Did You Know?

Did you know??
Although using avocados and bananas are all the buzz now to get soft and shiny hair, all it will get you is a messy kitchen and bathroom. These products are great to help your hair for one day, but the proteins in them are way too big for your hair to absorb. And unless you are going to use them each day (yikes!), then you should head to a beauty supply store and check out some Vegan products that use "hydrolyzed" proteins - proteins from avocados and bananas that actually are small enough to help your hair.

About Us



Ashley

I grew up in an Italian-American household. Every Sunday, my brothers and I would pile into the car for the mandatory trip to my paternal grandmother's house, where my father and his four siblings, their husbands and wives and their children would get together and eat until our pants threatened to burst. My great-grandmother, affectionately called "Nanu" (a terrible Star-Trek modification on the Italian word for grandmother, Nonna) would be working hard in the kitchen, ricing potatoes for gnocchi, or frying dough for pizza frita. I have very affectionate memories from those days, and can recall vividly everyone falling asleep after lunchtime, only to be woken up for dessert. Obviously, the one real problem with my Italian family was the food. Did everything have to be fried and covered in meat and cheese to taste good?

 When I started my undergraduate degree, I had the wrong idea about my nutrition. Working off what I knew, I ended up surviving on pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, bagels with cream cheese, or mac and cheese with canned green beans. And those were the only things I would eat. In my sophomore year, I got very ill, and was bed ridden for for about 4 or 5 months. I was tested for everything and the only thing they knew I had for certain was Mono (by the end of bed rest. The beginning of the illness was technically undiagnosed). After that painful and very long spell (which also painfully included a Spinal Tap, as well as other invasive and uncomfortable testing) I had lost about 25 pounds, and all the muscle I had gained by running every day (the only healthy thing I ever did for myself). I was feeling better, but was remarkably weak and sick-looking. My doctor suggested that perhaps I try changing my diet (which I had deliberately kept from her). At first, being rather resistant to change, I did nothing.

After my mono, which was rather severe, I couldn't eat very much at all. I drank hot tea, and broth, and the occasional bowl of mac and cheese, and more occasionally, chicken Ramen or Roast Beef sandwiches. As I got stronger, I went to chicken fajitas and steak sandwiches and everything else my family was raised on. Naturally, I had recovered, but I still wasn't feeling any better. I couldn't run for a mile without getting winded or tired, I was falling asleep in class, I couldn't write papers for more than 20 minutes without feeling exhausted. My stomach constantly hurt and my migraines (I am a genetic sufferer and get them very frequently) got progressively worse, until I was taking my medication like a vitamin.

 As I spiraled downwards and began to feel ill again, my boyfriend (Andy) decided to go Vegetarian. For him, it was a natural progression towards being more eco-friendly and nutritionally stronger. I'm ashamed to admit I gave him a lot of grief for that decision, and everyone around us seemed to agree that "real" men eat meat. He never caved and never gave up, and when we moved to Italy together, I started to eat Vegetarian with him, since he does most of the cooking. Eventually, I realized that I was feeling much better - my headaches were getting less severe and fewer, and my stomach was tolerating food for the first time in years. I was walking up in the morning and feeling alert. (It certainly helped that produce in Italy is cheaper and held to more strict regulations than in the States. We were buying fresh vegetables and fruits every day!) I added more water to my diet, and Andy was making me load up on a 100% vegetable chili almost every day.

 But, when we moved back to the States, I fell back into a dangerous Vegetarian diet - all carbs and no greenery anywhere to be seen. I was working nights and Andy worked during the day, so he wasn't cooking nearly as often, and so, on my own, I went back to pastas and mac and cheese and quesadillas. And, I went back to not feeling well and daily migraines. Slow though I am, I eventually connected this to my diet. I told Andy I wanted to try Vegan, and he was 100% supportive of the idea. It was a difficult transition, and my Italian family didn't make it easy all the time. But, eventually, they took it in stride. I struggled and had the occasional relapse, and tried to secretly eat mac and cheese. I missed my cheese so much!

