Chronic Illness (& the ‘Stockdale Paradox’)

Faith & Disciplined Awareness

Matthew’s ex-doctor once sat us down & told us:

“I don’t think you realize that Matthew has a debilitating, life-long, chronic illness that he will never recover from. There is every reason to expect he will become increasingly disabled. There is nothing you can do to change that. There is no cure.”

He thought we were in denial.

He thought we were in denial...He was totally right.

We were very, very deep in denial.

But we thought of it as being optimistic~.

We still thought we could find a pill that would fix him.

And that when he had a good day, it meant he was getting better.

But the doctor was also totally wrong.

Because there were things we could do.

The Stockdale Paradox

Jim Collins describes the Stockdale Paradox in his book Good to Great.

It was the strategy used by Jim Stockdale when he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1965-1973.

Stockdale survived, psychologically & literally, because of two things:

  1. He never lost faith that he would make it; and
  2. He was simultaneously fully aware of the precarious nature of his situation.
Jim Stockdale's homecoming

Jim Stockdale’s homecoming after 8 years as a POW

As Stockdale said years later, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

According to Stockdale, it was the optimists that didn’t make it home.

It turns out that the two principles of the Stockdale Paradox (as Collins dubbed it): faith & disciplined awareness of the facts, are exactly what have been required to overcome a serious chronic illness, too.

1. Confront the Facts

Matthew’s doctor was right: we were in denial.

In Stockdale’s words, we needed to “confront the most brutal facts of our current reality”.

We were not going to find a pill that would make Matthew’s illness go away. We needed to accept that he would suffer enormously. We all would.

And the future we had envisioned for our family was never going to happen.

We confronted and accepted those facts as Matthew’s health declined. Until finally he was in bed 18-20 hours a day & hardly able to function at all.

2. Have Faith

The doctor was also wrong: there were things we could do.

Despite accepting the facts, we made a commitment from the beginning that we would never stop trying to reverse his illness.

And we never did.

Most of the things we tried didn’t work.

Some things made him worse.

Occasionally, we found something that helped. So we kept doing that.

While continuing to try other things. Most of which didn’t work. Or made him worse.

Repeat. For years.

Having unwavering faith for years, when there is little to reinforce it, is challenging. But sometimes faith is all you have, and that is so much better than nothing.

3. Keep Confronting the Facts

9 monthsWe had accepted the fact that Matthew had a serious chronic illness that he would be managing for the rest of his life.  Once a body is in autoimmune response, it will always have that tendency.

But, because we had faith that we could reverse his illness, we needed to begin to find and confront other facts (no matter how outlandish they seemed or how inconvenient they were) that were going to help him to manage his autoimmune condition.

Some of those facts were not easy to integrate:

  • That he needed to give up virtually all of the foods he loved (and relied on for comfort).
  • That he had to take stress management very seriously.
  • That his medications were causing significant harm and had to be reduced & eliminated.
  • Coffee. Had to go.
  • That he had an electromagnetic sensitivity. Even though most doctors don’t believe such a thing exists. And that to improve, he had to move out of the city. Necessitating two residences (because I had a job & teenagers in town), a lot of time apart, and a lot of debt.
  • Caffeine. Gone altogether.

Faith & Discipline

So, through attending to facts (big & small) and making the necessary adjustments based on n=1 data, ‘faith & disciplined awareness’ gradually became ‘faith & discipline’.

And healing.

Faith and discipline.

Sounds like the tenets of a spiritual path.

Unexpectedly, it has been~.

Faith & Discipline

 

Wildcrafting: Figuring It Out As You Go

I’ve been on a mini-mission. Off the side of my life.

kelpI’ve been working on upgrading my wildcrafting skills.

Hence the recipes for rose petals, rosehips, blackberries, salal berries, stinging nettles and dandelion greens.

This month it’s kelp.

The Kelp Story

It’s a good story.

