But first, some ruminations from those moments when I hate cooking~
Hating cooking is a first world problem.
But even so, it’s real.
I know because I hate cooking.
Less than I used to, but still, it’s one of the last things I’d do if I had a choice & one of the first functions I’d outsource if I got a zillion dollars.
Nevertheless, I have this food blog. Full of recipes.
My grandma Naomi hated cooking, too.
Did it ever occur to her that life was not going to involve cooking every single day until she died? Not once. She cooked every day, because in her generation, preference was irrelevant.
Obviously, lots of people love cooking. My #1 kid has devoted her career to it.
Cooking, like gardening, is a leisure activity for some & a vile chore for others.
What’s the difference?
Leisure vs Work
Levitt & Dubner, the guys who wrote the Freakonomics books, say “it’s work if someone tells you to do it and leisure if you choose to do it yourself.”
I’m not sure that’s true, as almost nobody ever tells me to do anything (I’ve pretty much constructed my life that way). But nevertheless there are things I consider to be work.
I wouldn’t quibble with their statement if it was rephrased: it’s work if you have to do it and leisure if you choose to do it.
But then, choice is an interesting concept.
Is choice about doing what we prefer? Or choosing how we respond?
Viktor Frankl had a profound revelation about the nature of choice during the three years he spent living in German concentration camps.
The only member of his family who entered the camps to survive, his realization was: “The last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
It is in our power to choose how to respond.
So, though I might cavil a bit with Levitt & Dubner, I agree with the spirit of their assertion: perhaps it’s work if you have to do it and leisure if you choose to. You can choose, therefore to make your work your leisure.
Which loops us back to cooking. Choice or necessity?
If you find, as I have, that cooking is a necessity, you can choose to find ways to hate it less.
Including using cooking as a practice for choice.
And, because we have choice, by employing strategies for cooking less. Like making extra, so you have cooked chicken thighs (for example) on hand to make this this fully-loaded avocado chicken salad.
Now that I’m experimenting with a (mostly) Autoimmune Protocol-friendly version of the Bulletproof Diet, I’m back to bringing food to work.
I was emancipated from packing lunches for most of the past year while doing an AIP-compatible version of the Wahls Paleo Plus last spring & summer & then my own super low-carb ketogenic version of the AIP last fall.
Like the AIP & the Wahls Paleo Plus, the Bulletproof Diet is a variation on the extreme-paleo theme.
Like the Wahls Paleo Plus, it’s a relatively carb-intensive ketogenic protocol.
Unlike either of the ketogenic versions of the AIP I’ve tried previously, it includes three meals a day. Necessitating lunch.
If you are on the AIP, you can substitute tea for the coffee & omit the butter, and you’ll end up with something like a London Fog Latte.
I’ve gone long periods without coffee on the AIP, but recently I’ve put it back in, as it’s a core aspect of the Bulletproof diet. I’m also doing butter in my breakfast coffee, which was a bit wrangly, because before I went paleo I was vegan and It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve eaten dairy. And I also add collagen to the brew.
But getting back to packing lunches: it’s not inconsequential.
It’s another whole planning process. Food has to portable. Containers have to be clean. Every weekday morning. It’s more dishes to do. It’s another bag to carry around (& not forget). I don’t use microwaves, so the food I bring needs to be edible in a cold state. Or it needs to be pre-heated at home & kept hot until noon.
So, my go-to strategy for workday lunches right now is a hot woman shake and these nori wraps.
Avocados are an almost perfect food. The one drawback is that they are relatively high in omega 6s. The solution? Balance those Omega 6s with extra Omega 3s. Which are found in abundance in sockeye salmon.
I keep a package of nori, tinned sockeye & some green avocados in my desk drawer.
And I bring along a jar of store-bought sauerkraut or sliced cucumbers with olives to go alongside.
Then I pack the components for a hot woman shake, which adds some welcome warmth to my otherwise room-temperature lunch.
The Desk Drawer Trick
My #3 kid stopped by my work the other day. She watched me roll up my lunch.
“I’d actually eat that.” she said.
I gave her my plate & dove into my desk drawer for another tin of salmon & some more nori.
