Sunday, 9 December 2012

Technically this counts as a note....

And I know I said I would try to communicate in person better from now on, instead of via various textual avenues, but, I'm still in Poland, many a mile away, it'll be -19 tonight, not that that is relevant, or that it allows me to back out of a reform I personally put forth in the first place, but, ah well, I wanted to get it out here, now, and leave our reunion on the 24th of December open solely for merrier discussions.

Isle of Wight, Ben & Jerry you are lumpy and overpriced, I make better vegan ice cream from 3-4 ingredients!

Mam and dad, it feels like I've been the better part of three seasons away from Wales. There's been 30+ degree heat, sun, blue skies. Crisp autumn air and dazzling yellow leaves. Icy breath and -17 degree chills. A diversely meteorologically packed 5-month. I've been fairly upping and downing myself. All that "should I stay or should I go stuff"...

Well the decision has been made, finally, all systems go.

I've mentioned on this blog recently about my problems with food, they're deeper than food of course, I feel anxious/sad/ashamed etc., for whatever underlying reasons and then I over/under eat, fixate and fuss about food. It's a symptom of something else, but it's become a cause of ill all it's own. Not so much physically, I have some intolerances/irritabilities sure, but those aren't much a cause for concern compared with the mental side effects of my food consumption.

Ok, why am I writing this..? To ask for support, explain a little, and I suppose to try to convince you to help me out on this one, so that I can help you guys out too, hopefully.

Garlic; delicious and vegan!

So, the Isle of Wight festival seems like an age ago, I want to thank you both for that firstly, I saw/heard some wonderful things, and the fact that I got to see and hear them all, with you two (and Nic and Mat) made it all the more enjoyable. I apologise if I seemed preoccupied at times, my mind was indeed rather focused on the (then) coming July, and worrying about all the necessary preparations/goodbyes, but it was fantastic nonetheless. I bring it up not just because it was one of the last times we had together before I left, but because it was dad's first experience with Vegan mayonnaise and fantastic vegan burgers/pittas from one of the many veggie/vegan food stalls there. This is my first weak argument to support that we can "do Vegan" together. If it's possible in boozy/poppy/muddy/fast-foody fields, then it's possible in the comfort of your own kitchen with the help of an in-house chef (that would be me, permitted) !

Road-made chilled Vegan Chai Lattes and Wasabi nuts, Amsterdam (sat in the station on the train to Berlin)

Here comes a (long) series of images concerning some of my food trails and errors on the continent. It's kind of my way of saying "hey, if we can do it on a budget on the road or in the birth countries of Chocolat, Moules-Frites, Edam, and the giant tubular meat power-houses that be Germany and Poland, we gots no excuses at home, in a sensibly-stocked kitchen 1km from the Co-op.

Lake near Berlin, baked potato and beer, the beer was certainly Vegan, the potato not mine :P

Kayaking, North West Poland, true that Soya spreads and Peanut butter saved many a day.

Kasha/root veggies also came in handy, easy to cook and eat + filling (if you can stomach bread all is well anyhow!).

Our meal at the end of 6 days kayaking was the most 'veggie' they had in the traditional Polish inn.

Veggie marg on fire-toast, delicious, Earth friendly :P

First wild mushroom picking adventure, beginning of August.

Picked, sorted, ground and sifted my own (small amount of) whole grain barley-flour! Mid-late August.

Gluten-free, vegan, homemade flower choc cookies + homemade coconut milk ice cream = ice cream sandwiches!

Hand-picked, blemish-free, organic, juicy, tart apple in the sunshine, end of September.

The summer wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, since arriving in Poland as you know (mam) I put on a substantial 3lbs (not just the weight but I lost muscle and gained lots of fat, didn't really exercise because I had nowhere to go and no trainers for a while, and lots of problems linked to all of the white-flour, high fat/salt dishes that are 'specialities'), I hadn't spoken with neither you my parents, my best friend Soph, Andy, or any other friends or family members, I had no friends in Piekary, Mat was extremely distant, and we were under everyone's feet in a small flat. Plus a lot of the personal problems I'd tried to escape by running off to a foreign country were surfacing with a vengeance, negative thought patterns, that sense of failure, all that jazz. I was lost, and I tried to find myself in every fridge drawer, on every supermarket shelf, a new diet, new detox, new failure - weekly. No matter which new places I visited, how I tried to occupy myself, I missed home, and eat my thoughts bearable.

Vegan in the mountains;  some salad (consumed), white bread (ouch) and tomato juice (consumed).

