Another intention that was set is L doing a lot if not most of the cooking, and my role becoming more of prepping assistant and less of full on culinary executor. Again, I say YES. This is exactly where we should be coming into the last weeks. L and I also checked in on some basics again - it's good to revisit things, and this time I took notes to inspire the directions the menu will take in the next week or so, and also made her a table about all the different dairy-free milk options available and what the best use is for each and advantages/disadvantages when shopping, storing, cooking with, etc.
Monday/day 64, while I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, I left L with instructions on how to make an easy TVP/Marinara pasta (basically, rehydrated TVP, brown rice pasta, sauce, and a veggie mix of onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and a "parmesan" topping that's ground walnuts, nutritional yeast, and sea salt), and when I returned, it was made to specification and super yummy! L was so proud of herself, she called G to tell him she's going to have G and J over for a "vegan dinner" because "I'm a vegan chef!". The heartwarming-ness of this moment defies words.
Tuesday/day 65 we together prepped the gluten-free seitan "cutlets", and she made them for dinner with a baked potato and a side of peas. Wednesday/day 66 L (and I) made a Butternut Squash soup from a new cookbook I'm in love with - Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It's organized in section by each color of the rainbow - i.e. this Butternut Squash Orange Ginger Soup was in the orange section. There really is a science behind what the nutritional component of vegetables are as designated by the color of their outer skin. I'm going to do some more reading up on this and get back to you. But try this soup, it's killer and SUPER easy. Since we had to have 2 oranges for zesting for garnish, I juiced them and used the fresh squeezed O.J. for the soup. We had orange zest, parsley, and scallions/green onions for garnishment.
Butternut Squash Orange Ginger Soup_______________________________
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water, for sauteing
1 large yellow or white onion, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons (18g) minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 1/2 cups (823 ml) vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoon (8 g) finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish
Zest from 2 oranges (about 2 tablespoons [6 g]), for garnish
2 scallions, thinly sliced or finely chopped, for garnish
Add the water to a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion, ginger, and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the orange juice, and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash, potatoes, and stock. Simmer slowly for about 25 minutes or until the squash and potatoes are fork tender. Ladle the contents into a blender and puree or use an immersion blender directly in the pot. Return the pureed soup to the soup pot and reheat over low heat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste, and divide among 4 to 6 bowls. Garnish the individual servings with parsley, orange zest, and scallions, and serve.
From Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, pg. 52
It was scrumptious! Let's look into the Healing with Whole Foods analysis of this soup:
Onion = lowers cholesterol, decreases catarrh (phlegm and inflammation of the nose and throat) [PP, pg. 547]
Ginger = helps break down protein, lessens the effect of uric acid from protein on the body, helps aches/spasms [PP, pg. 210]
Garlic = antibiotic/antiviral/antimicrobial (even inhibits microorganisms associated with degenerative diseases - like Lyme disease, literally), eliminates toxins from the body [PP, pg. 546]
Orange = valuable for inflammatory/highly acidic diseases, the peel has qi-stimulating, digestive, and mucus-resolving properties [PP, pg. 621]
Butternut Squash = influences the spleen-pancreas and stomach, reduces inflammation, improves qi energy circulation, alleviates pain [PP, pg. 549-50]
Yellow Potatoes = tonifies the spleen-pancreas and the qi energy, neutralizes body acids/contributes to increased alkalinity, reduces inflammation, useful in building and maintaining tissues (including nerves) [PP, pg. 544]
Cilantro = cooling in nature, reduces signs of heat [PP, pg. 62]
Parsley = a source of remarkable nutrition (more vitamin C than citrus, one of the higher sources of vitamin A, chlorophyll, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and iron), cuts the effect ofsolanine when served with nightshade vegetables, dries watery mucoid conditions, benefits optic and brain nerves [PP, pg. 548]
Orange (zest) = [see above]
Scallions = has antifungal and antimicrobial effects like garlic (but to a lesser extent), relieves dampness and watery accumulations such as edema [PP, pg. 547]
Now, let's talk about whether this is all "working" or not. L is certainly making process in her rehabilitation process (remember - L's peripheral neuropathy in her hands and feet is debilitating - her hands are "stuck", numb/tingling/burning, as are her feet, therefore she can't walk without braces or a walker and picking things up/grasping/twisting/writing/holding can all be difficult), and here's how we know:
- L's Trager therapist has noticed considerable improvement in her foot tissues. When L first started having Trager therapy, the therapist noted how "locked" her hands and feet were. Now, she says L's appendages are almost completely "unlocked".
