{Vegan or Paleo? A journey}

I get often asked this question.

Admittedly, to anyone in my immediate circle who has been following my food journey over the past few years, this is a very valid question. I am hard to pin down and keep track of at the best of times. My head is always full of ideas and I don’t seem to have a very good filter between my thoughts and what comes out of my mouth. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but my friends now think it is hilarious. Thank god. I can always claim my European upbringing for my dry, un-ceremonial tone. The English language has a subtlety Swiss German just does not have.  I also change direction very quickly. Once I have made up my mind, I can change overnight literally, taking the careful thinkers by surprise.

tahini dressing

What what has this got to do with food, paleo or veganism you ask?

So. A few years ago I decided to become Vegan. I have a long history of high cholesterol and all the doctors and mainstream media will tell you that the culprit is saturated fat. Right, so I cut out all cured and non-cured meats, butter, dairy and eggs. Back then our cuisine of choice was Italian and we used to love our prosciutto, salami and chorizo sausages….not crazy pigging out, but moderately indulging in it. Husbo fell in love with me over pizza, and I had him at my first home cooked bowl of pasta with pork fennel sausage…So going Vegan was a huge thing for me and my family. Of course, husbo was not having a bar of it, so we did parallel meals. And the kids still had their dairy and cheese, pasta and meat. You can imagine how tough that was for me. I lasted  for 3 months. I went to my GP, had some blood test and the result was 0 change in my cholesterol levels. I was  crushed, frustrated and very annoyed. And re-joined the family in mainstream eating.

But over time I did A LOT of research and while Paleo was still in its infancy here in Australia, I ordered a pile of Paleo cookbooks from the US. American Paleo was full of bacon this and bacon that, cooking in bacon fat and meat three times a day. I ditched the pasta , rice and  bread, turned to cauliflower rice and ate 5 eggs a day, cooked with coconut oil and hoped I would not turn into a greasy ball myself. Over time I developed my own style of paleo, which turned into a paleo/wholefood diet. I should have written a cookbook then and I would have been the next Pete Evans.

So I was experimenting a lot and weaned the family off pasta gradually. As I am the chief cook in our house, I guess everybody had to be on board and as long as  I was still delivering mouthwatering dishes and the occasional baked treat everybody was ok. I switched to raw dairy, organic meat and reduced bread and pasta very gradually for them. This shift happened over 12 months and it has been a success. In fact, the kids have been thriving and we certainly have reduced the illness rate to virtually zero. Over the course of 18 months, I had lost 18kg and started exercising regularly again. I was feeling pretty fab.

I has however not quite happy with the amount of veggies we were eating and the daily meat consumption was getting a bit much for me. And it is not cheap either. I wanted to include more vegetarian dinners, still ensuring that the protein ration was met via nuts and seed and eggs. And then I just fell in love with vegetables. I know, this sounds silly, but vegetables have always been something we have to eat because its healthy, but really, it was more of a supporting actor to the all important slab of protein.

I am in love with the versatility of vegetables and I love the challenge to create a tantalising and mouthwatering meal with a plethora of spices and condiments. If you have the meat as your main part of your meal, a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar over your salad would suffice. But if the Salad is your main thing, then you want to raise the bar with nuts and seeds and herbs and spices and what ever else your imagination can come up with.

So now I have switched my diet around again. From loving a good juicy steak I have dropped the red meat completely. This did not happen overnight or overly conscious, but more of a gradual process. So now I am following my cravings more and spending more time cooking, I have rediscovered my playful nature in the kitchen.

turmeric dressing

But I wont do labels and I am not very interested in anyone else’s  label of their eating habits. Like I am not interested in anyone’s sexual orientation for that matter. What I am interested in is health and wellbeing and more and more, I want to know about the environmental and ethical impact our food choices have. More and more, as I have refined what feels good for my health, I am able to look outside of my body and what my choices mean for my environment.

I wonder how our need to fly in exotic super foods from South America benefits me and my environment. I wonder how the global meat industry affects our natural habitat. And I wonder about  the compatibility of compassion and our hunger for meat.  These are questions I am starting to ask myself. Not to judge others and their choices but to contemplate as I travel along this journey. My cholesterol is now down to a perfect level, my weight is still up for discussion, but I am feeling incredibly strong and healthy. So I can now stop focussing on my immediate food needs/wants and look further afield.

So this is where I am at. And as I leave you pondering your own questions and fining your own culinary voice, here are two of my favourite salad dressings, to make a humble plate of greens taste like an explosion in your mouth.

turmeric

Turmeric Tahini Dressing 

  • 1/4 tahini
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/4 lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Maple Syrup / Rice Malt
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

In a blender or with a whisk, mix all the ingredients until smooth. Pour over your green leaf salad, steamed vegetables with rice. Adds some sunshine to your plate and some super anti-inflammatory goodness thanks to the turmeric.

 

sweet sesame sauce 

  • 3 tbs tahini
  • 50ml water
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 1 tbs honey/maple or rice malt
  • 2 tbs mirin
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • salt

Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Use over a herby quinoa salad with steamed greens for a nice balance of sweet and zesty.

 

I am curious to hear how you have arrived at your current dietary style? Are you Vegetarian, Paleo or Vegan. Or a Pegan? How has your diet changed and how have you changed?

Do tell.

 

Alex

 

 

 

 

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