Different mountains, still Vegan picnickers!

As with the lakeside Berlin advice, if you can't find a suitable meal, drink!

"You're the (dairy-free alternative to) cream in my coffee"....
Mint lemonade and vegan chocolate cake! Krakow, home to many a vegan friendly eatery :)

Strictly No Bovril, liquid steak should always be a no-no :P
The four directly above were all taken in Krakow, 11th September and glorious sun. A fine first visit, plenty of walking and ensuing guilt-free eating.

Now we move onto what passes for the beginning of Autumn here, but what we probably call Summer, it wasn't particularly warm (though when the leaves started to turn oh me oh my did they burn). Most of the food photographs come from Autumn/Early winter, recent stuff. Because it's most recently that I've finally been open with Mat about my eating(*), so it figures that I became more open with myself about what I was doing, how much I was eating etc., these few are showcasing some local, hand-picked natural food-beauties from the end of September through mid October. (*after more than a year of eating in secret, in the kitchen over the sink, hiding in my bag, in the toilet, running the tap so he wouldn't hear me chew, endless shames. Once, last September, 2011, I even left the house we were in at the time, Mount Pleasant, at 3 in the morning to walk to Tesco in the marina because I couldn't sleep for stress and had to go look for food. I bought and eat 2 gluten-free ciabatta rolls, a small jar of green olive tapenade and a half a jar of Lawrence Dallaglio endorsed sunblush tomatoes, on the beach, at 5 to 4 in the morning, I was wearing Mat's jeans and Soph's hoody, the sunrise was ok, cloudy, coming up behind Kilvey, ah my memories)

Glorious variety.

We picked all of these in one hour!

Autumn picking - maƛlaki man!

We four managed to find all of these, £s worth of wild mushroomy goodness.

Home sun-drying.

The five preceding pictures were taken the week after you, mam and dad, left southern Poland after staying a week, beginning of October. I'm sorry the timing was terrible and I'd just started working full time that week, so we couldn't go many places together and I was stressing about the shitty job and the fact that I was just thrown into classes without any information or ideas on how to proceed. I stuffed myself that week, Mat and I had pretty much broken up just over a week prior, and I was dying to come home, head all over the place. I will always appreciate and marvel at the fact that you chose to drive over a thousand miles into a vast and interesting continent, and bothered to spend your entire free time together off work, in Poland's industrial heartland, just, to see me, if anyone ever asks about the definition of love....!

Vegan Goulash in Warszawa - another surprisingly good city for Vegan eats (for PL)
Again, the virtues of liquid indulgence, in moderation though...

NO! We walked down the street to a Korean Vegan place, it was L U S H

Those ( ^ ) were taken at the end of October during our trip to Warszawa, getting away from dreary Piekary and the increasingly crappy job for the weekend was such a welcome change. What follows is mostly from mid-November/up to now. After we moved out from Mat's folks and into a place of our own beginning of November I thougt my previous food struggles would cease, nobody cooking for me or feeling mildly offended if I didn't eat a slice of cake or a bowl of soup or three, food freedom in short. Of course not, it got worse didn't it, and I had no thoughtful or considerate hosts to blame. I'm hoping that when I move back home there'll no longer be any need for blame. Will you both help me though?

Soy latte in the new place! Or should that be Too latte... 

I thought single serving recipes for desserts would stop me craving/bingeing.

Homemade jam and rye bread, part of my photographing breakfasts habit.

Step one, this log-shaped vegan GF 'pierniki' that I made and covered in choc looks dodgy..

Step two, still dodgy, perhaps worse... (Coconut-vanilla cream)

Step three, dessicated coconut, slightly more normal in appearance now...

Step four, my gingerbread experiment was a success, it's cooked inside!

Step five, enjoy with Steve Buscemi, cheers Steevie.

After talking things out with Mat and writing my thoughts down here in the open I decided to take photos of every meal. To keep track and be honest with myself. As usual I became relaxed with my new habit far too swiftly, and reassumed that stance of self-denial re my daily eating. The day after posting about food problems here for the first time I had decided to do a "juice" day. Just herbal teas and non-pasteurised vegetable and fruit juices. I failed, as I also mentioned in passing, we went bowling, I struck out. These were from that day. I think occasionally a detox or balance day is good, Mat's mam does it every Friday, but she drinks Keffir too. I managed to get to evening without failing on the liquid day plan, and I think if I'd had more support/understanding it would have been a small success and a huge mental milestone. I just want to forget about food sometimes.