We were spreading my mum’s ashes on the Salish Sea. My sister and I had arranged for a flotilla of double kayaks and stand-up paddle boards so everyone could paddle out together.

It was sunny. Late afternoon.

Some people were swimming. One of the children swam up with an entire kelp and plopped it on my paddle board. “Here.” he said. And swam away.

kelp 2A gift from the ocean.

It looked edible. I could see the little plastic shaker in my spice cabinet labelled ‘kelp flakes’ in my mind. This thing looked like about 450 shaker’s worth.

I’ve been trying to eat sea vegetables every day for some time now.

So I accepted the gift.

My car was overfull with teenagers when we left the beach, but I made them incorporate the kelp.

It lay on the porch over night, and all the next morning while we attended my mum’s celebration of life.

kelp 3As we were leaving that day, I threw the kelp into a tote, herded the teenagers back into the car. On to the ferry. Back to the city.

The kelp spent another night outdoors, but in the morning after I took my #1 kid to the airport, I googled what do with a ginormous kelp. I was imagining something elaborate and labour-intensive involving scissors & an oven. But (another gift!) it turned out to be way simpler than that.

In a couple of days it had air dried.

Now I have kelp!

Drying kelp 2

Drying kelp

About 450 shaker's worth

 

 

The Electromagnetic Connection

Electricity 2It’s not easy to find the paper Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Implications for Metabolism, hidden away on page 799 of Advancing Medicine with Food & Nutrients (2nd edition).

Easier to find the man who co-wrote it.

Finally, an explanation (& validation) for our long-standing suspicion that one of Matthew’s issues is an electromagnetic sensitivity.

Picking up where Benjamin left off…

BenjaminTurns out, metal conducts electricity.

The wiring in your house.

And the metal in your body.

When infused with metals, our bodies can become conductors.

Our hypothesis

Matthew grew up playing in polluted creeks in Southwestern Ontario. Known pollutants from industries in the region include lead, mercury and nickel. From there, he moved on to automobile manufacturing, where he worked with powdered nickel, molybdenum, and cobalt. Then he switched to airplane manufacturing. He worked on some big ferries, too. The planes & ferries were all about aluminum, with some alloyed silicon, copper & manganese.

He’s riddled with metal, we figure.

We decided that he was electromagnetically sensitive years ago. Even though none of his doctors believed such a thing existed.

He was always better away from cities, out of cell phone range. He felt better when the power went out (I do, too).

We moved several times, kids, cats & all, trying to find a place in the city he could live. At one point (in one house) he was in bed 18-20 hours a day, unable to function. He improved somewhat when we moved again.

We noticed these patterns and then started to test our theory. The electromagnetic sensitivity hypothesis held up. 100% of the time.

Finally, we took radical action. Disrupted careers, community & all of our kids to move to a small island with minimal electromagnetic radiation, where Matthew was able to somewhat live

I say ‘we’.

I had teenagers to fledge & there is no highschool there. In reality, we became a family with 2 residences. But not in a fancy way. More like in a lots-of-credit-cards-perpetually-maxed-out way.

I live primarily in the city. Matthew lives primarily on the island. We travel back and forth.

All his symptoms return when he’s back in the city, so he has to limit his exposure. We are a 4-hour drive apart and miss each other like mad. But he’s been able to start rebuilding his life there. And one day the teenagers will be fledged and we can live together again.

When we first met Dr Cline, I was hesitant to mention our electromagnetic theory. I’ve receive so many patronizing looks from doctors. But condescension can’t kill you, so I shared our hypothesis.

“Yes.” he agreed. “In fact I co-wrote a paper about that.” He pulled a big blue book off the shelf, flipped to page 799 and handed it to me. I left that day with a copy of his paper & I’m going to give you the quick version here.

ElectricityElectromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Implications for Metabolism

A brief summary of a paper by John C. Cline and Beth Ellen DiLuglio

Cline & DiLuglio explain that “The human body can be visualized as an electromagnetic semiconductor matrix that allows for instantaneous communication among all cells within the system.”