- L's acupuncturist has noticed L's gait improvement (as have all her friends and family), and agrees that the lighter braces (that were recently purchased) need to be implemented soon. L has had moments in acupuncture the last few weeks where she can "feel" her lower legs, or at least has an increase in sensational awareness in places that have long been close to, if not completely, numb.
- L's physical therapist is extremely happy about the progress she's making. Week one L was able to step up 2". Now she can step up to 6". She can also now step backwards, side step, etc. Week one L was able to hold a plank position for 5 seconds, and can now go about 10 seconds. The PT has also commented on the increase in her leg strength, ankle strength, and on some sort of 64-point PT scale, L is now at a 57. Not too bad!
- L's mental focus and the "up-ping her fight" that I've mentioned before is definitely getting there. L stated this week that her goals for 2011 include driving and walking without braces/unassisted. I think these goals are entirely within the realm of possibility, and I continue to be a fearless encouraging force, daring her to dream big and get crazy in working hard to that end. There are no "cheats", and she is FINALLY increasing the amount of water she's drinking daily. I was lucky to get 300-400 mL of water in her daily the first two months, and this week she has exceeded 750 mL daily. I'd love to get somewhere in the 1,200-1,400 mL daily range come February.
- L is continuing to go 4 to 7 hours without nerve pain killers regularly (prescribed for every 3 while conscious). L's acupuncturist told her that when her feet "start coming back", there is going to be intense pain. L had her first taste of that pain on Tuesday night, where she described it feeling like she was stepping on nails, the pain was shooting from the bottom-up. As much as I hate to think L is in pain, the fact that the origin of the pain sensation was in her feet and travelling upwards has to be a good sign overall. Especially predicted by the acupuncturist. Yesterday, L opened a ziplock baggie by herself!! This might sound small, but imagine if your hands were numb, and locked in a position where the back and palm of your hand is flat/fingers pulled back and digits curled - how hard would it be to hold a baggie, grasp the small slippery edges, and pry open in a wrist twisting out motion.....you can imagine her delight, and we took a moment to dance around the kitchen, throwing an impromptu ziplock baggie opening party. She did it a couple more times to prove it wasn't a fluke. We high-fived. ;-)
While many of these adjunctive therapies and L's healing process in general started well before I arrived, every single therapist and family member and friend noticing the above differences and therapeutic gains in the last two months is not coincidental. Can it be attributed to nutrition? To up-ping her Lyme fight? To prayer and music and companionship? Or just having someone holding her in unconditional positive regard and devoted to encouragement and keeping her on track? I think the answer is all of the above, and then some. But the food definitely plays a role.
So, it's Thursday and we are re-visiting my movie night sleepover idea. The DVD player and TV have been programmed to communicate with one another (I've been told), so we won't have any reruns of last attempt's technical difficulties, and I'm really excited to watch Food Inc. and talk about it afterwards. I also think I should give V my copy of The China Study. He's an academic, and given how grounded in empirical science and longitudinal statistics it is, I think it would really speak to him and probably offer the best argument for a plant-based (or at least mostly plant-based) diet. We'll see...
Next post I'll talk more about how we're preparing L for the day when I don't reside in her kitchen daily, post some pictures of the most amazing pantry/bulk system ever, and I'll let you know what they thought of Food Inc.
Gearing Up to Let Go,