It’s my desk drawer trick.
I’ve fed ravenous foodless co-workers that way, too.
Nori wraps: portable, desk-drawer store-able (& teenager-approved~.)
I’ve even lived on these for most of a week while at conference in an airport hotel in Winnipeg.
Though legally entitled to breaks, the concept of legal entitlement isn’t overly relevant in the absence of all other legal status. Besides, it’s too busy for anyone to stop work, even to eat.
Which is how Mexi~Cali Kitchen soup was born (or, more likely, imported): Dip bone broth out of the bubbling pot into a bowl, add minced cilantro, a diced avocado, salt & a dash of lime juice. Some shreds of leftover meat.
Refill the bone broth pot with water, to cover your tracks.
Eat. Work 8 hours. Repeat.
Or do whatever it is you do that requires jet fuel!
Yesterday in my Fun with Fudge post, I admitted that ‘Macronutrient Cupcakes’ is not the sexiest name of all time.
However, if you’re geeky about nutrition (& I’d say that if you’re into the Autoimmune Protocol, you’re already officially sitting at the nerd table in the cafeteria of life) it’s pretty thrilling to find all your macronutrients in one easy-to-assimilate cupcake.
Macronutrient cupcakes fit beautifully into my Build-a-Breakfast strategy, in which breakfast (or any meal) is constructed out of ready-made units. Constructing meals out of ready-made units allows for ever-evolving combinations, which ensures variety & makes a strict dietary protocol easy, including on weekday mornings.
And a unit of carbohydrate (A how-to about turn carbohydrates into units, below.)
Here’s how it works: Assemble units; Eat.
Almost as easy as Corn Flakes!
Assemble Your Breakfast Units
As mentioned, you might have put something meaty in the slow cooker the night before. I’m not sure why but whenever I have a Lamb Shank for breakfast I have a fantastic day.
In any case, first thing in the morning, start with the units that need to be warmed up.
Turn on the oven to 350. If you don’t have the slow cooker going or, you’ll need protein. Wrap a victorious offal muffin in tin foil & set it on the rack. Take a unit of carbohydrate out of the fridge & pop it in beside it.
Go get ready for your day for 20 minutes or so (30 minutes if the meat muffin was frozen).
Then take the fudge out the freezer to defrost slightly. Cut the avocado. Pull the gummies out of the fridge. Take the meat muffin & vegetables out of the oven & assemble all your units on a plate.
Have a wicked day.
Vary Your Units
Just like with lego, you can build a simple, utilitarian spaceship/breakfast or an elaborate one. You can build the same old beloved, trusted thing with your units every day or mix it up.
Or greens cooked in bone broth with salt & sea vegetable flakes.
Or zucchini slices fried on low heat in an ample amount of bacon fat until soft & browned.
Or 2 vegetables cooked in bone broth with salt & sea vegetable flakes:
Mushrooms & cilantro;
Celery & onion;
Cabbage & parsley.
For AIP variations
On a ketogenic version of the AIP, plan to have high-fat units on hand: avocado, high-fat meat, fudge, olives. Then infill with protein & carbohydrate as required. Your carbohydrates are vegetables. The low carb ones. Cooked in fat. And some berries, maybe. In fudge.
On a low-FODMAP version of the AIP, your carbohydrates are still mostly vegetables. The low-FODMAP ones. And some low-FODMAP fruit. And you’ll remove avocado from your unit rotation.
Now that I’m ketogenic, fat is my main food group.
This seems really normal to me, but I can tell I’m way out on the far-flung edge of the bell curve whenever someone asks what I eat, and I say “I mostly eat fat.”
They look perplexed & ask “What kind of fat?”
And I say “Coconut Oil, Avocados, and Animal Fat mostly.”
When I say it out loud, it starts to sound sort of unlikely, even to me.
But it’s true.
Many ketogenic people have more diverse sources of fat to choose from. A lot of them eat full-fat pastured dairy & include high fat nuts & seeds. Though I adore nuts, I’m on an AIP-compliant ketogenic diet (love it!), so dairy, nuts & seeds are off my list.
Being ketogenic is easy, actually. It’s wonderful, actually.
