The (Vegan) Body: Spinster Strength

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TLT (tofu lettuce and tomato) melt on a GF tortilla, side of carrot ginger slaw at one of my favorite local eateries. Went here recently with a friend just prior to seeing the new Avengers movie.

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Lots of good reads on the internet lately! Plus a few photos of life lately to illustrate as always. Also, following recent tradition, there are a few pop culture-y things at the tail end of the post that I think play into issues of the body in mainstream consciousness. These days it’s been a whole lot of getting into the swing of things. Letting the dust continue to settle from the end of Spring semester and looking ahead to projects and endeavors that are pretty much packing my summer into a solid mass of busyness. I’m not complaining–I’d much rather have my time filled up, I love staying busy and having a somewhat fast paced schedule. More on that to come. For now, some reading!

Lacy Davis’s article “My Job is to Stand in my Strength” pretty much sums it up right now. That feeling of early summer listlessness, the inevitable shifts and changes it brings and standing in strength through all of that with your health in mind and your body cared for.

“Standing in my strength, to me, means the acknowledgement that I not only have the power to make positive and negative choices, but also that I have the power to enjoy my life or not. When I say “I wanted to do XYZ (let’s say XYZ is write) but instead I did ABC (cruised Facebook) because I juuuust couldn’t help it and now I feel terrible about my action”, well- that just downplays the fact that I am the one that chooses the things that I do and also that my choices help me to live a life of agency.”

A great read that definitely helped me come to terms with some of my life’s bustle and recent world events. Food for thought, as always.

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Lots of time spent on the mat lately. I’ve been getting better about practicing a few things regularly: stretching after cardio and flossing my teeth. This is an example of the former.

Of course, there are a plethora of books I’ve got in mind for non-academic summer reading. This is certainly one of them (along with Kate Mulgrew’s and Sally Mann’s new memoirs, plus anything and everything by Tana French, and a Jo Nesbo novel a friend gave me). I think a lot about singledom and spinsterhood as a lady bachelor. Looking forward to reading a whole book on the topic.

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Smoothie bowl of champions.

Sayward Rebhal’s “Of Green Juice and Gin —  AKA, Why I think we all Need to Chill the Eff Out Around Food” is pretty much perfection as far as I’m concerned. This post plays quite nicely off of the Super Strength Health article as it also deals with strength, particularly in light of food choices and quotidian decisions surrounding eating. As you likely already know as a reader of this blog, I love food politics. This is certainly the most applicable issue to combining the personal with the political: sometimes it’s just as radical to eat a cupcake as it is to eat a salad. I’ve been coming to terms with that lately, and trying to give my body what it needs while maintaining a healthy relationship with things like desserts.

Sayward describes her food philosophy in a mini manifesto:

“I believe that the healthiest, highest quality food is fresh, local, whole, and organic. I believe that it is unrealistic to expect to eat the healthiest, highest quality food 100% of the time, and holistically healthy people are pretty much okay with that — because holistically healthy people have learned to chill the eff out around food.

I believe that the mental anguish you feel over eating the cookie is infinitely more damaging to your physical health than the actual cookie itself.

I believe in eating foods which make your body feel good, and avoiding foods which make it feel bad. Excessive cookies don’t make anyone feel good, but occasional cookies are delightful.

If you can truly make choices based on the way that the food will make your body feel, then it’s hard to go wrong. But eating this way requires tuning in to your intuitive self, which takes practice. More importantly, it also requires NOT scrutinizing and over-analyzing every little burp, bump, hiccup, and bad day — because that sort of hyper-focus will only breed anxiety. There is a balance there, and that balance is the sweet spot.

The sweet spot can only be found when you chill the eff out around food.”

Spot on if you ask me.

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Pretty typical work lunch these past few days: salad loaded with veggies over local romaine with a ginger/sesame/miso dressing I made the other night; magic beans; red quinoa; cold echinacea tea; raw almonds; orange.

As I mentioned, I saw the Avengers: Age of Ultron last week. Great flick, but I keep muddling over the whole Black Widow issue. There have been a couple of good articles about her (bodily) portrayal, most notably Linda Holmes’s article for the NPR blog Monkey See and this article from Bitch Media that I just stumbled on this morning. Interestingly, they use the same photo of Widow to illustrate both posts.

Have a great Thursday, all!

 

Reading, Eating, Resting, Restoring

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Last weekend, I attempted to have a little staycation. I say “attempted” as it didn’t exactly go according to plan. I did get in some good eats and reads though. I’m taking another week or so away from my subject before I dive back into some further research and revisions this summer. So for the time being it’s delicious vegan food and as many novels as I can possibly get my hands on. I kicked off staycation with two giant gluten free chocolate chip cookies with GF cookies and cream almond milk ice cream sandwiched in between. I rarely have desserts like this but this just hit the spot.

