I know eating a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet is serious life-saving business, but I can’t pass up an opportunity to play with my food. In fact, I’d say that’s how I’ve succeeded at eating this way for so long. I play with the colors, the textures, the flavors, the smells, as if my food were a mixed media art project.
Despite my penchant for assemblage, I’m not much of a gadget person. Those of you who read my posts regularly know I don’t have a vitamix, that I hang my clothes on the line, and love the sound of my manual push mower cutting the grass. So it surprised the heck out of me when Susan posted her Zucchini “Noodles” with Peanut Sesame Dressing to find that my curiosity about the device that made those zucchini noodles wouldn’t leave me alone.
Part of the reason I shy away from devices that slice, curl and dice is that I am pretty challenged at times when it comes to eye-hand coordination. I don’t really like the sound of the food processor, either, and whenever I can I avoid it by doing what I call “chopping meditation” at the wooden cutting board my friend Carolyn made for me that extends out from my small kitchen counter. I don’t mind that it takes a few minutes longer. And if I can mash something with a fork instead of listening to the food processor whine and scream, I’ll gladly do so. I’ve been known to make my “banana ice cream” by simply adding a few minutes to thaw time, and smooshing it up with a fork, some vanilla extract, a little almond milk and chopped fresh mint (and sometimes a couple of tablespoons of cooked amaranth). It doesn’t have that machine made soft-serve texture, but it’s still tasty as can be. And I haven’t fried my nervous system with high speed spinning blades.
Nevertheless, one afternoon after my nap (and while I was still in “prone” time on the couch resetting my nervous system’s relationship to my legs), I decided to click on the hyperlink in Susan’s recipe that took me to the Spiralizer on Amazon. I was charmed. No plug in. All hand done. And a crank to turn. Like the food mill I use to make pear sauce from the pears on my tree. And made of the same easy to clean and durable white plastic. Nicest of all for my inner cheapskate, it was $25.25 and qualified for free shipping.
Anything that moves in spirals and circles or makes a spiral or a circle of itself fascinates me. It’s a direction my brain grasps and processes naturally, even after the MS made my linear tracking ability more unreliable. When I think and visualize in circles, I tend to be able to access that wonderful mostly photographic memory I once had, even if some of the “area” of the circle or spiral is seemingly missing. It’s one of the things I love about interpreting astrological birth charts: they are cyclical, and thus, circular. And a circle always leads me back to anything I may have forgotten, and reminds me that everything is indeed connected.
I’d like to say it was love at first arrival, and until I got it out of the box and tried to use it, that’s true. The handle kept falling off, and sadly, I had to pack it back up, and return it in exchange for another one. By the time I got the second one, I realized why trying to work the whole thing seemed counterintuitive to me, not the natural “turn” I had thought it would be: I am left-handed and this spiralizer is designed to turn in harmony with the right handed universe. Because of the mild CP affecting my right side, I am an extremely left-handed person. Trying to orient myself to a right-handed device, can make me feel a bit like Buddy Hackett’s Martian in the old Lays Potato Chip commercial, who resorts to trial and error to figure out where the potato chip “goes.” After staring at it, poking it and wondering: WTF? What is this? A bar? A lever? . . .Ah. . .hah. . .it holds the veggies to the blade. When I had it turned the left-handed way (backwards from its right-handed design), it seemed like a spare part that was there for no reason whatsoever, like an external appendix.
But once I turned it the right-handed way, and happily discovered I could indeed turn the crank with my right hand, and that the strength of my left hand was better used to hold the lever I had discovered was a lever, and apply pressure to move the veggie along through the blade, I had made it to first base in my love affair with the spiralizer.
Just seeing the strands of zucchini and carrot curl their way out of the small noodle blade got me giggling, and reworking that old Police Song “Rehumanize Yourself” into “Respiralize Yourself.” Music to make veggie spirals by. And so, for the next few days, laughing to hear my goofy version of that song in my head, I spiralized zucchini, carrots, red cabbage, cucumber, yukon gold potatoes, an apple, and even the butt end of a butternut squash.
