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I interrupt my food dehydrator love fest to bring you a report from my dental odyssey. Instead of the gorey details or the latest scientific debate on what the best procedures are, I’d like to share something that came to me almost a month ago, as I was walking with Romeo and mulling over the dire situation the first dentist I went to see had described. According to his assessment, the tooth that had sent me to get it checked would require removal by an oral surgeon. And that was just the beginning. It was easy to be overwhelmed and frightened.  Instead, however, as I wandered over old sidewalks and under old trees, I started to see the roots of this seemingly doomed tooth filled with tiny dots of sparkling colored light healing all the decay and bacteria. It was so pretty that I couldn’t stop watching. I began to replay this image over and over in my head. It was comforting amidst all the serious decisions before me.

Added to that came the image of being able once again to bite into a whole carrot on that tooth. And see it wearing a shining crown. These were so funny to me that I laughed each time I thought of them. All I had to say to myself was “carrot” and “crown” and I started to giggle. I decided such playfulness could  only help the situation. There’s been many times in my life when simply being able to visualize a positive outcome, usually in some shorthand of playful imagery, and repeat it to myself, has seemed to turn things around. For instance, long ago in a Spring when my son was just three and my husband and I were separating. I was scheduled to be observed while teaching by someone who had a reputation for being really nice during and after the observation, then writing up a terrible evaluation. There was no way around this, everyone who had been observed by her had claimed. I was not scheduled to be observed until nearly the end of the quarter. The way I saw it was that if I chose to dwell on this I would simply be unable to function at all, let alone teach the classes I needed to teach and figure out life on my own. So each time I thought of being observed by this person, I saw it coming out positively, beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. People’s mouths open in shock that I had indeed gotten a fair and positive evaluation. Whenever it came up in my mind, or I heard someone say something terrible about my evaluator, I just went right to my positive image. A couple of weeks before I was to be observed, this person gave me a call. “Maria,” she said, “I know I’m scheduled to come and see you soon, but I’m sorry to say I have to be away then. You’re such an experienced teacher, would you mind if we just skipped it?” And that was that.

Sometimes it can seem daunting to try to think in positive images. Our minds can get all tangled up in whether we are doing it right or what to pick. The way it works for me is not to think too much about it, but notice the details I come across that, as Joan Didion once wrote, “shimmer around the edges.” For instance, in my reading about tooth health on the internet, I came across a statement that asserted teeth are going through a constant demineralization and remineralization process via our saliva. For some reason that image “shimmered” for me. I loved it. A tidal pattern in my very own mouth! I’m sure that attraction, along with my love of gemstones and crystals, contributed to the image of my happy tooth that seemed to come from nowhere.

Secondly, I try to be playful. I try to be willing to take my imagination in the opposite direction of what a forceful opinion from the experts is maintaining, especially if it is full of doom and gloom. The image of me biting down on a carrot in the face of the first dentist’s statement that my tooth was a time bomb made me feel I had the temerity to be a David in the face of a Goliath. And it was so crazy it made me laugh. For me, that’s always a good sign an image is a keeper.

Another image I realized I had in my head was an appointment with my old dentist, probably about 5 years ago. In it I felt comfortable sitting in the dentist chair as we talked about how to take care of my teeth, and laughed about a broken tooth that was giving me absolutely no problem. After a while I realized that image was perhaps suggesting to me that I ought to go back and talk to him again, get a second opinion. The only reason I had ended up at this new dentist was that he was closer. I could walk to his office and not have to ask anyone for a ride. And he had a reputation for being the most “wholistic” dentist in town, which I had (wrongly) assumed meant less intervention, not more.

So I went back to my old dentist and got my second opinion from him. He indicated there was a chance we could save my tooth. And I continued to visualize the colors sparkling in the roots. And chomping on a carrot. And getting “crowned.” The night before the appointment when we would take a look and know one way or the other how to proceed, I decided it couldn’t hurt to externalize this image that was playing in my head every day. So I drew it on my chalkboard in a playful way, which you see at the top of this post. I started out writing the word “chomp” to go with the carrot, and as I did that, I realized it contained the sacred sound “OM.” So I made that bigger in the middle of the word. And I giggled the whole time I drew.

The next day as a friend drove me to my appointment, we ended up laughing about it from yet another angle. I had said something like “I just want to give this tooth a chance” which always made me giggle when i said it,  and then my friend responded by saying “You sound like the song–’all we are saying, is give peace a chance” only you want to give your tooth  a chance–in a peaceful way.” So I went into the office with a smile from that image, too.  In the chair with my former dentist presiding, a better than anticipated scenario played out. It turns out things are in better shape than even he anticipated, good enough to do the work we needed to do in a more permanent way than he had initially suggested. I can keep my tooth for now, and with any luck and some good care, for a long long while.

This is not to say that I did not have apprehensive or nervous thoughts during this process. Like the weather, these thought and feelings must be allowed to present, and then to pass. What I try not to do is fall so far into them that I believe they are the only reality possible. That just plain isn’t true, and it’s best for me to remind myself of that. We live in a world of contrasts and counterbalances. And just because I have a worry it does not mean that I must feed that worry to the exclusion of all else. Positive visualization can be as simple as the process I describe in my post Better Than It Was. All that’s necessary is to say, “maybe I will–maybe I won’t–but maybe I will.”

