Friday, May 4, 2012

Learning How To Cook and Eat, Again

What happens to a self proclaimed "food worshiper" when she can no longer eat what ever she pleases? I saw it as a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type thing. I could decide to be really unhappy and upset with the cards I had been dealt, and curl up on the couch. Or I could storm the internet and comb through the stores in search of tasty and healthy food. I had a third choice, and that was to go about my business as if the doctors were crazy, but the thought of going through the excruciating pain again is a pretty good deterrent for me. Being diagnosed with acute pancreatitis was pretty scary, especially when they couldn't be even 10% sure what caused it in the first place. The triggers tend to be gall stones, or heavy alcohol usage. They never found stones, I am not a heavy drinker at all, nor do I have a family history of it. So they just said the cause was idiopathic, which really means "I dunno what happened". In a nut shell, I was told to stay away from fatty foods and alcohol. Losing the ability to drink alcohol wasn't devastating to me. I did enjoy a cocktail now and again, but I didn't lean on it for relaxing. It is what I did when I was hanging out with my family or friends. But being able to run to a favorite local restaurant and order up a greasy burger with a basket of fried pickles on the side, now that was heaven. But that heaven's gate is chained closed for the time being.

Adapting your way of eating and cooking from anything goes to low-fat-or-die, is pretty daunting. I mean I learned to cook like any other southern girl, with bacon, crisco, butter, and cheese. A dish that didn't contain one of these ingredients was pretty hard to come by in my world. Every cake, cookie, and casserole I have ever known is officially off limits to me. My first week home from the hospital was shaky. I wasn't able to eat regular meals yet, so I stuck to potato soup and jello. Frankly I was scared to eat anything that wasn't 100% fat free and bland in taste. I was already imagining dinners being so boring I would eventually hate cooking. My grocery list now said things like ground turkey, turkey bacon, fat free cheese, cyanide pills. Just kidding on that last part, but I was pretty scared for what I was assuming  was going to be the death of my culinary passions. My first glimmer of hope that all things delicious weren't lost was the first day I had a real meal. It had been a couple of weeks since I had been to my parent's house. I wanted to see my family outside of the hospital, and enjoy the company sans crappy medical setting. But where there is my family, there is food. Hamburgers and hot dogs was on the menu. Instead of being defeated, I decided to pack up a veggie burger, my special bread, my fat free cheese, and my special mayo. I would have a burger too, just not a beef one. But instead of eating the monster mash of veggies patty, my Daddy saved the day, and made me a turkey burger.

After almost 2 weeks of little to no food, that turkey burger was a delicious treat. I'm not exaggerating when I say, I was close to tears. It was real food, and I was eating it, and I didn't feel like I was being cheated. Now, I am not afraid of the ground turkey. I use it without flinching. My hopes of fried pickles will have to wait much longer sadly, but I found very low fat chocolate and peanut butter ice cream sandwiches to indulge in. There are good things out there. Word of mouth and labels are the best things to go by. Getting creative in the kitchen making low or no fat foods is a challenge. Where I would normally bust out the half and half, butter, and some good old stinky parmesean cheese to make an alfredo sauce, I knew that was no longer an option.  I took my friend Laura's recipe for spinach and artichoke pasta, and made a few key changes. The result was amazing. Not only did I succeed in making a low fat pasta dish, it was wonderful!

It's all trial and error in the fat free department. Not everything is going to taste good. Many times to make up for missing fat, they add in the salt and sugar, and that's not a better alternative. Also, some additives in these foods can do more harm than good. I've already warned about the dangers of Olean / Olestra, and because of that, fat free Pringles is off the menu. But Special K cracker chips, well they are better than potato chips if you ask me, little fat, and good to eat. Tonight I am making fat free brownies, in hopes that I can still get my dose of chocolate without triggering an attack. There are certain things a girl shouldn't live without, and chocolate is one of them. I like the ice cream well enough, but brownies trump ice cream for me. If the recipe makes me do a happy dance, I'll post it here. Wish me luck!

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