As electromagnetic semiconductor matrices, we interact with the electricity in our environments. Electromagnetic radiation comes from a variety of natural and human-made sources, but it’s the human-made ones that are proliferating and causing the problems.

Sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation increases the more metals & other toxins are lodged in the body. The more toxic our environment becomes, the less able we are to detoxify, and for some people electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) can result.

According to Cline & DiLuglio, there is still a lot to learn about the origins of this hypersensitivity: “The exact pathenogenisis of EHS is unknown but may be related to aberrant patho-physiological responses to the bioaccumulation of toxicants from various potential sources such as toxic chemicals/metals, surgical implants, infections, dental materials, and radioactive compounds.” They explain that “after surpassing a threshold of bioaccumulation, the body’s immune system loses the normal adaptive responses (tolerance) and becomes sensitized to exposures from unrelated stimuli such as [electromagnetic frequencies].”

Non-and-Ionizing-EMRSome researchers are starting to pay attention to electromagnetic hypersensitivity, as it is now found “in a subset of the population on a worldwide basis-wherever there has been a rise in the exposures to [nonionizing radiation]”, but others remain dismissive (or hostile), because acknowledging the scope of the problem would require an upending of civilization as we know it.

This dismissal is similar to the medical establishment’s attitude toward the implication of food in many of our serious health problems.

Nonionizing radiation, unlike the ionizing kind we’ve been wary of for some time, includes most of the standard accouterments of first world life: cell phones, wifi, electricity, appliances, televisions and the computer I’m typing away on right now.

What does nonionizing radiation do to individuals who are highly sensitive?

Cline & DiLuglio explain: “Symptoms of EHS can vary and mimic those found in many other disease processes. Therefore, a high index of suspicion is required by the health practitioner when gathering historical information. Common signs and symptoms of EHS are listed as: general malaise, headache, thought-processing difficulties, memory impairment, heart palpitations, sleep disorder, immune dysfunction, inflammation, blurred vision, weakness, dizziness, chest discomfort, muscle pain, tinnitus, fatigue, nausea, night sweats, restless legs, and paresthesias.”

Got any of those?

I wake up with a headache every morning in my city apartment. Never at our island cottage.

How is it diagnosed?

“The diagnosis of EHS is supported when symptoms improve with treatment.”

And the primary question: How is it treated?

By removing the sources of electromagnetic radiation as much as is possible, and supporting the body’s ability to detoxify.

I’ll address that in part 2.

It’s a Poem: Paleo Takes Time

Two of my kids had the remarkable luck to get Larry as a teacher.

Sometimes Larry would take his class outside 5 times in a day.

Whenever it snowed, the class spent the entire day sledding. No parent volunteers or carpools or rigmarole, just Larry & the kids in the snow.

Larry always welcomed the most boisterous & oppositional children into his classroom (I had one of those…) and the weird thing was you couldn’t even tell they were boisterous & oppositional a few months later.

He would call kids at home on their birthday. Six years after they’d left his class. Not all kids, just the ones who needed it (I had one of those, too).

My kids told me that he sometimes raised his voice, but what I observed was Larry standing at the front of the class after recess, quietly reading aloud. From full-fledged post-recess pandemonium, the kids just got quieter, and drew closer, and settled in. All by themselves.

I always attended Larry’s class meetings.

At the first meeting he told us that he had 4 grown children, and that his partner had homeschooled them all. Which told me everything I needed to know about his educational philosophy.

At another meeting, Larry told us he was going to write us a poem. He wrote 3 letters: ‘TTT’ on the blackboard.

The poem was: Things Take Time.

Then he told us about students he’d had. Students who would have been described as boisterous & oppositional who, years later, found their passion and did amazing things.

Healing Takes Time

It took 5 months for me to lose 75lbs, but that was only the beginning.