In the weeks while I waited for the right course of action to become clear to me, I began to take extra careful care of my teeth. Much to my amusement, this included falling in love with the water pik. I’ve traditionally avoided such high tech approaches because all the buzzing usually really bothers my nerves. My surprise at how much I loved it made me feel like a monk who comes out of a cave and discovers she loves to play games on her smart phone. This made me laugh all the more. It also included eating the simplest of simple whole foods, low acid if possible, and making sure to have natural antibiotic and detox aids like fresh grated garlic and nori at my meals. Even without freely chomping on a whole carrot, there’s plenty of whole food goodness to be had.

These potatoes aren’t particularly lovely to look at like Susan’s Waffle Iron Hash Browns are, but they are nutritious, easy to chew and delicious  They are good “plain” or with salsa or ketchup, but I was trying avoid those sugary salty processed things because they are by nature highly acidic. So instead I piled them up with garlic, a bit of  mashed avocado, some nori and any other veggies I had on hand. One night it was steamed chard and corn kernels from the CSA.  The version you see here is piled with easy healthy spinach pesto, nori, black beans and tomatoes.  So here’s the recipe, so to speak. It’s really more of a strategy. The way to cook the hash browns is straight from Mary McDougall. I’ll include the strategy for the pesto, too.

 

 

 

I know Dr. McDougall always says “It’s the Food”–and it IS the food. But it’s also how I see my situation, and how I use my imagination to help me clarify what I believe is happening, what can happen, and how to best help it happen. A little positive thinking never hurts. And the food helps the brain be in the position to find those positive thoughts and images and stick with them. They “crown”  each other, part of the same continuum toward greater wholeness and healing. That’s how I give my teeth–and my peace of mind–a chance. ChOMp. ChOMp.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

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I’ve always been somewhat taken with the general project of vegan transformations of standard American favorites. It’s just plain fun to make chips out of kale, mayonnaise out of tofu, or, if you’re ingenious like Susan is, chocolate cake with beets.  I rarely want to actually make these things (too lazy), but I love seeing the recipes and the pictures others have taken of their creative efforts. Sometimes, however, as you know, I can’t resist. Go, Carrot Dog, Go! is a perfect example of one of those times. And I guess this post is another.

In my post about the return of the sandwich, i think I mentioned that my Uncle Tom was famous for making a sandwich out of anything. Perhaps it runs in the family, because now that I can have my homemade sourdough spelt bread, I am coming up with combinations for fillings that I’d never have put in a sandwich  when I was eating them all the time.

But times change. Most eggplant bacon recipes out there are designed for those who would like to create a facsimile of the classic BLT. That sounded pretty good to me too.  In turn, it made me remember my uncle and my mother thought peanut butter and bacon were a good match in a sandwich. So I decided I’d make some eggplant “bacon” to go in my own lower fat version, with just a tad of peanut butter and some sweet potato spread across one of the slices of bread and whatever else felt like it would “go” (summer squash and tomato slices, for instance).  One early August evening when I was first trying the marinade for this recipe we had a devil of a windstorm here that lasted all of 20 minutes. As a result, the power was out for 5 hours. There sat my eggplant bacon with no juice to the dehydrator. Since there was no way to finish it and no way to cook dinner,  I sat with the front door open in the gathering dark and quiet and ate a sandwich made of peanut butter, banana and sweet potato. I wondered what my uncle would have thought of that combination. It  was a great comfort of a sandwich, though, along with some kale chips I had made the day before, as I went through the first power outage in my new neighborhood.

However, even though I love to stick these in a sandwich, I stop short of calling this Eggplant Bacon. First of all, I don’t have a mandolin that would achieve the long thin slices from a large eggplant. Secondly, I never really loved bacon, even back when I did eat meat. And I’m not a huge fan of liquid smoke. So I made a simple marinade that approximates a bacon flavor without too much smokiness. If you like the liquid smoke by all means add it in. But if you don’t have any or would rather pass, this marinade is good without it. And these smaller chips, made with very thinly hand  cut slices of long thin eggplants, like Japanese or Italian ones, also can be munched on like, well, chips. You can crumble them onto other things like salads or stir fries, too, but oddly, they are best in a sandwich or just by themselves. At least that’s how I like them best. Here’s an example of what I mean:

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The eggplant “chips” in this sandwich were made with a larger eggplant, but I’ve had the most successful “bacon” texture when I made smaller chips with this kind of eggplant:

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The only difference is I needed more of them to make a layer in the sandwich, but they worked fine, and did not become too tough or chewy when moistened by lettuce, tomato, mashed red lentils, sweet potato, or that little dab of peanut butter.

There are a gazillion different recipes for bacon-style eggplant out there, and many have more adventurous ingredients than mine. So surf around and see what you like. In my own surfing I discovered the happy raw kitchen’s summary  of her own eggplant bacon surfing, which I found very useful.  I learned its pretty much essential to have a little fat in your recipe to help the eggplant crisp up. So I allowed a little peanut butter into my marinade and it did the trick. Before that I had trouble getting them to crisp. It doesn’t take much, you could probably get away with a 1/2 teaspoon, but it does seem true that you need just a little fat. It’s copy-cat bacon after all.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

{ 4 comments }

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