by Erika Stern.
Last July my husband went off to Spain for a business trip. I couldn’t get away from work, so we decided that our 12-yr old son would go along for the adventure. My first impulse was to panic at the prospect of 10 days on my own in a big, empty old house wrapped in the hot and sticky mattress which is Massachusetts in mid-July.
As I was complaining to a friend about my great misfortune, she suggested that I treat my time alone as a “spa week,” and for some reason that is still (one year later) a complete and utter mystery to me, I interpreted this as a week of eating an exclusively raw vegan diet.
Now just to provide a little background, up until this point I was very happily devouring all kinds of animals and their various by-products. I love to cook. I love to eat. I can’t think of a single food I don’t like. (Well, cucumbers don’t entirely rock my world.) My mother is French, and I grew up never knowing whether we were going to find a huge boiled beef tongue on the dinner table or a platter of breaded and fried sweetbreads (look ’em up). I happily ate it all. (Ok, so I was a vegetarian for my last two years of high school, but weren’t all girls? Anyway, that was 35 many years ago.) I had a chicken wing recipe that brought my father-in-law to his knees (no, I will not give it to you). My husband’s steak tips were legendary in the family. I LOVED CHEESE. However, week of raw food sounded interesting to me and I felt a 7-day “detox” certainly couldn’t hurt.
This was definitely not something I could pull off while my family was home. The boys Skyped me nightly from Valencia describing sausage paellas, and a restaurant with only two items on the menu (a 10-meat plate and a 20-meat plate) and oh-my-god the ham! This is a country known for a ham that comes from black pigs who eat only the acorns which grow on one particular hillside. There is a restaurant called “Jamon! Jamon! Jamon!” Anyway, you get the picture…
So, my boys are off on their European Meat-Fest and I am stuck at home seeing how many meals I can prepare solely with vegetables and nuts, and without actually cooking anything.
And so here’s the thing. Everything was fabulous. I mean heavenly. Other-worldly. I could taste everything. After the first few days I felt incredible–cleaner and lighter and connected to the planet in a strange way that I’m still a little embarrassed to talk about. I was hooked, and ravenous for more clean food and information. I watched “Forks Over Knives,” I started scouring the web for vegan recipes, and in what was the final deathblow to my carnivorous life, I watched a few videos about the factory farming of meat. (Do not click on this unless you are ready to really take a graphic look at where your food comes from.) After a week I began cooking again (I couldn’t begin to imagine how I could sustain a raw diet through a New England winter) but realized that I could no more eat meat again than I could eat one of my dogs.
I certainly wasn’t looking for this lifestyle; I’m undoubtably an offbeat enough woman without adding “vegan” to my bio. But it seems to have found me. I have a pattern of being late for things: I went back to college for a second BA at the age of 30, I didn’t have a baby until I was 40, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But I wish I’d started a plant-based diet 20 years ago.
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