Here is a shot of a salad made with some of the fruits of my spiralizing:
And here is a shot of the “butternut squash noodles,” which went into an impromptu butternut squash noodle soup:
I’d like to say that handling the spiralizer from start to finish was as easy as slurping noodles. But I had come across yet another seemingly intransigent obstacle: the blades, which have to be locked into place for best and safest spiralizing, were refusing to become unlocked. They stuck, making their removal from the shaft perilous at best, and often nearly impossible. As a safety stop gap, I took to bringing the whole thing over to the sink and running water into the cracks to loosen the blade. Meanwhile, despite my exasperation, I began to have the feeling that there was something about the design I might be missing that was adding to this “sticky” stituation (the Martian-potato chip challenge). While resigning myself to yet another one of these “rinsing to loosen” sessions I discovered there is a small very thin rectangular “tooth” at the bottom of each blade that fits into an equally thin notch at the bottom of the shaft. I had missed that this is what actually locks the blades in place. I made sure it was clean, and congratulated myself for my emerging powers of observation. An important piece of the sticking puzzle was now solved. But I still had a feeling there might be more to it.
Whenever I’ve had problems with getting something to “go,” whether is is untangling or taking apart or putting together parts, I always find it helps me solve the msytery by turning whatever I’m working with around or upside down (or even inside out). Perhaps this comes from being a left-handed person having to decode a right-handed world. For me, things often work “right” when they are turned to their mirror opposite (like right handed sewing scissors working better if I turn them “upside down”). Until I was given a pair of left-handed scissors by my grandmother at age 10, I had no idea I was turning scissors upside down to use them.). So after I spiralized my veggies with the spiralizer turned the right handed way, I turned it around so it was “backwards,” and applied pressure with my left hand from that orientation to remove the blade. Sure enough, with my dominant hand in a comfortable position, it clicked out of the slot without the slightest hitch, as if some genius had thought of every detail.
I’m certainly not a genius, but I have to say that sticking with the manual difficulties of figuring this out, and being able to have my hands and brain work together so nicely to figure it out so I can spiralize to my heart’s content is a little victory over MS and CP all its own. There was frustration in this process, and concern that I truly might hurt myself as I casted around for how to make it all work. And patience was required. But unlike in the years before eating this way, I could feel myself sorting out the problems each time I attempted to solve them. I knew I would figure it out if I persisted. I didn’t have to paw at it blindly, while my mind was blank and my body exhausted, only able to make a vague approximation of what might be expected. Instead I could touch, figure, feel, observe, notice, wait, solve. Oh, plants I have eaten for the past 5 years–to you I am forever grateful! You truly are power foods for the brain, as Dr. Barnard says.
I certainly don’t think of myself as a person who needs to find a way to eat more salads. I’ve been happily crunching away for as long as I can remember. But once I mastered the spinning and spiraling of this device, I have been crunching away on even more interesting and innovative salads and concoctions.
In the years I listened to the Police (and saw them twice in concert), I had a shock of yellow hair in my bangs, and a bright fuschia tail down the nape of my neck. I played with my hair and made it look like feathers. Now I’m playing with my food and making cabbage look like lace, carrots look like slinkies, and all of it look like the spinning spirals that are the shape of life itself. Galaxies spinning in space and within our DNA. Poetry in a bowl. So, if you dare, go full circle with your veggies. Re-spiralize yourself. It’s a playful, healthy way to celebrate the shape that connects us all.
Easy No Measure Spiralized Zucchini Snack
1 medium zucchini
fresh lemon juice and zest
Thai sweet red chili sauce
Spiralize your zucchini into a bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice, zest, garlic granules and a squiggle of Thai sweet read chili sauce. Toss. Twirl onto fork. Eat.
Notes: If you don’t have a spiralizer, cut your zucchini into slices on the diagonal, then cut those into matchsticks. Want a more substantial snack? Add a scoop of my mustard seed quinoa.