After 6 months my depression lifted.

After 17 months I suddenly realized that every one of my health problems had disappeared (and had been gone for quite some time).

My healing process is ongoing and is occurring at increasingly refined levels.

If you are dealing with complex health issues, paleo might help. It might give you energy, resolve some issues, and give you strength to manage your condition better.

My husband has an autoimmune condition called psoriatic arthritis. We did a 30-day autoimmune protocol last July and at the end of it he was really disappointed that he wasn’t feeling better. He wasn’t cured. But that was only our first 30.  We’re doing another one starting December 21.

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When embarking on the paleo experiment, it might be helpful to keep Larry’s poem in mind. If your health problems are particularly boisterous and oppositional, they might take time.

If we had all grown up in a world organized by Larry, I think we’d have less healing to do.

But that kind of change will take time, too.

Chai Squash Pie (& how to have a thrilling! sexy! life by planning ahead)

Planning ahead: it’s my #1 paleo success strategy.

I know planning doesn’t sound thrilling or sexy, but it’s the secret to paleo triumph & to having the life you want.

Simple:

  • I plan my meals 1-2 weeks in advance;
  • I don’t always religiously follow my plans, but they are always there;
  • A plan is only useful if it helps you meet your goals;

My paleo goals are also simple:

  1. To eat really well;
  2. To make food prep as effortless as possible so I can do other stuff;

Here I’ll use my favorite Chai Squash Pie to illustrate how I make planning work for me. So I don’t have to brood about my food and can have my thrilling life.

Now this is a deconstructed paleo pie. We’re not aiming to reconstruct SAD foods here. We’re moving on & getting happier every day. And this recipe really is easy as pie because it’s crust-free. And unsweetened.  If that makes you shudder, you haven’t been paleo long enough. It’s divine. It is everything there is to love about pumpkin pie, and you can make it with almost any squash. You can also make it with tinned pumpkin, so it’s a perfect pantry dish.

I plan a higher carb meal after I exercise. Chai Squash pie is perfect for that, so it gets into my menu plan at least once a week, more during squash season.

Squash season!

Squash season!

My pie is always ready before I go for run or to a hot power yoga class, either in the fridge or cooling in the oven. You can make it several days before you need it. Or make a big one and eat it over several days. To be frank, I love this pie and I will eat nothing else until it is gone, so I don’t bake up huge slabs of it. If I have a lot of squash and want a lot of pie, I’ll bake all the squash at once and then make the pie as I go.

Chai Squash Pie

  • 2 small or 1 medium baked squash (any dense squash like butternut, pie pumpkin, kuri or kabocha); or 2 tins of unsweetened pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • A capful of vanilla extract
  • A shake of salt
  • Your own house-chai blend (a combination of ground spices made of what you have & what you like): ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, allspice, a pinch of cloves, a modicum of black pepper

Remove squash skin with a sharp paring knife. Whirl all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Grease a baking dish with coconut oil & bake your pie for 40-45 minutes at 350.

Cool before eating for pie-like results. It’ll be more of a hot pudding, otherwise.

Serve as a side wherever you might have once had SAD pumpkin pie or cornbread. Or eat it gloriously all by itself.

Get fancy

Serve your Chai Squash Pie with Coconut Cream. Find the recipe for coconut cream here (scroll through my chanterelle picking expedition to find it). If you want to add a little more sweetness to this pie, for company maybe, toss a handful of dried apricots into the food processor when you are whirling.

The Plan Ahead Method:

  • Up to a few days in advance, bake the squash. Or skip this step and use tinned pumpkin. To bake a squash, cut it in halves or quarters with a large sharp knife, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and place cut side down on a baking dish. Bake at 350 until soft (30-40 minutes). Poke the flesh with a fork to determine doneness.
  • Up to a couple of days in advance, bake the pie. Like any pumpkin pie, this one wants to be chilled, so it’s happy sitting in the fridge waiting for you.
  • Don’t wait until you are hungry to make this pie! Plan the advance prep stages into your week so your pie is magically ready for you when you need it. Just as if you had a benevolent grandma who anticipates your every whim.

