BY JULIE SEYLER
Around April 2012, I was having dinner with a friend at a Thai restaurant, and was pretty excited about ordering some Chicken Pad Thai, you know those yummy rice noodles laced with chicken, a little egg and some peanuts. I asked her what she was having. She has some food quirks and rules, but was never averse to meat. This time though, instead of a beef or chicken curry, she went with something vegetarian. And as she was telling me what she was ordering, I can only describe the look she gave me as enigmatic – basically begging me to ask what was up.
“You’re off meat these days?” I asked.
“Well, I’m reading this book, and if you read it you’d be off it also.”
“Please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I have enough concerns. I don’t want to take on the animals!”
“I won’t,” she said.
And with that, I ordered my Chicken Pad Thai, and asked her, “So what else is new?” But of course, the pink elephant was on the table. And as much as my sensible inner voice screamed, “Don’t ask!” my curiosity of the secret knowledge that my girlfriend possessed was 10 times greater, and before that plate of sauteed chicken with slithering noodles was placed in front of me, I had to ask, “OK. OK. Tell me about the book.”
She was in the middle of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals.” She regaled me with how the chicken industry treats chickens – how they fatten them up with steroids, and stuff them into 2″x4” windowless cages.
“But what about kosher chickens?”
Then she went onto the pigs and the cows, and by the time the Chicken Pad Thai arrived, I couldn’t eat. The dish of anticipation had degenerated into a dish of mistreated baby chicks that were being brutally harmed by the industrial complex of poultry farmers. All they cared about was a profit, not chicken humanity. So began the search for poultry and meat that could be certified as environmentally correct. Who knows? It eases my conscience to shop at Whole Foods for #3 chicken.
Also, I am not that big a meat eater to begin with, so this knowledge wasn’t going to affect my diet so much.
But then I had my physical. My blood glucose reading was 100. The doctor explained, while it does indicate pre-diabetes, it is merely a warning sign, and was definitely not a fait accompli. But not for me. I collapsed it into an immediate diagnosis of diabetes. It only made sense to assume the worse, because why be positive when you must take into account the truth of the negative.
And I knew the culprit: Pasta. I ate it for breakfast. I ate it for lunch. I ate it for dinner. And in between, I ate French bread and challah rolls. I loved white wheat!!!! And white wheat = sugar.
I went to a dietician who told me I had to write down everything I ate. She analyzed every morsel that went into my mouth. I stopped juicing oranges because that added to the carb count. I became a devotee of whole wheat English muffins topped only with goat cheese, because hard cheese has too much fat. I was diligent about beans and fastidious about oatmeal.
And about this time I had lured Lois into making chicken baked with steel cut oats. It tasted like chicken with oatmeal and was basically awful – although it looked very pretty:
In the end, I overdosed on the diabetes diet. But I did lose weight. This was good, but it was also bad, because I also lost my passion for food. Learning the details of a pig sty at the same time that I found out that I might develop diabetes, and having to give away the thousands of boxes of my favorite brand of spaghetti, simply killed all my interest in eating. My quest for morally healthy food that would comply with a pre-diabetes diet just yielded meal-time dread. The lust that might occasionally arise at the thought for a luscious meat lasagna was promptly replaced with visions of badly treated cows and glucose levels off the charts.
Tons of garlic, red ripe tomatoes and basil cannot mask the lingering brown fiber taste of whole wheat pasta. Even fish, a heart healthy choice with zero carbs, is fraught with issues. The wild salmon and tuna populations have been decimated by overfishing. Therefore, before I can even consider buying fish, I must research whether the species is sustainable.
Who knew that ingesting food could be so complicated and worrisome? Of course, worry in itself elevates blood glucose levels, as does lack of sleep. Don’t get me started on that topic!