Monday, August 17, 2009

guess who?

This was my favorite childhood game. It was fun to be random characters and have friends figure out who you are through the process of elimination, hoping, of course, that you’d beat them to it! But what happens when you get wrapped in trying to identify yourself? Devising a label, one word, or two, that is supposed to cover multiple parts of who you are. 

I’ll give you an example, eating style. Two years ago, living with roommates in an apartment with a full kitchen I began cooking for myself. Little by little I started using more vegetarian meals as my staples, to be quite honest, simply because raw chicken, turkey, and beef grossed me out.

I didn’t miss meat. And I was so wrapped up in legume excitement that it took a few months to realize that I was surviving on a completely vegetarian diet. “Are you sure you’re getting enough protein?” my mom asked me. Of course I was. At that same point I also began reading blog and nutrition books and learning more and more about what it meant to eat healthfully.

I learned that in many ways eating plant sources of protein was healthier for the body and I certainly felt great so I continued. Then I went out to eat. At most places I could find vegetable-based dishes but sometimes I found that I didn’t want to choose them. I craved wild salmon, ahi tuna, pan seared scallops. Okay, okay, I said to myself, I guess I’ll call myself a pescatarian.

A few weeks later I found myself in Ecuador. I had told my host family, along with others, that I was vegetariana but such a term is used loosely and was often interpreted as one who didn’t eat red meat. Multiple times I was served chicken and pork and I found myself picking at it, finishing it every now and again, out of hunger and not wanting to cause any inconvenience.

But I certainly didn’t do it without guilt. Even now, I‘ve made exceptions with bites of carnivorous dishes when I know that they were made from organic and grass-fed sources, or, are a homemade favorite. Still, I always choose veggiecentric dishes and fully enjoy the occasional fish.

Living in France helped me come to terms with varied eating habits. My host-mom was “vegetarian” but made Quiche Lorraine, made the traditional way, with ham, a few times. She could not understand the logic between to rigidly restricting yourself from the pleasure of eating, and when she put it like that, neither could I. Yet, being home again hasn’t made it any easier.

When I was away, trying plates for the cultural experience was acceptable (in my mind.) Being home again, I found myself further streamlining my diet with raw food philosophies and vegan considerations. I find nothing wrong with this, quite frankly, I think they’re both wonderful lifestyles, but although I survived a couple of weeks on them, real life got in the way.
My wisdom teeth were taken out two and a half weeks ago. I was left with a swollen mouth and sensitive gums and survived on Greek yogurt and soup. It had been two months since I’d had dairy so it took a while for my stomach to get used to a stronger digestive process but eventually it did, it had to, I was hungry and could hardly eat anything. And there was that guilt again.
Well, my friends, it stops now. I’m so tired of making myself feel bad because I didn’t follow my self-inflicted rules to a T. It’s not worth it, and it certainly doesn’t allow me to enjoy food. Naturally, I like quality ingredients, I prefer to eat organically, and produce is my favorite.
It’s not a struggle for me to eat this way, I simply feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically with a diet rich in plants and the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that come along them. Topics, such as this one, have been on my mind for a while, and today, the date of my second BeamGreen meeting, seemed a good enough time than any to bring it up. Above all, I feel as though I’m finally coming to terms with an eating style that works for me, and it’s constantly evolving. What would I call it? Oh, well, I haven't a Clue (my second favorite board game.)

Words by Danielle E. Alvarez, Photos by Danielle E. Alvarez & Kate O.

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