Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VeganMoFo: One-Handed Food

I've been having trouble citing my sources lately. I'll hear or read something that sounds like it might be helpful in this whole baby-growing, child-rearing motherhood thing, and I'll file it away in my mind under "Important--Don't Forget!" and I don't forget it. But I can't, for the life of me, remember where or from whom (my midwife? the PPK? Mom?) I heard it. It makes me feel like I'm imagining things. At least I'm imagining helpful things.

Anyway. The latest helpful thing is the suggestion that new (and especially newly breastfeeding) mamas stock up on foods that can easily be eaten with one hand. And it makes perfect sense. Who wants to hold a wiggly baby and try to negotiate a giant bowl of chili?

Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing foods, I'm usually in the giant-bowl-of-chili camp. I really, really like "dinner in a bowl." You've got your grain, veggie, and protein all in one convenient chili, or soup, or stir-fry; all of the flavors get to play together; and clean-up is usually a breeze. And when I think of foods to cook and freeze for reheating after the baby arrives, I think of hearty bean-and-seitan stews and big glass casserole dishes of spinach lasagna and tofu-ricotta-stuffed shells.

But these are not one-handed foods. Not really. Yes, in theory, one could set a bowl of soup down on a TV tray next to one's rocking chair and attempt to eat it while nursing the baby, but the whole process sounds a little like that exercise where you try to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. After a minute, you just end up patting both your head and your tummy, and you drop hot soup on the baby. So one-handed food it is.

Unfortunately, when I first picture one-handed food, it's never anything that I might actually want to eat on a regular basis. I think of Luna bars (which are fine, but not great), and then my mind goes immediately to the preservative-laden world of pre-packaged and often non-vegan food: toaster pastries, pizza rolls, drinkable soup in a microwavable sippy cup (because spoons are for suckers!), and tubes of neon-colored yogurt and pudding designed to be squeezed directly into the mouth (down with tool-use!).

(Yes, the part of my brain that comes up with ideas for one-handed food is also the part that wants to stay up all night playing video games with the other 7th-grade boys. Why do you ask?)

I'm wildly disturbed by the idea that, despite the fact that I will never purchase any of the above food items, their advertisers have been successful in that I remember the existence of the these products and strongly associate them with the whole grab-'n'-go food concept. So I'm racking my brain for ideas, trying to beat out the advertisers and my penchant for bowl-based dinners with a list of tasty, reasonably nutritious, single-hand-friendly vegan (or easily veganizable) options:

  • Fruit and vegetable slices
  • Whole grain toast
  • Bagels with peanut butter
  • Pitas with hummus
  • Wrap sandwiches (I have trouble eating "traditional" sandwiches one-handed. I feel like my sandwich contents are precariously balanced between the two slices of bread, and I have to rearrange things before every bite. Same goes for veggie burgers.)
  • Vegetable maki
  • Muffins
  • Fruit and non-dairy milk smoothies
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Samosas
  • "Bar-based cuisine," as my husband likes to say (Luna bars, Clif bars, Lara bars, etc.)

It's a measly little list so far, and I'm sure there are awesome things that I'm forgetting. It occurs to me, however, that the above list contains a lot of the foods that I ate when I was first pregnant and felt like ass and absolutely nothing sounded good to eat. Coincidence? I wonder...



Friday, November 9, 2007

Please Note

If you are nine months pregnant and stupid enough to put "Coming Around Again" (Carly Simon), "People Ain't No Good" (Nick Cave), and "Addy's Tattoo" (Megan Slankard) on your iPod, be advised that these songs will come up back-to-back, and you will cry into your book on the bus ride to work.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

VeganMoFo: Soup's On!

There is nothing like moving to screw with a person's domestic affairs. This proves especially difficult when one's chief household function is to plan, shop for, and create meals. People's stomach clocks continue to sound their alarms, regardless of whether or not the kitchen is a (temporary) disaster area.

I know: order in. After a long weekend of schlepping boxes across town, it's certainly tempting. But I find that nothing returns my mental state to normalcy faster than making dinner, even if said dinner is ridiculously easy and relies on canned ingredients. My house may be in a state of chaos, but I can still get dinner on the table! I win!

I threw this soup together when Rob and I were first married, in a moment of "crap, there's nothing in the house to eat!" A couple years down the line, it's still one of our favorite weeknight dinners, because it's so simple to throw together, and completely tasty. Now, I won't lie: it does taste better with fresh ingredients--especially the corn. (Mmm, fresh corn...) But corn isn't always in season, cutting corn kernels off the cob is a huge pain, and you probably already have a bag of frozen corn cluttering up your freezer, right?

Quick Black Bean Soup

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 30 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth (I use Imagine Foods' No Chicken Broth)
2 (14.5-ounce) cans tomatoes with diced green chilies
1 (10-ounce) package frozen kernel corn
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until both are tender (3-4 minutes). Add the broth, tomatoes, corn, cumin, oregano, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the black beans and continue to cook until the beans are heated and the flavors blend, at least 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve. (Or, if you're in my house, leave it in and see who wins the "Bay Leaf Lottery"--Grand Prize: bragging rights.)


Home Sweet Home Visit

This evening, my midwives will be conducting a home visit. All of my previous prenatal appointments have taken place at a clinic that used to be a house, so the vibe shouldn't be too different from how it's been all along: relaxed, casual, low-key.