For example:

I want Chai Squash Pie waiting for me when I get back from yoga on Thursday evening and after my long run on Saturday morning. I also want bacon on Saturday morning, and I can have that, too.

  • Tuesday evening I’m home, so I bake 2 medium squash. Two different kinds, cause that’s more fun & flavorful. When baked, I put the squash into a container in the fridge.
  • Wednesday evening or before work Thursday morning, I put ½ the squash in the food processor with the eggs, salt, vanilla & spices. I whirl & bake. When baked, I pop the pie in the fridge until it’s needed. I repeat this step again on Saturday morning. If you are differently constructed than me and can keep a squash pie at the ready without lovingly eating it for every meal, bake up one big pie & save yourself a step.
  • Don’t let your food bully you. Sometimes I only have half an hour before I have to go, because maybe I got absorbed writing a blog post or something. I can whirl up this pie & put it in the oven at 375 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off & let the pie keep setting while the oven slowly cools & I go to yoga. When I get back: benevolent grandma strikes again!
  • While you are baking the squash, you might bake some roots for a hash, and likewise, while you have the food processor going you could whip up a batch of paleo pad thai sauce for Friday night’s supper & a salad dressing to have on hand, but I’ll cover that kind of paleo-skillfulness in another post.

Planning ahead: not always thrilling or sexy, but master it and the rest of your life can be!

Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 2)

PaleoNerd

I was at my yoga studio getting something sorted with my membership last week when one of the owners came up to welcome me and to ask how I was liking the studio so far.

To which I responded, I have been coming here for 3 years.

She was mortified. I know she prides herself on knowing the yogis who flock to her studio, but she didn’t even recognize me.

I’m a full-blown introvert who can pass for socially normal, but I prefer to remain unseen. Being more visible since I’ve been paleo has been tricky for me.

But in all honesty, it wasn’t just my stealth maneuvers that were at work with the studio owner. Though I’ve observed her hundreds of times as I’ve slipped through the studio, I don’t haunt her classes. Not because she’s not a great teacher, but because she once played Bob Marley for an entire 75 minutes, and I’ve been wary ever since. But that’s an aside.

For introverts who have not perfected the art of furtiveness, venturing into any social setting, including most fitness situations, is so stressful that they just don’t.

I started thinking about nerdiness and fitness when I read that introverts are less likely to exercise in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. Think about nerds. Renowned for their physical prowess? Not so much. Why is that?

My guess is it starts early.

Flashback to 1978

I didn’t hate gym class until grade 3 when we started to play team sports. I found baseball and soccer so traumatic that I would do almost anything to get out of gym. They were stressful not only because I’m an introvert whose brain partially shuts down if I’m forced onto a team, but also because I didn’t know the rules, and couldn’t seem to learn them what with my brain:

a)    mostly shut down;

b)    otherwise absorbed with devising strategies to avoid gym.

I had concluded, at age seven, that I wasn’t good at sports, and as everyone else concurred I started directing all my nerdy powers into avoiding physical activity.

But when I think back, I loved moving my body.

I went to a two-room school. It had been a one-room school only a year or two before, but the population increased when a bunch of hippies bought up all the cheap land thereabouts. With them came packs of feral hippie children, of which I was one. A portable was added beside the original schoolhouse to house us, and as the years went on and more hippie kids were generated, more portables arrived.

But in the seventies it was still a two-room school, and in the absence of adventure playgrounds, all the kids still played rip-roaring games together at recess. I loved these games, especially Horses.

