Instead of Making

To the outside observer, I gather, it seems like I do everything for Martin. Food-wise, at least. I prepare three meals a day from scratch. I buy eggs and meat from farms. In the summer I grow vegetables and herbs. I simmer broth, I pre-sprout beans, I soak and dehydrate nuts, I bake magical allergen-free snacks to send to school.

Let me assure my readers, however, that there are foody activities that I forego. That is, as a general rule, if I can buy a food from a source I trust, I do. I could save money—the grocery bill of a biomed family is out-of-control huge—by actually making everything at home, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Examples:

  • Kombucha. I brew my own kombucha. I have a countertop canister and a strong SCOBY, and each time I harvest, I feed the baby SCOBY to my compost bin. So what’s the problem? Well, I drink a lot of kombucha, Martin drinks kombucha, I don’t harvest my brew as often as I should, and what I make never tastes as good as GT’s or Health-Ade. So I brew kombucha and I also buy kombucha. Bottles and bottles of kombucha.
  • Nut cheese. Cultured cashew cheese isn’t hard to make. Here’s a recipe. And another. And another. You know what’s even easier than making cultured cashew cheese? Buying it. Here’s a good brand. And another. And another. (Don’t confuse cultured nut cheese, which is probiotic and healthy, with simple “non-dairy cheese,” which is often starchy junk food that, in my opinion, tastes awful.)
  • Fermented vegetables. I went through a phase of fermenting my own vegetables, in jars in my basement, especially because I wanted more choices than just cabbage sauerkraut. Now there are so many organic brands with non-sauerkraut ferments. BAO makes fermented kale and dandelion greens, beets, and mixed vegetables. Hawthorne Valley Farm, a local brand, has tasty ginger carrots. WildBrine makes smoky fermented kale and red beet sauerkraut, although not all its varieties are organic (I believe they follow the “dirty dozen” list and make those organic) and the Brussels sprout kraut contains soy, making it unacceptable for Martin.
  • Snacks. Martin prefers commercial snacks. He likes to open colorful wrappers, and he likes eating “store food” like his friends and classmates do. His favorite are Lärabars. I have a tortured relationship with Martin’s Lärabars. First, they are not organic, so I fear pesticide residue. Second, their GMO status is unclear. Third, they are high in sugar, even if the particular sugar is sucrose from dates. Fourth, they contain nuts, so I am not allowed to send them to Martin’s school. Still, Martin loves them, and these days it’s not easy to find a snack he loves. (He has long-since rejected previous choices like Go Raw! seed bars, raw macadamias, and jerky.) I would prefer that Martin pick Simple Squares over Lärabars. Martin picks Lärabars.
  • Pre-sprouted nuts and legumes. These can be found in the bulk aisles of health-food stores and Whole Foods Markets, and also packaged. My favorite brand is Living Intentions, which supplies a lot of those bulk aisles; I’ve had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the company, and they seem to be producing honest goods for the right reasons. Buying pre-sprouted saves me the trouble of soaking nut and legumes in FIJI Water and then drying them in my dehydrator. I wish more varieties would become commercially available, like navy and cannellini beans, or macadamia nuts and filberts.

As I said above, our grocery bill, for a family of three, is outrageous already; pounds of organic produce for juicing, meat from free-range animals, eggs laid in a yard, sustainably caught seafood, and raw-milk cheese (for when Adrian craves a bit) do not come cheap. Adding these commercial products feels like tacking a custom stereo to the cost of a luxury care—you stop and think, “Have I just gone overboard?” On the other hand, allowing myself the convenience of some prepared foods enables me to work outside the home, some, gets me more sleep, and helps preserve my sanity for the long, long haul that is autism recovery.

I would love to find more time to harvest my kombucha brew and to culture cashew cheese. I’d have to give something up to make that happen, and the thing I would give up would probably be—blogging.

And then what would we do?

Less-Meat GAPS (With Photos!)

I received this inquiry: “The GAPS diet is so meaty. If Martin is eating only one meat serving per day plus broth, what all is he eating?”

Fair question.

I’ll use today as an example, and as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that, depending on how you define “meat serving,” he might have had two.

For breakfast, Martin drank a 12-ounce glass of homemade bone broth and ate a small dish of fermented vegetables—today, eight string beans. Some weekday mornings Martin takes only broth. I prepare a full breakfast only on the weekends, when Adrian eats at home and we have more time.