It just sounds a little weird to say that fat is your primary food group. Out loud. So I’ll type it quietly instead.
You don’t have to be ketogenic to benefit from increasing your fat intake. Healthy fat feeds your brain & helps with satiation, no matter what your protocol.
For reference, here’s a list of fats that are legal on a variety of Paleo protocols, (starting with the strictest).
Wondering which Protocol to start with? I wrote a blog post about that!
Our Current Protocols
As mentioned, just now I’m on a ketogenic version of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Matthew is on a non-ketogenic low-FODMAP version of the AIP.
We settled there after self-experimentation with all of the various Paleo protocols listed above. We’ve each found the pattern of eating that enables us to optimize our well-being:
For Matthew that means a reduction in autoimmune & other symptoms;
For me it means previously imagined (arguably extreme) levels of high-performance awesomeness.
Our biohacking experiments continue. In our quest for healing & peak experience, we expect the protocols we follow will continue to evolve.
A ketogenic version of the AIP is currently my happy place.
Interested in my ketogenic AIP & Wahls Paleo Plus experiments?
I intentionally kicked myself out of ketosis in August, but I experienced a decline in performance, so I got back in. I think I’m still getting keto-adapted after those few weeks of higher-carb eating, but I’m already experiencing the benefits I had before.
This time I’m experimenting with reducing my carbohydrates still further to find out what that does to my overall well-being.
… & low-FODMAP
I don’t know if any contemporary humans are working on sustaining ketosis on a low-FODMAP version of the AIP, but moderating coconut products makes it challenging.
Matthew tried this hack & his (very) low tolerance for coconut oil cause him to abandon the experiment.
He’s quite sensitive to FODMAPs generally, but tolerates Red Palm Oil. That’s hardly definitive evidence about where Red Palm Oil sits on the FODMAP spectrum but it’s the only data we’ve got at the moment.
In my experience, two things are important during hard times:
This has been consistently validated during my 20+ year career working with vulnerable & resilient people, and it seems to apply to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), too.
My mum died on August 1st.
Not entirely unexpectedly.
We had just found out she had terminal throat cancer. Or, we had just found out the throat cancer she’d been battling for a year was still advancing aggressively. We thought she had about 3 months to live & she definitely wanted to be at home. She wanted to write one more book of poetry & was furiously working on completing poems in between the radiation treatments that were supposed to have bought her the time to complete it.
I’d just finished setting up her house for end-of-life care & had spent the day trying to make the hospital bed in her living room look as much like an elegant, literary Gibson Girl’s day bed as possible. Because she was not going to go gently into that good night.
My sister and my dad were concerned that she’d be wroth to have a hospital bed the house, even though she clearly needed one. But all those tricky palliative considerations turned out to be unnecessary, because she died in the car on the way home from the hospital.
Anyone who has experienced the death of a close family member knows that you are immediately presented with contradictory tasks: disabling grief & the need to make myriad practical arrangements.
I decided to use prevention & harm reduction to assist me with both.
I decided to simplify my eating & (mostly) joined Matthew on his low-FODMAP version of the AIP. I say mostly because I ate avocados, which are high FODMAP (they contain sorbitol). Though I’d been in ketosis on the Wahls Paleo Plus for 3½ months and was loving it, I knew it would be too difficult to keep up two versions of the AIP, in addition to the SAD proclivities of our teenagers.
I also knew that bone broth was going to be my #1 preventative ally & I made sure the freezer was well-stocked with bones & the stock pot was actively turning those bones into broth.
We got really simple about food & ate greens cooked in bone broth with steak for most meals for the first week or so. I added avocado & Matthew added green banana (for resistant starch) or blueberries (for fun).
I decided to utilize all the dietary & non-dietary hacks that contribute to high performance workdays including: ample sleep, lots of water, daily exercise (walking counts!), spending time in the sun, daily skin care & oil pulling. I noticed I was forgetting to hydrate so I started making big pots of licorice tea that would just hang out steeping on the counter. When cool, I poured it into mason jars & I’d remember to drink it.
After prevention, harm reduction was my next consideration.
