“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The phrase struck home when we were marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday. Vic had just received some bad numbers from his physical exam. His blood pressure and blood sugar were both elevated despite regular exercise, a healthy diet by most standards, and very little excess weight. And we’re 68. So we were thinking about mortality.
He was in the mood to try something drastic rather than go on more medication, so on Ash Wednesday he was already in the middle of a juice fast, glugging down the life-force from pounds and pounds of vegetables and a few fruits every day. Meanwhile, I’d become aware of my own sensitivity to wheat and dairy and we’d already cut back on that, though I usually kept some regular bread around for Vic. So some signs were pointing us toward vegan gluten-free.
The beginning of Lent presented an invitation to conduct a physical and spiritual experiment. Could we bring Vic’s numbers down by subtracting some foods rather than adding medication? Could this practice enhance our spirits as well as our bodies? Oh, and throw in consideration for the earth and the community, too, as well as each other.
Lent seems a time to experiment with being really, really good. It is not so much about giving up as bringing awareness and attention, preparing, making an offering. We are bringing awareness to the food we eat, consecrating it as the sacred gift that it is. We are bringing attention and respect to the sacred gift of our bodies. And we are preparing for the final stage of our life, which will end in our death.
How’s it going?
After less than a week of juicing and then vegan gluten-free, Vic’s blood sugar had dropped 22 points to near normal. No other dramatic physical changes to report–my weight loss continues at the same tortoise pace as before. But the physical experiment seems to be working.
The spiritual challenge is more interesting. Can I, the cook, produce abundance with a much more limited range of ingredients? What about hosting–that is, sharing such abstemious abundance with others?
I don’t like following recipes but I’ve had to look up a few to get started. I won’t even share them with you because I altered them hopelessly even the first time I tried and I can’t remember exactly how. My meals are like snowflakes–no two alike. Taste until it’s good. But here is a site that got me putting together some interesting soups and stews. I tend toward one-dish things.
After 10 days neither of us is missing meat or anything else that we have “given up.” (Did I say we almost never eat soy, either? Because of the estrogens.) We are developing a new respect and gratitude for beans, grains, and veggies upon veggies. I have made a Lenten altar with my St. George icon, saint of the aggressive approach I guess. I offer some food there every day. A bowl of amaranth. The squash for the soup I made yesterday at a friend’s house. A new hummus I figured out myself.
George with weight-loss tortoises and quinoa
The other part of the Lenten offering is sharing with others. The friend, Sarah, had said last Sunday she was too busy to shop for and cook healthy meals so I offered to cook for her. Yesterday I took the ingredients for a roasted squash soup, vegan cornbread, and salad, and we cooked them up in her kitchen. It took a while. Lenten “fast” food isn’t fast.
And it wasn’t for everybody. Her husband praised the soup but he’d prepared a meat dish for himself because he couldn’t imagine a dinner without meat. I was outside my comfort zone trying unfamiliar recipes in someone else’s kitchen. I’m not sure they were up to my usual standards.
But this is less about standards than about trying, about offering and sharing and enjoying. We had a great evening. The gluten-free vegan no-soy Lenten fast is becoming the Lenten feast.