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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Getting Old is Actually Kind of Fun?

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Wheat gluten "steaks" simmering in broth.
As I've gotten older, I've decided to do some things differently.  For one thing, we've almost entirely stopped buying meat of any kind and gone almost entirely vegetarian. It means more cooking time, but I find I enjoy cooking.  Who knew meal prep could be this much fun?

People become vegetarians for a lot of reasons.  Some hope to lose weight of to improve their health or live longer.  Others do it because the whole idea of eating living creatures is repugnant to them.  Some do it in order to feel morally superior to others.  Some believe it will help save the planet.

I do it for several reasons, not the least of which is my religion.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve evidently lived on fruits and vegetables.  Later God pitched them out of the garden and said here's some grain (carbohydrates).  Try this.  Then, at the flood He designated clean and unclean beasts and told Noah he could barbecue the extra clean ones during the voyage.  The human lifespan dropped precipitously after that. So I figure it's healthier to eat the plants.

But probably an even bigger reason for it is that I like vegetarian food.  I grew up eating both vegetarian food and meat dishes. My Mom and my Grandmother made wonderful dishes like peanut butter loaf, cottage cheese loaf and vegetarian hot dogs and hamburgers. We mixed it up with the real thing too and for economic reasons, I did eat rather a lot of baloney sandwiches as a kid.

To this day, I'm not terribly fussy to cook for, though as a practicing Adventist, I leave pork and shrimp and stuff like that alone.  If we're visiting or away from home, we eat what we're offered and don't demand others cater to our weird dietary restrictions. We feel that would be rude, but we are up front about being semi-vegetarians.

I'm doing more of the cooking now that I'm semi-retired and only working 12 to 14 hour days and since, I'm cooking, I can exercise my preference for vegetarian food over meat. It's safer, healthier and I like it better. Adventists as a group tend to live longer than other Americans by about 6 to 10 years according to some studies.  I figure it's the lifestyle - a lifestyle that includes an emphasis on vegetarianism and eating a good diet.

Don't get me wrong, I do like pie, especially the fruity ones that aren't too sweet and homemade ice cream is a weakness of mine. And I have to take my Sweet Baboo down for a steak once in a while or she gets cranky, but all in all it wasn't a hard thing for us to do.  We've always eaten lots of vegetables and vegetarian foods, and there are all kinds of vegetarian substitutes for meat.  You can order stuff made from tofu, soybeans, wheat gluten and other plant proteins and many of them like vege-dogs, artificial scallops, bacon and buffalo wings aren't bad. You used to have to buy them from SDA suppliers like your state's Adventist Book Center, but now you can order vege-burger and vege-chicken at Amazon.com

Also, if you don't mind a bit of work, a largely lacto-ovo vegetarian diet can be less expensive than buying steaks, fryers and chops. This week I made some gluten steaks out of wheat and white flour, some chicken seasoning and ten minutes or so of kneading by hand (my KitchenAid Mixer does the lion's share of the initial kneading of the dough).  I'll be posting a recipe soon at my Hubpages site with photographs and directions for making your own wheat gluten.  I'll put up the link here when it's done.

This summer I plan to go to some of those little pick-it-yourself fruit and vegetable farms they have up here in Washington and get some bushels of fruit and veggies to can for the winter.  We have a pressure cooker and I'm going to buy a bunch of those great old-fashioned Mason Jars.  Not only will we have good food prepared by ourselves without a lot of chemical ingredients, but we are also going to have some lovely decorative jars of stuff in our pantry this year if all goes well.  And we should have some very pleasant meals this winter. 

I've discovered that getting old gives you an appreciation for hand-made things, whether food or decorations for your house or even well-made kitchen tools. I'm collecting stuff for my kitchen the way I've been collecting tools for my workshop.

They say that in your 50s and 60s your right brain - the creative half of your mind - begins to grow again for
the first time since you were a teenager.  It's kind of fun. Turns out the tools and telescope parts and all those unpainted toy soldiers I collected all those years may get turned into something after all.

Except for the arthritis, I'm enjoying getting to the age where I'm well-seasoned.  And even the arthritis yields itself to some creative solutions I've been trying out lately. I find I rather like ice packs and hot and cold fomentations to my joints.  And the exploration of herbal remedies has been like a treasure hunt.  That's how I found out that Aloe Vera juice and capsules help my knees work better.

How much fun is that?



- Tom

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