starting with soup

A big challenge for me has been the diet of the people around me — particularly that of my better half (I’ll call him Finick).

I don’t have issue with the consumption of meat. I admit that the smell of his burger sizzling in the skillet made my mouth water, and that I watched with some small amount of longing as he dug in after a guilty glance at me across the table. “I’m sorry.”

“No. Don’t feel bad for me,” I said, dragging my eyes back to my own very tastey plate of thai eggplant and black rice. It was one of the mistakes I used to make, oh, about 15 years ago, when I first heard of vegetarians. (You don’t really run across many vegs in a Hispanic community, at least not in the ’80s, and when/ if you did, it was harshly frowned upon as an unhealthy diet.) It took a lot for me to realize that it’s not a pointless deprivation. Vegetables are amazing and there are so many ways to prepare them. But back to the dinner table. Once I started eating I lost all interest in his food.

“That looks really good. What is it?”

“It’s so good. Want to try it? It’s eggplant.”

“What? No. Why would I eat that? It’s named after two things I don’t like combined.”

Poor Finick. He’s not just another meat-and-potatoes type of guy. I rolled my eyes when he first mentioned food sensitivity. But watching him eat (or not), after a while I couldn’t ignore the insanity the peculiarities of a severe food texture sensitivity. When it comes right down to it, I think he’s the one that’s deprived. There is so much food he can’t eat and so much he won’t even try. How am I going to reconcile the lifestyle I want with his needs?

With the palate and fastidiousness of a child, getting him to eat fruits and vegetables regularly, in a way that he can stomach and I can still eat, will be a challenge. I figured soups were a good place to start. The heavy, creamy, sodium-rich soups he’s used to aren’t an option. I had to find a soup that was fresh and had lots of veggies but was smooth and didn’t have an overwhelming flavor.

To that end, I tried out this recipe from La Tartine Gourmande. It was actually really easy to make because I used pre-cut butternut squash from Sprouts. I loved that it’s a thick soup and the texture reminds me of my mom’s creamy carrot or tomato soups,  but it’s still vegan (if you omit the creme fraiche like I did). Best of all, it got the Finick stamp of approval. I know he won’t always try the things I make, but at least soups seem to be the easiest way into his stomach.

I made the soup a second time for Thanksgiving dinner with my family (it was a big hit with them as well), and I had to peel and chop the squash myself. I nearly lost two fingers but I have to admit, I think the soup turned out better with the fresh squash and that is probably what I will use the next time I make it—though I will chop very carefully. I’m very curious what this soup will taste like with other types of squash and I look forward to experimenting with it.

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Caffeine: a temporary solution

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Milk was the first thing I gave up, and it has been much easier than I thought. I haven’t been tested against ice cream yet, true, but I used to drink milk daily and I’m lucky to live in an age when there is great demand for vegan/vegetarian products and milk substitutes abound.

Much more difficult to kick has been the main source of my former milk consumption: caffeine. Coffee, espresso, tea — I love them all. Starbucks used to be reserved for emergencies and occasional treats until I got sucked into the gold card vortex last year.

I did try drinking caffeine-free herbal tea but it doesn’t satisfy in the morning. It’s too relaxing.  I did reduce my consumption drastically — because reloading my card twice a month is not acceptable — but I feel like I’m giving up so much already, I’m just not ready to give up caffeine completely.

The switch to soy milk was easy. I actually prefer my lattes with soy milk, but that presented other problems. Lattes, and even good old-fashioned coffee, are already an expensive habit, but those assholes at Starbucks no longer give free soy milk to gold cardholders (what assholes!). I also just don’t want to consume that much soy. Soy seems to come up constantly in a vegetarian diet, I don’t want to drink it too.

I decided to try buying an espresso and adding my own almond milk, since it’s a good source of calcium. I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. It wasn’t horrible, but that’s the best I can say about it.

Next I tried switching to black tea. I love a good English breakfast tea, but that was equally distasteful with almond milk. My first success came when I was poking around the office kitchen and I noticed the stash of earl grey. This is a combination I can stand behind, and it’s become my usual go-to when I feel like I need coffee. It’s great, too, because I don’t have to leave the office or pay for the tea.