Once upon a time, the family story went, when I was 3 years old, my parents and grandparent took me out to a meal at a fancy restaurant. It was the very last year of the 50’s, most likely, so “fancy” meant a white tablecloth, real silver, napkins folded in fancy ways and unfolded and placed on your lap by the waiter, and probably a carnation or a candle in the middle of the table if it was dinner, or both. I was placed on a leather-covered booster seat. I do remember the thrill of seeming to be at the same level as the grownups were. The way my Mom told the story went something like this: every time the waiter poured us water, brought us bread and butter, arranged the soup or the salad, I said thank you, eyes wide, so overcome that someone would do all these lovely things just for us. He and the hostess were so taken with what they called my” manners,” that they asked to take me by the hand back to the kitchen, where I thanked the head chef and the cooks for making me my dinner. I don’t remember this. But I do remember my mother’s mixed reaction when she told the story: pride and admiration for her kind and polite little girl in a leg brace, tinged with resentment that this excessive form of gratitude somehow reflected on the embarrassing possibility that people might think I did not get fed properly at home.
My dim memory of this possibility has been strengthened and colored by how many times it was told. But it doesn’t surprise me. I have always enjoyed feeling grateful, simply for its own sake. If I forget to do it, and find myself mired in some other less ”helpful” state of mind, thinking of what I’m grateful for always lifts my mood. In fact it provides a shift in mind AND body consciousness for me, where anything is possible, and I am surrounded by gifts of the moment, large and small. Sort of like Christmas morning.
I admit I’m an easy target when it comes to getting smitten with feeling grateful. I love the little things: like seeing the moon in the daytime, or a joke in an e-mail that makes me laugh out loud while sitting at my desk. Or biting into one of Susan’s Savory Lentil Burgers with all the fixin’s wrapped in a big leaf of Romaine.
Coming to dine at the low fat plant-based table has been a life changer for me. A long, consistent, deep one that’s still in motion. Hence the name of this blog. I had been close to finding it before, without knowing that’s what I should be striving for. In the winter of 2008, I had found the particulars of the Swank Diet for MS on the internet, but was looking for a way to do it vegan, and if possible, oil free. I typed in the words “fat free vegan recipes” in the search function on my browser, as if I were inventing a new combination, completely unaware a whole new world awaited me. My entrance into this world officially began when the search results pulled up Susan’s blog, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. So first and last, I will always be grateful to Susan Voisin, for being the first to open up this world for me in such a vibrant and generous way. Through her blog, I saw it was not just a set of recipes to follow, but a lifestyle of healthy eating and living that I wanted to, and could, embrace.
The blessings that have accumulated from this way of eating are resplendent, on all levels. It has allowed me to clarify my appreciation of so many other things in my life as well, and see how they are all connected. I will be celebrating my gratitude for their particulars here. For instance:
I’ve always enjoyed setting the table, from the time it was a requirement for a Girl Scout Good Housekeeping badge. Such things are very informal these days. My mix and match silverware is in a basket on the counter. My favorite soup and pasta bowls come from the Salvation Army store. But I still put a seasonal tablecloth on the table at the turn of each season, to make the table a kind of altar to the gifts for that particular time of year.
I hope you’ll join me around this virtual table. Mostly it will be informal. We’ll share a cup of tea in my old chipped mug my best friend from high school bought me 20 years ago. How does a quick warm version of Susan’s Hibiscus-Blueberry Cooler sound?
But today is a day of firsts, so we’ll go all out. We’ll use my mother’s silver. In honor of special occasions.
When I came to this way of eating I was twelve years into a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I was born with mild cerebral palsy that affects the right side of my body. I had also acquired the complication of fibromyalgia along the way. I will tell you more about how these histories intertwine, and how the low fat plant-based gluten free and soy free way I now eat has offered significant healing. There will be reflections and stories about “then” and now. Celebrations of the little victories and epiphanies I’ve experienced along the way, and of course, the food I love for tasting so good and having saved my life at the same time. I hope you’ll join me. There’s always room at the table.
Maria (aka Moonwatcher)