We had to try and re-inspire me to remember why I was doing this in the first place. It was around October, and there was a Vegan festival coming up in our city. We decided to go with a friend, who was already Vegan. The place was absurdly packed, and there was free food and vegan stuff you could buy, and I remember being awestruck that there were this many people who were veggie or vegan and sticking to it. Then, I found a table at the fair selling Vegan Mac and Cheese! They let me try it and while it was no Annie's White Cheddar, it was delicious anyway! I bought around 20 boxes and went home very happy. After that, while I still miss it, I didn't need it. It's been about 4 years of being veggie now, and I admit, I do still cave on dairy infrequently. I try to be smart if I'm going to cave, and buy from organic farmers who take good care of their animals. But normally, I'm down with Daiya shreds and Road's End Mac and Cheese - and I'm a lot better about getting my veggies and fruits in!

 Andy and I started this blog to catalog some of our cooking adventures, and to have a place to inspire us to eat and cook better. For the most part, it really has helped - we are constantly thinking of new things to try (and I am not always gracious on this - it almost took a food fight to get me to try that Jamaican rice with bananas in it!) and testing new flavours and cooking ideas. I've veganised a few of my Nanu's Italian recipes, including her favourite Gnocchi, and my grandfather's sister's infamous biscotti. I even got the police officers I (used to) work with addicted to Vegan baked goods (I was getting soy protein in their diets very sneakily!).

 I love looking through this blog and seeing what we've done, and some of the more terrible photos! The earliest ones really make me laugh. But overall, I'm happy that we can share it with others - some of you trying vegan for the first time, and others more experienced that us.

 Keep in touch, and stay healthy!!

Peace and love,
Ashley




Andy

Similar to Ashley, I grew up in an Italian-American home as well.  However, my father spent the first part of his childhood in Abruzzi, Italy before moving to the Boston region.  My mother, a Franco-Portuguese woman from the old industrial city of Fall River, is a distant relative of Jack Kerouac and is a cook in a rehabilitation hospital in the city I grew up in.  My fondest memories involve food, gardening, and wine, so in retrospect it is no surprise that this, my home-brewing, and my garden have become an outlet for my creative tendencies.

Growing up, I spent most of my time at my grandfather's, a man who did not speak much English at all, forcing me to at the very least understand the beautiful Abruzzese dialect enough to listen when he spoke.  Summers were spent lounging in his gigantic garden, burying myself in the thick branches of his peach and apple trees, and picking grapes from the vines that dangled over the driveway as Bocelli emoted from the old stereo in the garage.  My grandfather would rotate between a slow, methodical inspection of the garden for bugs and weeds and sipping his homemade wine.  Once three o'clock arrived, preparations for dinner began, and I would watch, completely absorbed, as my grandfather made himself a fabulous meal.  This was one of the only times he would really speak to me-- not as a child, but as a boy-- a young man.  He would instruct me in his cooking procedures, teaching me important lessons about the necessity of fresh ingredients and the ways meals were made 'back home', di Lanciano.

When my parents arrived at dark to bring me home, my mother would later tell me that it took days for the smell of garlic to leave my hair.  It was during this time that I learned the basics in wine-making.  I was only seven or so when he first gave me a sip of wine-- a homemade concoction of grapes bought in Federal Hill, a (likely) semi-dry red wine that I had expected to taste like juice and was terribly disappointed.  His basement was littered with jugs filled with wine, his press, an old cast-iron oven, all of which were eventually sold or tossed away when he moved out, except for the press-- before I was old enough to appreciate the value of these items.

In high school, I was socially conscious about meat-eating.  I still did it, but my logical response was that it was already dead, and it was more ethical to have had it die with reason than to be tossed out into the trash.  My own health concerns did not bother me at the time-- I was an athlete, so what did I have to worry about?  I did, however, attempt a few times to go without eating meat-- they did not last long.  Unable to accept the discerning looks from my father, and without any evidence to back up the safety of my intentions, I was unable to go more than a day without eating meat without my parents knowing it.