Martin’s school asks that we send two snacks each day, and a lunch. Today I packed both snacks into one container. The morning snack was homemade protein bars. That recipe varies every time; this version had organic SunButter, chia seeds, coconut flakes, cacao nibs, honey, and sea salt. For afternoon snack, he got gummy treats, which I made by heating and pureeing strawberries, then adding pure bovine gelatin and pouring the mixture into silicone candy molds.

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Did you catch that? Bovine gelatin in the afternoon snack. If you count that as meat, because it comes from a cow, then Martin had two meat servings today.

As for Martin’s lunch, if you read yesterday’s post, you already know what it was: meatballs that were actually half-vegetable.

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When Martin arrived home from school, per his custom he immediately wanted another snack, which he was allowed to select from his snack drawer. Today’s snack choices looked like this—

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Martin went with a cappuccino Lära Bar. (Yes, that has a small amount of coffee.) Per my custom, I asked Martin to finish his camel milk before eating the snack. I added cinnamon to the camel milk.

An hour later, when we were leaving for his piano lesson, Martin demanded yet another snack. As I rushed to get him out the door, I came up with some leftover freeze-dried blueberries. He arrived at the music school with purple hands and a purple face.

For dinner, I gave Martin the choice of pasta, which I would cook with veggies and olives, or “cheese and crackers.” He decided to have the latter, Dr. Cow fermented nut cheese paired with New York Naturals kale crackers. With dinner he had another 12 ounces of bone broth.

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Then, of course, it was time for dessert. Martin got a quarter-cup of “chocolate ice cream,” a cashew-based product sweetened with raw agave. Agave is not GAPS-legal! But there was very little agave, and I decided we would all survive the experience. While I was serving the ice cream, Martin asked, “Mommy, why don’t you put some chocolate chips on it?”, which I did, in the form of raw cacao nibs.


Throughout the day, including at school, Martin drank Fiji water from a Lifefactory bottle, into which I mixed a splash of juice and his MitoSpectra powder.

No day is perfect. Today Martin had too much sugar (from honey, strawberries, dates in the Lärabar, blueberries, juice, and “ice cream”) and one non-GAPS ingredient (raw agave). And it’s probably apparent that I don’t have big oxalate concerns at this time; with all the nuts and cocoa, it was an oxalate-heavy menu. Still, he had his camel milk, 24 ounces of bone broth, and veggies in reasonable quantity.

Then he went to bed, and I had wine.

Snack Drawer

For the past six months or so, I’ve kept Lärabars and other snacks for Martin in the second drawer of our pantry. That drawer contains other foods, too: nut butters (including peanut butter), non-gluten flours, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, Adrian’s chocolate stash, stuff like that. A variety, only some of which Martin can eat.

I never thought Martin paid much attention to where I keep his snacks, until one afternoon two weeks ago. That day, Martin came home from his school, took off his shoes, opened the pantry, and started rummaging through the second drawer in search of a snack.

To me, that seemed like reasonably typical kid behavior and, for Martin, a new independence that I should foster. The second pantry drawer is somewhat too high for Martin to access comfortably (though with the way he’s growing taller, next week that might not be the case). Also, it seemed unfair that he should have to push aside stuff he cannot eat—e.g., peanut butter, or Adrian’s chocolate—to reach his own treats. Therefore, I emptied the third drawer of the pantry and redistributed those items in other drawers (a challenge in my snugly packed pantry!). Then I filled the third drawer with after-school snacks and taped labels on the front: “Martin’s snack selection” and “one snack per day!”

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The contents of the drawer reflect a preference Martin has (again, typical, I think) for store-bought, packaged goodies over what I prepare at home. I make protein bars, truffles, and macaroons similar to what’s pictured here; Martin wants the colorful, the prettily wrapped, “what you buy at the store!” (The homemade items I send to school.) Note also that not every product in the drawer is 100% GAPS-compatible. A few contain agave and, for whatever reason, have slipped through my control.

The snack drawer has been a big success. Martin loves to pore over its contents and select the perfect “snack of the day.” This weekend, when he was allowed to pick a snack to take to his activity program, he removed five different snacks, lined them up on the kitchen table, took a few minutes to decide which he wanted, then returned the other four to his drawer. When he wasn’t looking, I snuck in and rearranged the returned snacks into the appealing, every-snack-visual format. That’s me.

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I’m inspired now, to try to display Martin’s clothes in a way that makes him want to pick his own outfits. I like to dress him in the sports jersey of my choice, but I suppose I need to focus on his autonomy, too. The pumpkin glasses he’s wearing in that photo count as autonomy, I guess.