After starting with a fruity green tea I felt sick and was actually happy because I wasn't craving a breakfast.

Some hours later I braved 250mls of unpasteurized red grapefruit juice.

Ooh look at me braving it, what a trooper.

Did manage to resist sugar in my coffee and a (FREE) mini cake though, no downplaying that victory.

And failure, vanquished by Kasztelan, bowled over by giant bags of (mushroom flavored!) crisps.

Do you see how tedious this all is yet (of course you do!)?! I want it to cool down a bit, but this whole "the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have a problem" stage is old hat now, I get it, have done for a while, and now some of my close friends do too, still not quite moving on to the next stage though. Whatever that's referred to as I don't yet know. I don't want to take another shitty photo of a bowl of cornflakes or a bottle of juice unless it's so fabulously outlandish that the worlds future depends on my capturing and sharing. Or if I've made each flake myself out of the re-pieced detritus of destroyed ant dinghies.... We all cry, no more myopic minutiae! Of course if I make an impressive new recipe, and am sharing the imaged results with you folks it's because I want you guys included. I want you to think, she can do it we can do it.

So I made my own flour and some nut cheeze for some experimental Vegan GF cheese/cracker time!
I've never made cheese before, so, this 'fake' stuff was a real experiment.

Likewise crackers, never made any easy white flour, gluten and animal product laden bites before, so these were a test.

Bloody tasty, spiced, great texture, full of goodness, I was proud, thinking of having another go for us at Xmas
'Cheeze' after baking, tasted really good, I think you'd both enjoy some.
That same day I decided to make pickled red cabbage, no recipe, just winged it.
And I did wing it, perfect, not too sweet, not too sour, tasty.

It was a lovely afternoon, I'd spent the morning enjoying cooking and the afternoon enjoying eating.

Jar of Moldavian wine under the boardwalk? Well, why the heck not?!

The evening of the above pictured fine food day was rather spoiled, at my own doing mainly. Mat's folks called around with some dairy-loaded chocolates, jams, dates etc., etc., and since I'd had some wine I just couldn't keep away. Sad. Anyway it was after that weekend (the same one as the bowling and failed juice day) that I really talked with Mat, not just about food, but mainly this time. Then I started to keep a watch, make a plan, and document my diet. For a week it went well.

Small, plain, soy-milk cornflakes.

Big salads; actual 'sit-down' meals.

(bad photo) beautiful fractal brassica!

Cooked beet root, some green lentils  and olives and raw baby spinach

Oh yellow flakes of sunshine!

Homemade/baked pumpkin-chickpea 'cakes', pickled pepper and fractal greens.

Homemade pumpkin 'butter', for spiced pumpkin 'lattes' to take in a flask to Wroclaw

The weekend after this green week was also good, proper meals, lots of wandering. We went to Wroclaw on the train from Katowice, for some reason Wroclaw has more Vegan and Vegan-friendly places to eat than any other city in Poland. It was also a lovely city - more on that another time. Anyway, here's our food odyssey in pictures.

First stop day 1; lunchtime, we'd just arrived, first (non fruit) sugar and caffeine of the week.

Second stop, afternoon, proper big meal, same chain as in Warszawa, 'Green Way'.

At the hostel, after visiting 'bio' shop, goji berries in my (still hot) spiced, alcoholic pumpkin latte.
Day 2; Tea hot from the hostel, gluten free and vegan MILK chocolate bar, first day of advent :)

Falafel, I missed you so! Such a tasty wrap, first sign of hummus in Poland too!
Vegan GF samosa to share with spicy tomato sauce, more tasty take away,yumza!

Kalambur; Mat's Syrian potato cake, my banana hot chocolate :D
Late evening meal at Machina Organika, which we shared. First try of red rice, nice!
Day 3; Carrot juice and carrot cake, orange goodness from 'Vega'.