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Reading the fifth Game of Thrones with my own little dragon in attendance.

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Interwebs surfing, tofu scramble, lavash, guac, kale Kevita.

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PHO!

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Again, much needed and very delicious. Consumed while watching a couple episodes of Broad City. 

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This was pretty much gone during day 1 of summer break/staycation. I’d read it in the evenings as I edited up my final term papers to help me keep my sanity, but I just devoured it as soon as I had the time.

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DONE!

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Typical lunch: spinach salad with garbanzos and tempeh, veggies, tossed in red wine vinegar, nooch, garlic, and a little olive oil.

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Next book! I put down A Dance with Dragons and almost immediately picked up The Girl on the Train. From what I can tell, this book has gotten a fair bit of hype on the internets, and it’s a great read. This is one of the prefacing pages, and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to read the whole book. It’s a wonderfully told story that seamlessly weaves together multiple narratives to form a dark tale that at the end of the day is about women, observation, the gaze, and the darkness within.

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Afternoon treats, more book.

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Trying out a few new bars! So far I’ve liked all of them.

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Reading with this foot snuggler.

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Perhaps the shining jewel in the staycation weekend. Hearts of palm ceviche from The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home. One of my absolute favorite recipes ever, and the perfect summery start off.

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Tofu scramble with fixings, more lavash.

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Slumbering demon.

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Leftover fuel before taking a nature walk at the nearby Wakulla springs before starting off work for the week. Also in here somewhere (but not photographed) is Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I’ve read much of Plath’s poetry (I did a paper on her when I was an undergraduate) but not her only work of prose. I’d heard mixed reviews/feelings about the book from friends and colleagues but I must say I thought it was a good read. I blew threw it in a couple of days and am now immersed in In the Woods. This is another dark and creepy thriller type that is beautifully told and intelligently written. It makes for a great summer read if you want to escape to Dublin in your mind and follow around a Mulder and Scully type duo as they investigate temporally dissonant but related crimes involving 12 year olds. Yes, very creepy but so, so good.

I’m so glad to finally be able to get back in touch with my bookwormish self. During the school year I’m a different type of bookworm–researching, reading sources, patching together paper topics. I love this, but I always have to cut it with a little bit of fiction to help me keep my head on straight. So far this summer, it’s been a bit of a well deserved book binge.

Read anything interesting lately? Next on tap for me is Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast. 

Vegan Mac and Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide

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My favorite mac and cheese recipe. But we’ll get to that at the end of the post.

I’m a HUGE fan of vegan mac and cheeze, especially the funkier varieties of it. I’ve found several amazing recipes for mac that i’ve tried over the past several months, which I’m sharing today as a little bit of Sunday afternoon reading. Today is the day that I food prep for the week, and I often tend to make dishes like these–healthy spins on classic comforts–over the weekend as a way to relax. I love cooking this type of food as it’s not terribly complicated but involved enough to feel like an accomplishment. It’s also so satisfying to devour after soaking cashews and/or sunflower seeds, making a sauce, and sometimes baking mac into a casserole form. Below are several mac and cheeze recipes that I’ve tried over the past several months. I love them all for different reasons, they’re all funky spins on a classic favorite.

Vegan Yak Attack’s Sriracha-Cauliflower Mac was to die for and I loved getting a little extra nutritional punch from the cauliflower in this dish. I didn’t use the breadcrumbs, and it cooked up to a squash casserole kind of consistency for me but SO GOOD. I also subbed chickpea flour for the flour the recipe requires and that worked beautifully.

And of course, one Miss Isa Chandra Moskowitz makes some of the most amazing mac recipes ever. The BLT Mac and Cheese is an awesome spin on two comfort food favorites but with a healthy twist. It was also my first stab at making and trying my first ever vegan bacon, eggplant bacon, which I LOVED!

Her Mac and Shews recipe is a tasty, tangy, healthy spin on the old classic recipe. I doused mine in a healthy dose of hot sauce and was happy as a clam. It’s loosely based on the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook’s recipe. As Isa points out in this post this recipe is tasty, but not the healthiest. I was pleasantly surprised to see sauerkraut on the ingredients list for this dish. It’s used here to add a cheddar-like sharpness to the sauce, something vegan mac dishes often lack unless you’re using one of those amazing new vegan cheese products I’ve yet to really indulge in. This mac is also a healthier version of the classic dish and I loved the flavor brought on by the kraut and onions.

And now for my favorite mac of all the mac’s I’ve made lately:

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Best served on the weekends, with a good movie.