The rules of Horses were simple: the girls were horses and the boys were horse catchers. When a horse got caught she was put in the corral until recess was over or she managed to escape. I only got caught once (& it was terrifying) but that was not because I was a fast runner. It was because I was a nerd. I would run around being a horse deep in the woods all by myself where the boys would almost never find me. That’s the kind of game an introvert likes. Solitary while still vaguely connected.

I still love moving my body. And I still abhor team sports. Running & yoga work for me. Even though yoga classes are full of people, I can ignore them. It is perfectly acceptable to practice mat-by-mat without any social interaction at all.

I’m still happy to be vaguely connected, but unseen.

Which is why I wasn’t offended that the studio owner didn’t recognize me. I was more like Yes! My invisibility spell has been working! But that is difficult to explain to an extrovert, who assumes that we all aspire to be noticed.

So I’m calling all Paleo Nerds! Let’s not unite, but stay separate and vaguely connected! We don’t have to reflexively avoid exercise because we avoid people!

It’s a rallying cry!

See Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1) for a geeky fitness graph.

 

Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1)

It’s not that introverts don’t like people, we just want them properly dispersed. And usually out of visual range. And some of us do not leave the house voluntarily. Which presents unique challenges for exercise.

I’m a Paleo Nerd: an INFJ.

INFJ is my Meyer’s Briggs type, and the ‘I’ is what makes me a nerd. ‘I’ stands for introvert, of course. Humans range on a spectrum of introversion & extroversion, which is the closest thing we have to a geek-o-meter.

But most nerds don’t need to do a personality test to know they are introverted.

And if you are introverted you need a customized approach to fitness.

Introverts generally exercise less than extroverts, and us ‘I’s know why: most fitness arrangements are cripplingly social. Guaranteed, the byline for your local gym is something like: Once you’ve decided you want to get into the best shape of your life (yes!) and be a part of a community of like-minded people… (Um, a community? Of like-minded people? You mean people who go grocery shopping at 2am to avoid contact with others? People who don’t answer their phone because that might provoke a social obligation that would ruin the rest of their week? And don’t have voicemail either? But do peer cautiously at their call log and are only slightly irritated that you tried to get in touch? Those kind of like-minded people?) Or these kind:

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To address the fitness needs of introverts, I have developed a nerdy reference chart. Because when nerds think about exercise, logically they wonder hmmm, how would that look in graph form?

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When starting to workout I recommend doing the form of exercise you hate the least. If you commit to paleo living, expect this hatred to abate or even disappear, but you need to start where you are right now. If you don’t yet know which type of exercise you loathe least, try plotting yourself on the paleo nerd fitness graph above, keeping in mind that your degree of introversion may not change, but your motivation probably will when you embrace paleo living.

If you are:

  1. Extremely introverted with low motivation: Your inspiration will increase once you are off the SAD-loop that is the Standard American Diet. Consider focusing on strict paleo eating rather than exercise until your motivation abounds. Or rock your nerd quotient (you may as well) and get a mini trampoline. Stick it in a high traffic area in your nerdery so you have to step on it to get the kitchen or back to the computer. Whenever you find yourself there, bounce.
  2. Extremely introverted with high motivation: Hide in your room & do the prison workout as described on Mark’s Daily Apple.
  3. Mildly to moderately introverted with low motivation: Find a class that is instructor-directed but where it is socially acceptable to ignore the people around you, like yoga (or Pilates). Sign up & make yourself go. Once there, all you have to do is follow directions, but you don’t feel obliged to chant or say Namaste.
  4. Moderately introverted with moderate motivation: Stream some fitness videos. Chart how much you hate each type until you determine the type you hate the least. Do that one.
  5. Moderately introverted with high motivation: Walk/run until you can run/run. Music creates an ambient shield of protection from evil sorcerers and other passers-by.
  6. Mildly introverted with high motivation: Get a gym membership. Find someone who knows their stuff to give you a tutorial on the machines. Ascertain the least busy times of day, and go then.