Big Sunday lunch from 'Zle Mieso', 'Evil Meat' :D

Since we got back from Wroclaw, which was lovely, I decided I was going home for good, after the money/work situation worsened and after much deliberation. The stress of packing up my cluttered life again and shipping it across Europe before Christmas (well, the 'presents' box at least, not so bad if my 'summer clothes/books/bits' box doesn't make it till New Year!), worrying about not having time to finish presents for people, worrying the packages will end up 'lost' or irreparably damaged, how to tell work I'm done, wondering if they'll pay me for the last 2 months of work/what to do if they don't, looking for jobs back home - all of it has side-tracked my well intended lifestyle change. It's pathetic, because I know if I binge/purge I'll feel like shit, body and mind, and that will make constructive handling of these worries/issues near-impossible without needless amounts of stress and anxiety. Why can't I just let myself relax, smile and think "this will all be over soon. Soon I'll see my best friend, London's exhibitionism, my dad at Neath station on Christmas eve, mam, MIKEY rehearsing his tail-wagging welcome for me no doubt, my brother, his girlfriend, her daughter, my amazing grandmothers, my best cousins, aunties, books, decorations, my own room." Peace of mind?!
These were my good intentions beginning of last week, before I fell off the wagon again.

Lots of fruit and a yoghurt, Monday breakfast.
Spicy Carrot, Orange and Ginger soup, GF corn-cakes.
Cooked and raw veggies and beans, dressed in fresh herbs, lemon juice and white miso.
Banana and Goji muesli (fine), peach and ginger tea (uch), Mat's scrambled eggs.
Then I made these no-bake oat/choc bites and the recipe made more than expected, doh!

And that was up to last Thursday, Friday I managed a no food day fairly well with the exception of some apples. Saturday and Sunday I have eaten so much that I'm in pain and feel sick, but still 'forgetting' this each time I get up for something and end up in the fridge door not knowing why, then unquestioningly and desperately grabbing for something, anything (cucumber and mustard?! What is that about!?). It's crazy, after the fact, I can see it's happened and that it's wrong, stupid, sad etc., but it still happens again and again. 
Why do we continue to make the same mistakes. 
How can I change for good? 
I think the best incentive would be to try it, but really try it good for a while, with proper understanding, love and support, and that maybe the beneficial results of the trial would certainly be enough to keep me sailing on and sane. Problem is I keep failing on my own. I'm managing some control just about, I'm not too far gone yet, but I don't want to 'just be a bit over weight' instead of really heavy, anymore, I want to be healthy. I also want you two to be healthy with me. After all what's the point of living long and strong if the people you love most (and you are my people, that is something that I've come to truly know and appreciate, you are my kind and nobody understands me quite like you will...) aren't living with you?

Is that something you can help me with? I'm hoping you both will adopt a Vegan diet from January with me (Ok, Vegan + "responsible" Seafood now and then, not just for the ocean/fish's sake but because farmed stuff isn't as healthy for you, if you're going to consume something, it should at least be healthy, and clean Fish is way better for you than cheese/milk and meat :p )
I know it'll be hard for you going easy on the drink and without meat for a while dad, you'll crave it, but you'll loose weight and feel better, and, if you mostly eat whole animal/process-free foods, you can maybe splurge on a steak once in a while, but, the best thing is, you'll hopefully appreciate your new health and won't actually want it. In any case I'm hoping to perfect some meaty alternatives for you.

Mam I know it would be hard for you without cheese, but I am working on some vegan "Cheezes" that are not only almost fat-free, but chock full of plant protein so that hopefully we'll have less refined carb-related insulin issues, and as a result less hormonal ups and downs.

I know this is asking a lot, but I'm asking for you to do it for me and you, slowly at first, if you need to (you probably will, I tried just going without caffeine sugar and salt a few times and felt so sick -withdrawals for you), I'm hoping that if we're all on board it'll succeed, because we'll support each other.

Dietary support is something I need, hugely, I started this whole vegan thing for the wrong reasons - weight loss, vanity, obsession with "getting/being better", some kind of underlying guilt that I've always felt. I've been living my adult life in a state of regret and shame, and I can't explain why, maybe its latent Catholic genes, maybe just because I have this sensitive temperament and couldn't handle the occasional chubby/gorilla jibes as a kid. Whatever the case I binge and purge, I stress about food (mam, I know you do too to a degree), and, I don't want to anymore.

I want to open the fridge and know that I'm going to prepare a meal that my body will benefit from and that my family will enjoy, not scoff down a tub of hummus with a teaspoon while the door is still ajar, flinching at any sound scared someone will walk in on my dirty act.

It sounds whiney and melodramatic perhaps, but, it's true. I don't know if that makes it easier or harder to swallow, in any case, there it is. I hope we can help each other, and that we sit down together more often, and talk/listen. That's what I enjoy, more than any crutch of food or drink,  just being with my family, having a good time. Doesn't happen often enough.

Finally, I just want to say thank you.

See you in a fortnight, officially!

Love you both with all this heart you gave me.