Except that, um...we just moved in. On Saturday.

I would take a picture of the madness, but I have no idea where my camera is. I felt very lucky that I was able find something to wear this morning, but I'm not so sure I'll be able to do as well tomorrow. What is supposed to be the baby's room has become a storage "staging" area. (The last time we moved, we also had a second bedroom that Rob dubbed a "staging" area, with the promise that it would someday become an office, or a library, or a nursery. It was still a "staging" area on Saturday morning when its contents were loaded into the back of my dad's pick-up. I call shenanigans.) Cabinet parts are still wrapped up in moving blankets in the middle of the living room. I'm not even sure we have a phone number yet.

Ahh, the joys of moving.

Now, my midwives are some of the kindest, most wonderfully understanding people on the planet. And I'm sure they've seen a lot worse during a home visit. At least, I hope they've seen worse. But I still feel like I've totally dropped the ball by not having everything in at least some semblance of order before this evening. It's not just a case of wanting to "keep up appearances." The chaos of moving seems to have jump-started my lazy nesting instinct, and I want my home--and everything in it--to be ready for the baby. Like, now.

Of course, appearances are important, too. I don't want us to be remembered as "that couple with industrial-sized garbage bags everywhere and no where to sit."

Oh, well. At least we're not remodeling. Yet.


Friday, November 2, 2007

My (Super-Secret) Vegan Pregnancy

One of my New Year's Resolutions this year was to write more. Among other things, I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo. I read No Plot? No Problem! when I was working in a store that sold it (and other worthwhile reads), and the whole thing seemed pretty doable. In a hectic sort of way.

And then, about mid-March, I discovered that I would be thinking about other things during the month of November. The 50,000-word novel would have to wait until I was done gestating.

But there's no way I'm going to miss out on VeganMoFo.

Now, ideally--and in the spirit of the month-long writing frenzy upon which it is based--my participation in Vegan Month of Food would involve me posting one vegan-food-related entry each day. Photos! Recipes! Witty insight on veganism!

But really, I don't have much to offer as a food blogger.* Certain people have the whole "gorgeous food photography" thing waaaay under control. And since the Internet is one of my favorite cookbooks, almost all of the recipes I make on a regular basis can be found elsewhere. Which means I have to try to be witty and insightful. Maybe this was a bad idea.

It does occur to me that the last time I wrote anything about my diet, I wasn't pregnant yet. And I continued not to write about my diet because, well, it didn't seem relevant to the whole holy-shit-I'm-becoming-a-mother thing. Yeah. I know. Diet is only one of the major things that healthcare providers focus on with pregnant women. Because when you're eating for two, and one of you has to make bones and organs and a brain out of nothing, what you eat really matters! I get that. But when your midwives, husband, and parents are all unconcerned and very supportive, eating a vegan diet during pregnancy really seems like no big deal.

Of course, one of the reasons that it hasn't been a big deal is that I don't discuss it. After a pre-pregnancy lecture by a well-meaning acquaintance, and phone conversation with friend that ended abruptly when I said I planned to remain vegan during my pregnancy, I got a little gun-shy about revealing my dietary and lifestyle choices. I don't like to argue. When someone offers me something non-vegan, it's just as easy for me to say "No, thank you" as it is to say "I don't eat meat/eggs/dairy/animal products," so it rarely comes up.

What does come up, of course, is food cravings. For some reason, people find the topic of food cravings during pregnancy fascinating. And this is where I lie. When they ask about cravings, I tell them about the first trimester food jags: a week of tomato sandwiches, a week of bagels, a week of bean burritos. But the actual cravings? No. I never mention drooling over memories of eggs Benedict breakfasts smothered in Hollandaise, grilled crab and Swiss sandwiches on white bread, homemade oven-baked macaroni and cheese, and (oh God) flank steak.

I don't mention craving this fatty, high-protein animal oppression partly because I find it embarrassing, and partly because everyone has opinions about what food cravings mean. "Our bodies know what they need," a friend of mine likes to say. I seriously doubt that my body needs Pringles and diet Coke, but if cravings really did indicate a nutritional requirement, I'd have an easier time convincing Rob to enable my giving in. Mmm, grilled crab and Swiss... I can almost taste the richness of warm cheese and mayonnaise-based crab salad. "I'm sure the veal farmers appreciate your support," my husband says, kindly but pointedly.

The truth is that my non-vegan cravings have nothing to do with the foods themselves. They're all about memories of Sunday breakfasts at the diner and family dinners that my mother cooked entirely from scratch. I'm not craving food, I'm craving comfort, and it's difficult to un-learn the good feelings that my mind associates with certain dishes. Of course, it's equally difficult to un-learn the information about health and farming practices that lead me to a vegan diet in the first place. And it's all difficult to talk about without unintentionally starting an argument, or feeling like I'm expected to speak on behalf of all vegans everywhere.

So I don't bring it up. I keep my pregnancy cravings, and my diet overall, to myself as much as possible. I guess this puts me pretty firmly in the vegan closet. For now, I'm comfortable here. However, I expect things to change drastically when my vegan child is old enough to realize that not everyone puts soy milk on their cereal.

*I did have a vegan food blog for about twenty minutes. And then I got the stomach flu and ate Culturally Insensitive Flavor Oriental Flavor Top Ramen for a week and the project kind of lost momentum.