Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rabbit hole

I hope it's not a new form of procrastination from studying.

These past several weeks, I have found myself becoming sucked further and further into restricted diet blogs and literature.

A little while ago, a friend of mine mentioned that, in her spare time, she would watch YouTube videos--self-produced cooking shows, I think--from raw food advocates. Their blender and food dehydrator, she said, were their main appliances used for "cooking." I can't remember the exact word she used--perhaps "soothing"--but she described these videos as having an oddly calming effect. I found this entire monologue puzzling for two reasons, each of the same nature. It was not that I disagreed--it was not a feeling of being polarization-puzzled, being so far on the other side of things that I couldn't understand the opposite point of view. It was rather incomprehension, like the feeling you might have seeing a newspaper in a different alphabet. Your brain doesn't even know where to start trying to comprehend. I couldn't understand how this would be calming, and I really couldn't understand how a blender could be a cooking implement.

Until I started making almond milk, and somehow, the dehydrated flax crackers led me to discover that food dehydrator granola existed. These last two were really excited for me; both are things I tend to screw up in the oven, burning everything toward the outer edges of the pan, wasting it and giving myself a big mess to clean up. Just switching on the dehydrator overnight and waking up to granola...it seems like heaven.

Almond milk was something I wanted to make simply because it is good. I wondered if homemade would be better than storebought and also cheaper. I was ecstatic to learn how much easier it is to make almond milk than soy milk, which I started making in late spring 2011 and often find too time-consuming to attempt. Almond milk and, as far as I can tell, other nut and seed milks, require simply soaking and blending, no boiling involved. This makes them raw foods, and now the "blender" thing makes sense.

I feel the need to interject here two other reasons for my desire to learn how to make plant milks. One is that I have a number of friends with various restricted diets, and while none have expected a dinner party to be structured around them, I like the challenge and the learning opportunity. Another is simply flexibility; I like that if, on a Saturday night, I want to make something specific in the morning before I go to the store, and I'm out of milk, I can just put water and some plant product in a bowl and in the morning, *make my own* milk. It's so convenient!

The almond milk recipe that I used mentioned that it could be made with other nuts and even seeds, like sunflower seeds. Wait! What!? Sunflower seed milk is a thing!?!?!?

That's how it began.

In my spare time, I often find myself Googling to see if the recipe idea I just had exists. What would happen if I made brazil nut milk? I wonder. The recipe mentions, "sesame seed milk." That's real, too!? And it has a lot of calcium!? WHOA!

To eliminate the most annoying step that had stopped me from making my own soy milk every week, and at the recommendation of The Internet, I bought a ...brace yourself, because no part of this phrase isn't funny...a very useful kitchen uni-tasker, a nut milk bag.

Hahahahahahaha! Nut milk. Bag! Hahahahahahaha!

This, combined with the running, has made me often stop to say, "Who are you? What happened to Sarah?"

Like the morning I woke up, went on a lengthy run-walk-but-mostly-run in the rain, finished the batch of sunflower seed milk started the night before as soon as I walked in the door simply so I could have that post run drink...even though there was cow milk in the fridge. Then I probably had some more with my depressingly titled cereal, Organic High Fiber-O's. (They're high in protein and iron, okay!?) Then I probably ate something with chia seeds or hippie hay.

A friend told me that chia seeds soaked in non-dairy milk (although dairy milk would probably work as well) turn into an easy tapioca-like pudding. Half or so of my homemade almond milk went to this purpose. The day I served this to Handsome Man was the day I began to question my new lifestyle. The following is from an e-mail to a friend shortly after the fact:

Also I made homemade almond milk and then made chia pudding in it. [Handsome Man] looked like he was going to cry when, after a dinner of unsatisfying okara (not okra, okara - the leftover mush from making soy milk. I thought if I fried it with the mushrooms and shallots, it would be just like the crumbled tofu for which the recipe called) and rehdyrated mushroom salad rolls, I presented him with the chia pudding. That's when I thought maybe we [ed. note- we!? HM had nothing to do with this madness!] had taken this all way too far and it was time to get some fried food or something. Then he told me he never liked tapioca.

Now is as good a time as any to mention that, accompanying many of these recipes are references--without intending to state an opinion but doing so nonetheless, sort of like how an entire post about plant milk gives you an idea of some of my opinions--and brief mentions of political and social views and even multi-passionate-paragraph rants about the food-restricted lifestyle the writer has chosen or been assigned and all accompanying social and political opinions these dietary restrictions suggest or imply. It is difficult to skim one's way past these and just get to the recipe without taking some of it in. The comments sections, too, fascinate.

I'm not sure how to resolve some aspects of this. You see, I am making dehydrator granola and nowhere in my rationale for doing this is any interest in actually adopting a raw food diet. I am simply lazy. (Or very busy, take your pick.) I like the idea of setting my granola in a machine before I go to bed. I like not having to watch an oven. But I want to find recipes for dehydrator granola that involve things that aren't necessarily raw. I made raw buckwheat granola (and by the way, it's really hard to find raw buckwheat groats!) but I want to try kasha granola. The raw buckwheat lacked the distinctive taste of kasha (to which I have uncharitably referred as "old book smell") which I theorize will go well with cacao nibs. Why do I need a recipe, you ask? Because I don't know if I'm supposed to just plop the kasha on there or soak it or something first!

