Saturday, June 25, 2011
To no one's surprise, that connection is food.
It all started with a lump that my mother-in-law found in her right breast. Tests followed, with days of anxious waiting and then the confirmation no one wanted to hear.
Fuck fuck fuckety. FUCK.
She had a mastectomy on Wednesday and is recovering with miraculous speed and ease. Her oncologist told her that she's going to live another twenty years at least. Her doctor prescribed a special diet which focuses on removing inflammatory foods and boosting consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, so I've had food on the brain even more than usual. While the diet she's on isn't necessarily an official Paleo diet, the Paleo food philosophy lines up with the whole anti-inflammatory prescription. A friend told her about the blog nomnompaleo, which has been a useful and entertaining recipe resource. On Sunday, I spent about three hours reading that blog.
Then Tristan found this TED talk, which I've been watching on repeat. All of this information has led to a minor existential crisis for me, both because I have to deal with the fact that my sons' Grandma is mortal and I feel mildly panicked at the thought of ever making another wedding/birthday/baby shower cake. The main problem is sugar. Eating sugar raises insulin levels. It is literally insulin's job to stabilize blood sugar levels, and it does this by pulling sugar out of the bloodstream and into fat cells. In other words, fat isn't necessarily made of fat, it's made of sugar(or wheat or corn or rice). Insulin also triggers a process called angiogenesis(the growth of new blood vessels). Cancer cannot survive without angiogenesis. The really cool thing is that there are lots and lots of foods which are anti-angiogenic, and they are the sort of thing you might expect: berries, vegetables, tomato sauce, green tea. Know what's not on the list? Grains. Of any sort. Not even whole grains. This is very bad news for General Mills. Metabolically, eating grains(and simple starches like potatoes, corn and rice) has the same effect on the body's insulin levels as eating sugar: insulin levels go up.
Now look at the staple food crops of America: corn, wheat, rice, potatoes; notice a theme? Now when I look at those foods, all I can see is "inflammation, inflammation, inflammation." I'm not saying that if you eat sugar or grain you're going to get cancer, or that if you stop eating those things you won't get cancer. But I can't help but think of the nutrient opportunities each meal provides, and asking myself how I want to spend those opportunities. Nutritionally, grains don't have a whole lot to offer. I'd rather eat some pastured meat, lots of vegetables, maybe some roasted sweet potatoes. Cherries and blueberries make a delicious dessert. As a major benefit, if I skip the grains and simple starches I can eat an astonishing volume of food without feeling uncomfortably full.
I've already committed to three wedding cakes between now and September and I will craft them with love and enthusiasm, but I have this crazy idea; what if instead of cake, we started a tradition of, say, roasted free-range chicken with an assortment of roasted vegetables? Why shouldn't the symbolic first food the bride and groom feed each other be about a commitment to be healthy and delicious, not just non-nutritionally sweet? I realize the obvious setbacks to this proposal, but it still appeals to me.
For now, I plan on spending more time in this space and trying to curb my food fanaticism just a little. Refining my food philosophy, feeding my family well, and sharing the recipes here.