and full of ingredients that would never be in my kitchen if I were baking. The other two are pretty good, and products that I would consider for Martin if he weren’t on the GAPS diet. Adrian is getting all of these. He can take it.

More Civility

Last year I took Martin to a friend’s sixth-birthday party. I talked to the birthday boy’s mom in advance and knew they were serving pizza. For Martin I brought homemade GFCFSF pizza and cookies.

I thought Martin would be happy with those choices. With the pizza, he was. I heated it in the hostess’s oven and served it on a party plate, just like the other kids’ pizza. Unfortunately, the situation went south when cake time rolled around. Martin didn’t want just any treat. He wanted the cake. And when he didn’t get cake, he went into meltdown mode.

I might give in to something like a non-organic apple. But I don’t concede gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-laden cake. I picked up my screaming kid and moved to another room, where I held Martin on my lap and tried to calm him with promises of a special cupcake when we got home. (I would gladly have stopped at blessed Babycakes, which sells cupcakes that are free from gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and refined sugar.)

Martin was having none of my peacemaking. He cried and wheezed, inconsolable. At this point, another mother, whom I never had met, entered the room and asked, “What’s the problem?”

“My son is upset because it isn’t a cake he can eat,” I replied.

The stranger came closer and said, directly into my ear, “Just tell him you’re taking his piece home for him to eat there. By the time you get home, he’ll forget about it.”

I had a child on my lap near hyperventilation. This was not the time to explain that I don’t follow lie-now-and-hope-he-forgets approach to parenting. So I replied, “I wish I could, but he remembers everything.”

This woman was not to be deterred, neither by my blow-off attempt nor by Martin’s tears. “What is he, gluten-free?” she asked. “Why don’t you give him some of the ice cream?”

Her voice was loud so I could hear her over the racket, and her tone was sharp so I would know that she didn’t approve of a gluten-free diet.

“It’s harder than that,” I said, trying to sound sheepish so she would leave and let me return my attention to Martin. “He doesn’t eat gluten or dairy or refined sugar.”

I didn’t bother adding soy, corn, starches, most carbohydrates and fruits, non-organic or processed foods, or preservatives to the list of what Martin doesn’t eat. No matter. Apparently gluten, dairy, and refined sugar were enough to earn this stranger’s condemnation. She said, “Oh my God.” Then she rolled her eyes, turned her back to me, and walked away.

So I got what I wanted: She left us alone, letting me return to comforting Martin.

The rudeness I could have done without. Also, the particular phrase she chose, which is offensive to me.

Most of the children attending the birthday party had special needs. Later, after Martin calmed down, I saw this woman with her son. He wore ankle braces and hearing aids, and he engaged in atypical behaviors. Our conversation had been special-needs-parent-to-special-needs-parent, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

What went wrong at the birthday party? First, it was a terrible time to discuss anything. Martin was in full meltdown mode. The stranger could have said, “You have the most intriguing eyes I’ve ever seen, and I would kill for a figure like yours,” and still I probably would have tried to blow her off. Second, she was plainly unwilling to think outside her own box. Really, I don’t even think she wanted to help. She wanted to judge.

Let’s compare to a conversation in which I found myself a few weeks later. This one happened after a meeting of our district’s special-education PTA, when parents were hanging around to mingle. I ended up talking with a woman who introduced herself as the mother of an 11-year-old with Asperger’s. When she asked about Martin, I said that he has made enough progress that I’m not sure whether to say “autism,” “high-functioning autism,” “Asperger’s,” or something else. She asked about what therapies have helped the most. I replied that we do biomedical and homeopathic interventions, and that those, combined with a restricted diet, seem to have made the difference.

We talked some about Martin’s diet. Then the mother said, “I think a lot of so-called autism remedies are snake oil, people trading on hope and desperation.”

I replied that she has a point. Even after years on the biomedical path, I find it hard to distinguish between legitimate interventions and unsupported promises. I try not to let it get me down. I hire and rely on experienced doctors, and I do as much research as I can manage.

The mother asked, “Do you do the dangerous stuff, like chelation?”

I replied that we haven’t chelated yet but plan to; that from what I know, chelation is safe if done properly; and that, in terms of which interventions have relieved autistic symptoms, chelation rates highest in parental reports.

She said, “I hear what you’re saying. But people who say you can treat autism are the same people who say vaccines cause autism. Do you believe that?”

I replied that I think the strict cause-effect narrative has undermined legitimate debate about vaccines. Everyone knows that vaccines are dangerous for a child with a compromised immune system—that’s why parents are told not to bring a child for shots when she has, for example, a cold or an infection, and why a child undergoing chemotherapy cannot be vaccinated. Autism, I said, is the symptoms of an underlying immune disorder, often with a genetic component. The immune disorder may exist before the symptoms manifest. If a child is asymptomatic, his parents and doctors may not recognize the immuno-problems, and they may therefore go ahead and vaccinate. The vaccine, in turn, causes the already compromised immune system to go haywire, and then the symptoms manifest. In such a scenario, the vaccine didn’t “cause” the autism, but it did exacerbate the pre-existing immune disorder and cause the symptoms (i.e., the autism) to appear.

The Asperger’s mother listened to my entire monologue. When I finished, she boosted my ego a little by saying, “You know, you’re the first person who’s ever told me about a link between autism and vaccines without sounding insane.”

We talked for 20 or 30 minutes, this mother and I. Don’t worry! It wasn’t all me rambling on. She knew tons about navigating the special-education system, and I grilled her for tips. We ended up exchanging numbers and thanking each other for the shared insight.

Did I convince this mother to begin biomed with her 11-year-old? Probably not. Did we have a positive interaction? Definitely. Unlike at the birthday party, the special-education PTA event was the right time to discuss helping our children, and the mother I met was curious and open-minded.

Civility is out there.

Even if it doesn’t always seem that way.