Anything to do with my mum is particularly triggering for me in terms of food. She was an alcoholic for most of my life, and as many adult children of alcoholics do, I have longstanding issues that I need to be particularly attentive to in times of stress.
Previous to going paleo, I had a carbohydrate addiction that was very problematic. One of the ways it was problematic was that it worked. Not well. And not really. But carbohydrates enabled me to manage my emotions in the moment, while exacerbating and compounding all my problems in the long term.
It’s the lure of the short-term effectiveness of self-medicating with carbohydrates that I still need to be wary of in times of stress.
Harm reduction isn’t about denying your needs. It’s about limiting the harm you do to yourself while attempting to meet them.
First off, I paid close attention to what I was craving, and surprisingly, once I was off the higher-fat ketogenic diet, I craved fat, not carbohydrates. I’d find myself fantasizing about that gorgeous layer of grass-fed fat you find in short ribs. So, my #1 harm reduction strategy was indulging this craving with SPCA-certified short ribs. Rather frequently. (SPCA-certified short ribs do no harm nutritionally, just a little bit financially).
But I wasn’t adverse to some carbohydrate indulgences either. It happened to be peach season. And peaches are my favorite fruit. There is almost nothing more divine that a bowl full of sliced peaches with blueberries topped with coconut cream. It’s in the realm of AIP, but it’s more sugar than I usually consume. But the coconut cream, in addition to being heavenly, helps mitigate the sugar from the fruit.
I also included turnips, rutabaga & green plantains. I was eating a little bit of turnip now & then while in ketosis, but for harm reduction purposes, I gave myself to permission to eat these foods if and when I wanted them. They were comforting. And way less harmful than falling face-first into a bag of tortilla chips. Speaking of which, that’s what I mostly made from the green plantains: nachos.
I kept in mind that eating carbohydrates increases cravings for carbohydrates and tried to tune in to what would be most helpful for me in a given moment on a given day.
I’ve heard it takes a year.
We need to cycle through each season without our loved one before the grief fades. But already it is less acute.
I’m getting myself back into ketosis, because I prefer living that way.
I plan to gradually remove my harm reduction strategies, but retain most of my prevention strategies for awhile. I’m anticipating I may need to turn up the harm reduction on the weekend of September 6th & 7th, when we spread my mum’s ashes & celebrate her life.
Starting the day I learned she was not going to win her battle with cancer until the day she died, I worked on a blog to share her poetry. I don’t know if I will continue, as I was mostly doing it for her. Perhaps in time. Or maybe my sister will. In those days I posted 5 poems. You can find it here.
The robins change their song when the Salmonberries are ripe.
Every year, I wait for the Salmonberry song. Not only does it mean Salmonberries, which I love, but it means summer is almost here.
This has been a sad year for Salmonberries on Vancouver Island. But based on the superabundance of Blackberry blossoms, we’re going to be in berry heaven in August. The Salalberries are coming along nicely, too.
Whenever my kids do something awesome I attribute it to all the wild berries I ate when I was pregnant with them: Salmonberries, huckleberries, Thimbleberries, Salalberries & Blackberries. When they do stupid stuff, it’s non-attributable to prenatal berry consumption, of course.
Berries are the only fruit that is included as a daily food in the WahlsPaleo+. I love eating berries every day again.
As the WahlsPaleo + relies heavily on Coconut Oil to maintain ketosis, it only makes sense to put the two together. I explain a bit more about the Coconut Oil ketosis relationship in my first recipe in this series: Blue-Raspberry fudge.
Coconut Berry Fudge is one of my best inventions. I eat it every day, one (or sometimes one & a half) with every meal.
Eileen, from Phoenix Helix, shared that her husband freezes these (the Blue Raspberry version) as an AIP-friendly replacement for ice cream. Now I’ve started freezing them too.
This Avocado~Lime Blackberry is the version if make most frequently right now. It’s more refined, less sweet, more adult, but just as fabulous.
Not everything has to be adult & refined. My other current favorite version of berry fudge totally tastes like toast with Peanut Butter & Jam (without the toast or peanuts, of course!) It’s just sweet & simple nursery food. I’ll share the PB&J variation soon.~