It was during high school that I also found out about my own health concerns-- the first being a heart murmur, the second being a Tarsal Coalition in my foot/ankle. The first did not bother me at all, it was relatively minor and my doctor had seemed unconcerned-- his only suggestion was to continue to exercise and report if I had extended periods of an irregular heartbeat.  The second, however, had bothered me my entire life, although my parents had thought I was just being a baby.  After playing sports, my ankles commonly stiffen up, sending pain through my feet, ankles, and quads.  Walking becomes a challenge, and sitting cross-legged can often have the same effect.

Finally, after breaking my ankle my freshman year of high school, X-rays showed that I had a rare Tarsal Coalition in my ankle.  My doctor suggested that I either have surgery and have bolts put in my ankles to further limit the motion left and right that my feet have or to try having the ankles 'reset' by wearing a cast for six months.  I went with the cast, as I had never been knocked out for surgery, and definitely did not want something metal in my body for the rest of my life.  I also like the (very limited) motion I still have in my ankles, even if it does cause pain.  He cautioned me that the cast option was less than 50% in curing the issue (and it ultimately did not), and that without the surgery done before I was 21, it was improbable to be able to go back and have it done as an adult.  He also cautioned me that without regular strength-training as I got older that it was likely to worsen to the point of having to use a cane in my mid-twenties, and that old age would likely not be kind to me.  As of this writing, I am 24, still have pain, but the same mobility of my ankles, and I still would not give up the mobility for a decrease in pain.  While the pain has gotten worse, I have found that intense, regular exercise relieves roughly half of the pain, and similar to people with old injuries, my ankles swell up during times of cool, damp weather.  Hopefully in retirement I'll be living somewhere warm, where cool, damp weather does not exist!

Anyways, I left for college, graduated in three years with a degree in English and Secondary Education, during which time I was able to transform my diet from omnivorous to vegetarian.  With limited opportunity to control my meals, this transition was hard to make while eating healthy, which caused a bit of weight gain (on top, of course, the freshman 15), further causing pain on my ankles and setting off my murmur (or so I believe-- whether it was the stress from the weight gain or the gain itself, I'm not actually sure).  Paired with the fact that I was not exercising regularly, I was in a bit of bad shape.  Upon traveling to Italy, I was able to make fresh meals daily (and cheaply, as they subsidize green products instead of corn as we do in the US), which led to my body feeling healthier and, conversely, better.

Upon returning to the US, I moved off-campus so I would be able to control my diet and have some freedom from the chaos that is dorm life.  After I graduated, I spent a year and a half working in real-estate law, returned to graduate school, and received an MA in English with a focus on Multi-ethnic and Post-colonial Literature.  I adjunct occasionally at local schools and teach at a night school in the area I grew up, working mostly with returning students that have either been incarcerated, part of gangs, or have had children at a young age.  I also work during the day with students that are not college-bound in order to find a career for them after high school.  We have two cats, a beautiful garden, and a comfortable life-- so how could I complain?

2 comments:

  1. Wow, hearing that you have issue with your migraines rang home to me. I have been a suffer for years and just since January this year, I became vegan. I can't recall my last migraine and I use to get them every few days, I was on meds which I will admit, I have not reordered since feeling great. I so believe in this diet, I still crave my cheese and will admit this summer bbq season will be a test, but I am feeling so amazing and do not plan on going back. Thanks so much for your blog, it's very inspiring. Tanya Brown

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    1. Hi Tanya,

      Thanks for stopping by and checking us out! Yes, I've heard that for many chronic migraine sufferers, a vegan diet removes most food triggers. I'm so glad to hear that this has been helpful for you, too! Stay strong this summer (you can always sub in some store-bought faux-meats and dairies)!

      Peace and love,
      Ashley

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