I know it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. People cook food all the time. But, to be frank, the past two weeks have been a struggle. I’ve all but forgotten VeganMoFo; honestly, I haven’t felt like cooking or eating, let alone photographing my food and writing about it.
In an overall really sucky year, November has excelled. First, of course, there was the election and the attendant rise in hateful speech and acts. Two days later, Leonard Cohen, my most beloved musical artist, shuffled off this mortal coil. While most folks might see the Thanksgiving holiday as a welcome respite, I can’t take much joy in a holiday for which the centerpiece of most American tables is a dead bird, who in all likelihood lived a brutal, tortured existence. Add to the that the violent oppression of Native Americans that’s ongoing as I write this, and you have the ingredients for a major funk.
As with most situations, there’s a Leonard Cohen lyric (in this case, co-written with Sharon Robinson) that pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling since November 9.
Looked through the paper
Makes you wanna cry
Nobody cares if the people
Live or die
And the dealer wants you thinking
That it’s either black or white
Thank God it’s not that simple
In my secret life
Little by little, though, I’ve been pulling myself out of it. Resistance requires nourishment, and that means caring enough about myself and others to choose food that promotes good health and mental and physical stamina, not anesthetizing myself with sugary treats. Last weekend I kept a promise to myself to make a big pot of soup or stew. I chose this Forks Over Knives recipe for Mixed Beans and Root Vegetable Stew, featuring rutabaga and parsnips, two vegetables I don’t often use. The rutabaga was a bit bitter for my tastes, but had mellowed considerably by the time we ate leftovers on day two. The stew was hearty and delicious, a perfect meal in and of itself.
On Tuesday, I made another stew featured on the Forks Over Knives app, this one a white bean cassoulet recipe contributed by the Happy Herbivore. I really loved this mild, easy to throw together stew, made even simpler by subbing dried herbs (cut the amounts by half) and canned diced tomatoes for fresh (not in season this time of year anyway). The quickness and simplicity of this comforting and delicious recipe make it a perfect weekday meal. (The recipe yields a relatively small batch–just three servings–and we had already polished it off by the time I thought to take pictures.)
Getting back to cooking has improved my mood, not to mention my digestion–the ultimate comfort. With the holiday there have still been plenty of sweets afoot, including a fantastic apple streusel pie from our local co-op, but I find I crave sugar less when I fill up on wholesome fall soups and stews. And eating less sugar also improves my mood and physical well-being (running is a lot harder when I’m all sugared up).
Along with making more healthful meals, I’ve made a promise to myself to do something every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to support my running and my mental health, inspired by the Runner’s World holiday run streak. It may not be in the form of a daily run–I might walk at lunch or do interval training or strength training at the gym instead, as long as it contributes to my overall well-being. (If I feel an overuse injury coming on, I won’t hesitate to back off a bit.) How about you? Do you have plan for staying sane and healthy this season?