CHIPOTLE MAC AND CHEESE WITH ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS! (Also a PPK creation.) Holy hell, y’all. YUM. The chipotles add just a bit of heat (you de-seed them so they’re fairly mild) and the sauce is the cheezy, nutritional yeasty glory I look for in vegan mac. The brussels add not only a punch of greens to the dish, but also a caramelized roasted flavor. I’ve made this several times over the past couple of months and even passed it along to my parents, who made it while I was up in NC recently. This dish is truly unique and amazing. It could only have come from Isa’s mind to encompass comfort food in a healthy way, with clean, complex flavors and perfect textures.

The photos above are of my latest version of the chipotle/brussels mac. I made it with a lentil-based penne pasta (the ingredients are only lentils and water) for an added protein kick. Any and all mac recipes I make are always gluten free, just like all of my cooking. I recommend using the lentil based pastas (this brand is great!) or a brown/rice quinoa pasta for added protein and nutrients. These more substantial pastas will also keep you full for a longer span of time, making these mac and cheese dishes full meals in a bowl rather than a side dish.

Are there any other mac dishes out there that I should try? If you’re a mac and cheese connoisseur too, let me know in the comments section!

Negotiating Health in a World of False Positivity

 

This is another one of those posts that I’ve been muddling over for quite some time. Over the past year, I’ve made a huge effort to look at the entire picture when it comes to my health and wellness. Instead of ignoring certain aspects of my day, fitness routine, or food choices I’ve made a considerable effort to feel comfortable with the “negative” parts of my life. I’ve come to see them as learning experiences, but this shift has taken a lot of time because of the societal focus on false positivity that I think really overlooks some valuable sources of personal growth and knowledge. 

When the Florida State library shooting occurred this past fall, one of my classes was rescheduled to accommodate the University closing the day after. We had presentations that day, so canceling class altogether was just simply not an option. To start off the session while we waited for all of the stragglers to wander in we briefly shared our thoughts and feelings about the events that had recently transpired within sight of our department. One student said, “I think we should just get back to normal as quickly as possible.”

But things couldn’t be “normal.” Things didn’t feel normal, didn’t feel ok. The library, the heart of our campus, was disheveled–in some ways desecrated. There were several hundred students in the building that night, how could telling them to just move on and put a good foot forward possibly diffuse the fear, anger, anxiety, and stress they were feeling?

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I’m writing this post to address the idea of positivity and its possible detriment, to health specifically. In many places in my life I’ve been taught to only look on the bright side, think positively, only focus on the “good.” That’s an approach that’s never worked for me. Instead of feeling happier that I was only looking at the happy, the sad was only pushed aside. Deeper, and deeper it was shoved down and it never went away. I happen to think that we live in a false positive society: we’re told that if we only see the good, there only will be good, that there only will be happy. I, perhaps not so respectfully, disagree. In the absence of real, authentic thoughts and feelings including “negative” ones — anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, fear — how are we to know that the “good” is “good?” Like so many things in life outlook is twofold: without dark there can be no light, without cold there can be no warmth. You get the picture.

So for me, getting things at FSU back to “normal” quickly was far from what needed to be done. People were upset. I was upset and I hadn’t even been in the library that evening. We needed to confront that, feel what we felt in order to begin healing.

I read this post when it was first published a while back, and it’s been on my mind ever since. I really related to it. I felt wronged for feeling like I had to ignore my own feelings and thoughts just because they weren’t measuring up to what society deemed as “positive.” I’d like to also choose authenticity over an empty sense of positivity.

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Recently, I’ve started to take the same approach to my health. Instead of only choosing to see my progress, my strengths, the “good” foods I ate that day I’ve settled that I’m going to acknowledge the full picture, no matter what it looks like. I don’t want a false positive sense of health. I don’t want to pretend that things aren’t there when they are. If I don’t have a good work out today, I want to deal with that and think it over instead of only looking at the “good” lifts I achieved or the “good” number of squats I did. If I have a bad body day, I’m not about to ignore it. I meet it head on, and feel what I feel so that I can move forward.

So when your your stomach is upset and you don’t feel well, it’s okay. Take care of yourself. If you have muscle fatigue and your work out isn’t what you wanted it to be, appreciate it for what it was — successes and shortcomings alike. A yoga teacher once told me when doing moon pose no less, my yogic nemesis, “Don’t be afraid to fall. If you fall, that’s just a part of your practice for today.” And in a nut shell, what’s become my outlook toward really everything was solidified and shifted. Don’t be afraid to fall, it’s just part of it. Part of life, part of your practice for the day, part of being human and part of being a fully HEALTHY human to boot. Authenticity involves seeing, acknowledging, and coming to terms with a the whole picture, “positive” and “negative” alike.

In the absence of dark, there is no light. And, dear friends, if all we ever see is light, how the hell are we going to get a good night’s sleep?!