We got home from our holiday trip yesterday–home after having no real internet access on our trip, home after a drive that stretched to two days due to traffic, home with me still lingeringly sick with the illness I had when we left.
And home after eating someone else’s cooking for a week.
Our hostess was one of my husband’s relatives, a lovely woman who tried her best to figure out what I could and could not eat and to create options for me at every meal. I cooked some for myself and for the whole family–vegetables, mainly–but with it being her kitchen, I of course acquiesced to her meal plans for us. She studied ingredient lists on packages and called my husband several times before we arrived to avoid my allergens/intolerances. And for that, I am very grateful, as I know it’s not easy (especially when one is not used to it) to figure out what to make that is free of all casein (cow dairy), soy, gluten, and eggs. That’s a tall order, meal after meal for nearly a week, for someone who has not had months to adjust to those requirements. And her efforts were successful; though I couldn’t eat many of the dishes and desserts, I always had enough to eat.
However, the family we were visiting does not have the same habits that my husband and I have for food. At least 2/3 of what our hostess served came from the grocery store completely processed. Every meal was centered around meat. Every meal contained high-fat dairy products. Every meal had a minimum of 2 starches but usually only one vegetable. Dessert was served with every meal. Meals were served on enormous plates. Etc.
With my restrictions, I couldn’t eat the second starch at meals, and the only desserts I could eat were the ones I made myself–separate from what the others ate. That was a blessing, or I would’ve been even more tempted to overeat.
My husband’s family is all of small-to-moderate size. My husband used to be very overweight, but he lost the weight several years ago (before I met him). His uncle used to be very overweight but maintains his massive weight loss by eating meal replacement shakes for one or two meals per day. The rest of them–I told my husband I can’t understand how they are all thin, because they eat eat eat. It’s not a bad thing for them–I hope any biological children we may have some day will have that metabolism–but if I ate like they did, I would quickly shoot above my highest weight into a new stratosphere. (My husband says he thinks that maybe they eat that way only for the holidays and not as an everyday thing.) Several times, I had to catch myself from piling more on my plate because others were doing so, or eating dessert when I really didn’t want it because others were having some. That herd mentality is a hard thing to break, apparently, because while I have no trouble these days stopping eating when I’m full–even half-way through the meal–when I eat with friends, at Christmas, with my husband’s family, to do that was a struggle.
Moreover, I didn’t feel good the whole time we were there, but I had to be ‘on’ much of the time because I was around people I don’t know well who wanted to talk to me and get to know me.
I get a swirl of odd emotions between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many people do; I know I’m not alone. In my case, it started the holiday season that my father left my family, was exacerbated further the next year when I had a bad break-up, and continued on later as I had two cancer surgeries two different years during the holidays. I’m very fortunate to have my husband who just rolls with it when I get moody, because boy howdy, he got a load of that at various times in the last two weeks.
This is not a complain-fest, even if it reads like one; it’s just me giving a state of the Sally address for the last week. And all of it is to say: when I got home, I felt sick, hungry for veggies, and desperately worn out.
Last night, arriving home, I flung myself on our comforter with my arms wide open, saying, “Bed bed bed bed bed. MY bed.” I slept till 11 this morning, and I am not usually a very late sleeper. After I woke, I determined to fight my urge to clean/cook/plan/unpack and told myself, Just take a day of rest. I don’t go back to work until January 2nd, so, I told myself, I could rest today and still get plenty done in the next few days. I made lunch but then informed my husband that he shouldn’t ask me to get anything done, as all I planned to do was rest. I used the internet for a while until my cough suppressant made me too woozy. I read 2/3 of Animal Vegetable Miracle, a book I absolutely adore and highly recommend to, well, anyone. It would especially make a great read for anyone who is committed (or is becoming committed) to living healthier, as this book is enormously inspiring. I rested my eyes. I petted my two kitties. I didn’t shower. I let my husband figure out dinner. I didn’t change out of my pjs. I just rested.
And I finally feel a bit better–feel like I’m being nudged back toward health.
On our drive home yesterday and the day before, I was ravenous for a load of veggies. I had a fantastic salad and some soup at a really fun cafe in a bookstore that includes entrees with their cookbook source listed. Last night, coming in to an empty fridge (okay, not empty, but nearly empty of still-edible food), my husband and I went out for dinner to a restaurant where we just ordered side dishes and appetizers–veggie-centric ones. I had a fantastic beet salad, and some wonderful Brussels sprouts, and . . . a whole variety of yummy things. I had a feeling last night that I would not be up for fancy cooking today, so on the way home from dinner, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to get supplies for soup for lunch today. A simple, veggie-centric soup, I thought, would help me finally get well. And it would use up the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and apples that had survived our absence.
It’s too easy to skip back to the path of highly processed, low-veggie meals. This meal help nudged us back onto the high-veggie, moderate-fat, low-processed path we prefer to take.
Still Sick Soup
We make variations on this soup occasionally. It’s not entirely homemade but is a sweetly simple, high-nutrient meal for the days when I am exhausted or sick. The ingredients change somewhat based on what we have in our pantry and fridge, but the apple and sausage are mainstays.
1 box of vegetable or chicken broth
1 box of butternut squash soup
2 apples, peeled and chopped (I use whichever kind we have on hand–Granny Smith today)
herbs (I usually add a couple of sprigs of rosemary, some fresh thyme, and some fresh oregano from my little herb garden)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, chopped
2-3 red potatoes, chopped
1 pckg. turkey, chicken, or soy sausage links (I used organic turkey/chicken basil sausage today)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
several cups of fresh spinach
Combine all ingredients except for the last two in a large pot. Bring to a boil on high. Decrease temperature so that the soup continues to simmer but is not rapidly boiling. Cook 15-20 minutes; test a bite of apple and sweet potato to determine when the soup is finished. Turn off the eye. Stir in pepper and spinach, and serve immediately.