Each coffeeandwoodsmoke post begins with some stories, reflections, or musings, and ends with a recipe (or maybe two). The recipes embody my love for food, and my belief that food can be love. Food can be, and should be, a way for us to love ourselves and connect with others; it is comforting, nourishing, and–of course–delicious!
The recipes also reflect my journey with food—a decades-long journey of figuring out what nourishes me. I believe deeply in the healing power of food, but it took many years and a lot of pain to learn what foods are health-promoting for me.
Others around me noticed the extent of my stomach problems long before I did. In college, and without really realizing it, I was apparently always complaining that my stomach hurt. The pain became acute my senior year, and I began dropping weight. It soon got to the point where every day around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m., like clockwork, I would double over in pain and spend the afternoon curled up in a ball on the floor. I was convinced I would never be able to hold down a job; I was hurting, frustrated, and scared.
I started seeing a gastroenterologist, and told him it felt like my stomach was going through a shredder. He was convinced I had an ulcer, even though my H. pylori test came back negative. I went through several rounds of treatment with Prevacid, to no avail. When that didn’t work, the doctor told me I had (the catchall) IBS. He never once asked about my diet. He told me that my IBS was triggered by stress, and if I reduced my stress, my symptoms would go away. I was gearing up to move out to Hawaii, and he reasoned that my stress levels would be lower in the islands and my symptoms would disappear. “Wouldn’t that be great?” I thought.
So I moved to Hawaii, and sure enough, my symptoms gradually disappeared. I would have occasional flare-ups, but nothing on the scale of what I had experienced for the years prior. Several years later, I up and moved to Boston to begin law school, and the pain came back with a vengeance. “Stress,” I thought, as this was the narrative I had been telling myself for years. I didn’t think about the fact that I ate radically different diets in each place.
The following summer I began seeing another doctor. Those visits, combined with my own research, led to the grand experiment of a food elimination diet. Common triggers were eliminated, and then gradually added back one by one. And the one that caused me to double over in pain each and every time: gluten. That was 2003, years before the gluten-free craze set in. But it was (fortunately for me) the heyday of Atkins. When I would order a burger without a bun at a restaurant, servers would nod understandingly. And that was fine with me.
When I cut gluten out of my diet, I started working with a dietician to ensure I was getting proper nutrition. With her guidance, I started paying closer attention to everything I put in my mouth and how it made me feel. I started thinking about the fact that when I lived in Hawaii, I ate a lot of fish, rice, vegetables, and fruits. Nary a drop of gluten in sight. And when I moved to Boston, it was all about pasta from the North End, pizza, sandwiches … aha. I’m now twelve years into the conscious evolution of the way I nourish myself, and I’m still learning, still fine-tuning.
So what will you find here in terms of recipes? The way I eat doesn’t fit neatly into any particular “diet” box, and I enjoy experimenting across all types of cuisines. That said, I can provide a bit of specificity:
- Every recipe on this blog is 100% gluten-free.
- About 85-90% of the recipes on this blog are Paleo. I’ve found that eating grass-fed meats, wild seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and nuts agrees with my system. But:
- I do eat full-fat, organic dairy
- I also have found that I do best when I incorporate one serving of whole grains a day, usually at breakfast. My staples are oats, homemade gluten-free toast, or quinoa.
- And I eat peanut butter because I love it.
In sum, I try to be conscious of what I put in my body. I strive to eat a healthful, nourishing diet, one that allows me not just to live but to thrive. I am grateful that I discovered the healing power of food, and I hope that perhaps my story might help others who are on their own journey to discover what works best for them.
These recipes are offered in gratitude, and in love.