Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm Dreaming of a White... Kitchen?!


For any of you who may have been wondering where I have been, allow me to explain. In my last blog post, I announced that I had decided to go the vegan route. In the last few weeks, I have spent more time in my kitchen than I have most of my life. Not that I haven't always been one to devote a lot of time to food prep, it's just that now, I am like a permanent fixture in my small u-shaped temple of nutrition. This is not a complaint. It is just a simple fact. Keeping my fridge full of delicious healthy dips and sauces and quick plant-based snacks is a full time job. I do believe that I am now in a bit of a groove with it and have gotten a few basic recipes down pat that will keep me less chained to the chopping block.

Almond Pesto. Blackened Tomato Cashew Sauce. Walnut Pate. Lemon Guaccamole. Cashew Cheese. These are my five basic vegan staples. They have replaced things like traditional pesto, mayo, cream cheese, cheddar, brie, parmesan and even goat cheese in my diet. With just these five items, I can transport myself to a foodgasm in an instant.  Ridding my diet of dairy has been the biggest challenge. It has also had the most dramatic impact. For almost a year I had been suffering with some strange pain in my achilles and ankles. Whenever I sat for more than a few minutes, upon rising, I would be in enough pain that I had to delicately step around until the stiffness and pain subsided. It was annoying and nothing I did seemed to help. I saw a future of worsening arthritic joints and I was not amused. Well, guess what? It is gone. I would say it is nothing short of a miracle. 

I also used to have to ease into moving my finger joints each day. Upon awakening in the morning, my hands were stiff and I had moderate pain for a few minutes until I got my joints moving. This had been going on much longer than the ankle pain and it is now about 90% gone. I had read time and time again that dairy was inflammatory, but never paid much heed. It took getting to the the stage I was at, to really give dairy the heave ho and I would recommend to any of you out there who have any inflammatory issues to give it a try. What have you got to lose but your pain? 

So that is my health update. There have been challenges. Trips to Melbourne and Brisbane and Bundaberg and restaurant meals that were difficult to navigate. I allowed some fish and the occasional egg dish into my repertoire without any repercussions. I plan to continue this as part of my regimen as it is so, so difficult to find vegan choices in many eateries. Living a plant-based life 90% of the time allows some flexibility in my travels and social life that I consider a necessary compromise. 

But, back to my kitchen. I have seen some of the most spectacular kitchens over the course of my lifetime. Working in design and seeing hundreds of them has been a feast for the eyes. You name it, I have seen it. Every shade of granite and marble, sinks and faucets that cost more than my car, chiseled, hand carved cabinets and imported tiles and custom lighting and appliance garages and walk-in refrigerators with separate wine storage....and yet, I myself have never had a great kitchen. Every house or condo or apartment I have ever had over the course of my lifetime has needed renovating, but I always sold or moved before it ever happened. 

What really irks me about this (first world) problem of mine is that I have known many people with spectacular kitchens that don't cook. In one case, a client had double ovens, an enormous restaurant style gas cooktop and a sub-zero fridge that only ever held wine and leftover take-out from Pusateri's. She did not once use her equipment for cooking. I, on the other hand, cook. I cook a lot. I cook more than the average person. I cook for pleasure and health and necessity. There ain't no Pusateri's here in small town Queensland. If I want great food, there is only one place to get it. Right here in my sad little 80's kitchen. 

It was almost a dealbreaker for me when we were looking for a little house to rent. I mentioned this in a past blog. The house had a lot of other great features like a newly renovated bathroom and a nice little swimming pool, but the kitchen was ghastly. No dishwasher, an apartment sized electric stove, and the most godawful buff coloured cabinets and chipped countertops. The single sink had the original faucet that literally detached while I was running water the first week we lived here and a fountain of water started to spray all over the kitchen. The owners were quick to replace the ancient spout and handles...that's right...HANDLES...hot and cold separate handles. In my quest to find something nice about the space, I noted that the sink faced the garden and I could see the birds and look out while standing at the sink. This is something I have always liked - a window over the sink. I bought my own new fridge and microwave and replaced the fluorescent overhead light fixture with track lighting so I could direct light to the work areas. 

As we don't plan to be here indefinitely, there is not much else I could do. I manage with the stove. I even manage without a dishwasher. But the cabinets and hardware are simply the ugliest colour you could imagine. There was only one solution. Distract with colour. Ignore the colour. Treat it as a neutral. So, I added some shelves, and a valance and objects on top of the cabinets, all in an effort to move one's eye up instead of down at the peachy, buff, band-aid shade of pukey, terra-cotta cupboards - circa 1981 - you have ever seen.

Eighteen months later I have gotten used to this culinary cave of a kitchen. I manage to produce great food despite it's limitations. And isn't that what it is all about anyway? I turn on some music, glance out at the birds from time to time, chop and slice and dice and bake and saute and grill and mix and blend with love and intention and feed myself and loved ones. It really matters not if the cabinets are ugly as long as the food that is produced is beautiful. 

And if karma has anything to do with it, maybe one day I will get what I deserve...a kitchen worthy of my efforts.