Well, we'll find out soon, because I'm attempting it tonight. On my dehydrator at this very moment is a batch of Lazy Person Gluten-Free But Not Because I Believe We Shouldn't Eat Wheat Just Because I Like Kasha and Quinoa granola. I guess I owe it to the other lazy non-raw non-vegan gluten-eating hippies to post, once I perfect the method, the recipe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Overpronatatron

Lest you think the LSAT was the sole reason for my lack of posting these past couple of months, let me provide you with a couple of others. First of all, the sun came out. To put it briefly, in Portland, this is a big deal. Second of all, in my absence, Blogger changed. I really don't like the new dashboard and post editor. Third of all, I have taken up new hobbies such as running.

Those of you with any familiarity with my athletic history may be stunned, amused, or a combination of both. You may be expecting to see the Devil himself commuting to work in a sled. He went to REI to stock up on winter outerwear (maybe those jackets with the silly commercials and the really shiny stuff on the inside) at the same time I went to Foot Traffic to be videotaped on a treadmill for my "gait analysis."

For those of you not familiar with my athletic history, I have two words for you: remedial gym. I am not exaggerating for comedic effect. At one point in elementary school, my gym teacher would hold extra sessions with me during recess to try to help me improve at such basic skills as catching a ball. If you would like further details, I refer you to this.

Prior to my gait analysis, I spent a couple of weeks running in Vans. I know just as much as you do how stupid this is. However, before I spent a significant amount of money on shoes that were not pretty, I wanted to make sure I was really going to stick with this new hobby. Also, I wasn't running a marathon. I wasn't running on harsh terrain. I was merely running in a straight line through my neighborhood, and I wasn't running very far. After getting up before 6am several days in a row, but really, after developing some pain in both ankles, I decided it was time for new shoes.

Don't you love how new hobbies give you an opportunity to expand your vocabulary? I now know that I overpronate, which is a fancy way of saying I turn my ankles when I run. In fact, I even walk that way. I walk and run on the sides of my feet.

Now, I run most mornings and some evenings, the latter usually on days when I have not run in the morning. Then I go home and do arm workouts with weights! which are actually large mason jars full of dried kidney beans! (See: running in Vans.)

I don't expect to run marathons any time soon. I don't expect to run fast. (In fact, yesterday when I had to get around a neighbor determined to assault the sidewalk with his leafblower--please note that, while the cool evening felt a bit autumnal, it is still July to the trees--I discovered that I actually run not much faster than I walk.) I don't expect my love of walking to diminish. I just wanted to do something healthy, something that could be done in less time than my daily walk and would therefore give me more time for other things (read: LSAT.) There isn't much else to say on this topic, not yet at least. I do not have too many funny stories.

Someone once warned me that when you first start running, "it sucks." I can tell you that I have found some truth to this statement. Within my first couple of blocks, some days not even two blocks in, I find myself thinking, "Nooooooooooo. I'm going to diiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee. Aaauuugghhhhh." I push through, and by the seventh block, I am having fun. One day, I was having so much fun that I tried to run up The Big Hill. I made it halfway. It was about 6:30 in the morning, and halfway up the big hill, panting and gasping as though for my very life and existence, I stopped running and walked, wheezily, the rest of the way up and down the hill. I imagined all of the residents of the street lining The Big Hill were sitting in their front rooms, drinking their morning coffee, watching me and laughing. In fact, I imagine that they do this all the time--sit inside watching the many others who have no doubt been defeated by The Big Hill.

When I am driving my car, runners who use the middle of the road and not the sidewalk have been a source of irritation. It seems unsafe. Especially at night, but that's another story. What I am telling you now is that my experiences have shed some light on why Portland runners might shun the sidewalk, at least during Spider Season. One evening, I tried to keep track of how many spider webs I ran through. Four. And then I stopped counting. I think I even swallowed a couple spiders. I still run on the sidewalk, though.

Which brings me to another point, a possible rant. I would like to start a new self-righteous campaign in this city. I would like to make stickers and T-shirts even. Share the Sidewalk. I Share the Sidewalk. I'm not talking about slow runners or regular dog-walkers. Here are some examples of some of the more extreme situations I have had to dodge on the sidewalk:

1. Tai Chi and/or Yoga Once, I saw a walker come to a sudden stop, plant herself in the middle of the sidewalk, and commence a series of complex stretches and poses. Morning tai chi is one thing, but is there really no better place to do this?
2. Playing Fetch With not one but two dogs. On the sidewalk. You can see the potential for peril; where there is a sidewalk there is also a road with CARS. Come on, dude. Grant Park has an off-leash area!
3. Bikes. BIKES! Sharing the Road not working out?

Speaking of which, I once also a man running directly on the yellow line of a somewhat busy road in our neighborhood. I never saw him again. I hope he's okay.

And that's pretty much it--all I have to say about my new hobby.