ColumnYou’re nothing til you’re nothing.
I once dated a bright man who remarked that after years and years of girlfriends, he had simply come to accept the fact that every woman, no matter how sane and healthy she might appear to be, has at least one serious food “thing.” One girl might avoid carbs. Another won’t touch meat. Another has the issue with the legumes. So when I told him I don’t “do” grains, he was utterly unfazed. He’d long since been hazed by healthy. “I’m starting to think women can’t actually be anything like we expect them to be if they just ate like guys,” he said. Like I said: Bright.
I was reminded of this the other day when I was at a lunch in Sausalito with a writer. She excused herself to use the ladies, so I did what any normal person would do and promptly began listening in on the two women seated next to us. Who wants to be the obnoxious one texting on her iPhone at the table when you can be both retro and rude? Eavesdropping is such a lost art.
They were immersed in a very serious discussion. “So that’s when I realized I really had to give up dairy,” the Marin County Trophy Wife in all her resplendent Lululemon glory said. Blonde but not too blonde, boyish, twin tangelos tacked on her tanned ribcage. You know, tastefully anorexic.
“Of course!” The slightly-less-buffed-and-burnished friend. Oh, who am I kidding: the chubby one. She sallied forth into the good fight: “So do you eat tofu cheese instead?”
“Oh no! Oh absolutely not! I gave up tofu and all soy products this spring. The hormones, you know?”
“Oh, right.” The friend was beginning to understand what she was in for, wearing the resigned expression of having been in for this many times before.
“Yeah, but it’s amazing how wonderful you feel when you eliminate all the toxins from your diet. Obviously I don’t do sugar, flour, grain, alcohol, caffeine, ibuprofen, eggs, fish – the mercury, oh my god – and never meat.”
The usual suspects, I nodded approvingly.
“So you’re vegan but not eating grains? Isn’t that hard to find things to eat then?”
“Oh god, no! There is So. Much. Variety. It’s insane how much. Seriously, if people knew. It’s insane.”
A pause long enough to put a cow down.
“Quinoa!” Tasteful Tangelo sparkled with triumph. “I eat so much quinoa. You know it’s not really a grain – it’s ancient and the Mayans or something ate it. And it’s a complete protein. I eat it all the time. I just never get tired of it!”
“Oh, okay. So, with veggies then. I wish I had your discipline.” This, in a tone of voice that was not in the slightest wishful.
“Well not all veggies. I don’t do the thyroid inhibitors. They’re really terrible for women, actually.”
God how I wanted to ask her about nuts.
“Oh there are so many. Let’s see, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli. Yeah, there are more but those are the main ones. I also avoid mushrooms – I mean they’re a fungus. I’ve read all about it.”
“So…fruit, then?” We actually are running out of foods now.
“Well, sometimes. You have to be extremely careful about fruit. I eat berries, they’re great. The antioxidants, you know? But not other fruit, I mean it’s basically just glorified sugar. And do not get me started on juice.”
The friend stared at her orange juice and pushed her tuna salad around on her plate in despair.
“So…no fruit and no green vegetables, but quinoa.”
“Oh I eat kale! And chard! I love chard! I eat that constantly. Quinoa and kale. I tried it with butternut squash but you know how starchy squashes are, it’s terrible for your colon. I find that eating any squash or starch – or beans or peas, for that matter – impacts my colon so dramatically it completely destroys my colon’s ability to think. You know the colon is our second brain. My third eye was completely shut down when I was doing the butternut. And obviously carrots and yams are out of the question. The phyoestrogens. Avoid white and orange and you’ll add years to your life. It’s really that simple.”
“I’d never thought of it that way.”
“Oh, it is really true. But the biggest change was last month, and I can’t believe I didn’t tell you! Get this. I have been virtually been poisoning myself with nightshades, so I’m off them now. Completely off them. It’s been incredible.”
“You’re off what?”
“I’m off nightshades.”
“Like the nightshades they were scared of in the 1500s nightshades?”
“Exactly. You know, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and a bunch of other plants in that family. Completely toxic. You’ve really got to read up on this. It’s just crazy what people don’t know about the food they’re eating. I mean I’m just amazed that people don’t care. The insanity of that just baffles me.”
The conversation continued on to the acceptable forms of green tea and the benefits of fermenting Chinese herbs and the continuing drama over little Emma’s rebellious insistence on eating apples with almond butter and why it’s critical to take both probiotics and enzymes but I soon lost interest. Clearly, until you’re off all the things, you’re nothing.
There’s veganism because you care. But there’s also veganism because it’s more socially acceptable than cigarettes and coffee.
There’s gluten intolerance, and then there’s just being a glutard.
Local, seasonal, organic, nontoxic, humane: file these under enlightened, empowered, excellent.
Having a “thing”? File that under being a girl in this world.
There’s diet in the name of health, and then there’s diet in the name of anything.
The Insider’s Guide to Life is back from summer hiatus, exploring topics such as media, culture, sex, living, and anything else, including nightshades. Cheers and spellcheck!