If you’re an extrovert, I can only imagine what kind of exercise you might prefer, but since all of American society and the entire southern rind of Canadian society is predicated on an extroverted ideal, you probably don’t need any advice from a Paleo Nerd like me.

But if I had to guess, it would be a team sport with lots of tackling (or hugging), in which everyone goes out for drinks afterwards. Or maybe cross fit.

If you’re an extrovert and are perplexed about how to relate to introverts, check out this classic infographic.

Stay tuned for Paleo Nerd Fitness part 2.

Follow petra8paleo Paleo for humans in a decaying civilization; Paleo for people who hate to cook! on facebook.

Chanterelles & coconut cream

Yesterday I picked chanterelles for the first time.

I source a lot of my food at stores, but I’m diversifying.  I get chicken at a nearby farm; local eggs from one health food store; grass-fed beef from another.  I prowl around the land, city & country, for food.

Food sourcing has become my practice since I’ve become paleo.  Maybe it’s even a spiritual practice sometimes.

I picked a trillion blackberries this summer.  They’re in my freezer now, just waiting to be partially defrosted and served with coconut cream (find the recipe for coconut cream below!)

I’m a newbie wildcrafter, but I’m already appreciating all the intrinsic primal-certified exercise as well as the food, and as a perk wildcrafting also appeases my latent bunker-freak survivalist.

I’d like to kill a deer.  I’ve never killed anything in my life, and I’m hazy on the details of what is involved in turning a stag into venison, but I’d like to know.  I think.

And yesterday I went mushroom picking.

My good friend and mushroom guide, Elaine, can spot chanterelles under a log in a gloomy hollow from 50 feet away.  As we loped through the understory, talking incessantly like old girlfriends do, she’d stop to tell me there were some right under my feet.  I’d hunker down, peer around, and poke at the moss until I found them.  It’s late in the season and they’d been fairly picked over, but she found lots peeking out from under the moss and rotten logs.  She taught me to leave the small ones and we only harvested those that were at least palm sized.

Elaine showed me all her favorite, best, secret mushroom spots.

After a while I noticed I was crouching in the moss and finding them as we talked.  I was discovering the mushroom wavelength; suddenly seeing fungi everywhere.

We gathered about 10lbs of chanterelles in 2 hours, mostly golden and a few white ones, and Elaine insisted I take most of them home.

I arrived home with a big bag of mushrooms covered in pine needles, leaf litter and dirt and realized I’d been so excited about mushroom picking that I hadn’t given any thought to cooking them.  Not surprising for someone who (still, sometimes) hates to cook!

After cleaning them, which took 2 of us working concertedly for 20 minutes, I followed Elaine’s advice and let them cook ‘dry’ without oil in my two biggest cast iron pans.  They released a lot of liquid which I was supposed to let evaporate, but there was such an improbable quantity of mushroom liquor that I poured some off.  Once the remaining liquid had cooked off, I added coconut oil (rather than the recommended butter) and big chunks of garlic, and browned everything gloriously.  We ate them with leftover thanksgiving-turkey soup and they were….medium!

Next time I won’t pour any of the liquid off (must learn to do as I’m told).  Matthew and I agreed they’d make a great omelette filling, and the leftovers are snuggled into a glass container in the fridge awaiting that fate tomorrow.  I found a promising recipe for Warm Chanterelle and Pancetta Salad online, which I’ll be ready with next time I head out.

Meanwhile, here’s a recipe that makes a cup of coffee or any kind of fruit divine in moments…

Coconut cream

I’ve found this recipe in several locations, but I first discovered it in my favorite paleo cookbook, Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan.

  1. Refrigerate 1 or 2 tins of coconut milk overnight.
  2. Separate the thick white cream from the clear coconut water. Add a capfull of vanilla extract and some nutmeg to the cream, if you like, and beat briefly until gloriously thick, like whipped cream.
  3. Serve it with berries or dollop it in your coffee.
  4. Use the coconut water in a smoothie, salad dressing, or soup.

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