My name is Elena. I am a Mom living in the foothills of the Berkshires with my partner, Zeke, a renewable/sustainable energies’ engineer, electrician, artist, blacksmith, metal-worker, and general renaissance man. In my “pre-Mom” life, I was an artist (painter) and a designer (women’s fashion), in New York and Los Angeles. I also ran an after-hours’ club, and worked for other artists and with alternative theater groups (designing sets). I spent my free time surfing, hiking, doing yoga and Kung Fu, and dancing. I lived consecutively in New York, Vermont, Spain, Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Maine, New York again, Los Angeles again, California’s Central Coast, and finally have come home to roost back on the East Coast where I was born and raised and wanted to raise my now 6-year-old daughter, Vini, who is a brilliant artist in her own right, believes that she is Frida Kahlo reincarnated, loves cats, and also practices Kung Fu. My “hobbies” have always been an interest in nutrition/cooking and sustainability, and growing my own vegetables and culinary and medicinal herbs, as best I could wherever I happened to be living. However, since Vini’s diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) at age two (just as the three of us were moving across the country from California), my “hobbies” are suddenly turning into a career and another passion.
I have spent the last 4 years researching nutrition for diabetics (and non-diabetics), in order to keep my daughter as healthy as possible until there is a cure (which I am hopeful will be within her [relatively young] lifetime). What I have discovered is that the world of food and nutrition is rife with political issues (like every other world); that what we have been told by mainstream medicine/nutrition “experts” and media is healthy for us is not necessarily so, and often the research supporting much of the mainstream nutrition advice we are given is spotty at best, with many existing conflicts of interest. In other words, the trials and studies that support this research are paid for by corporations that own “big-” or “fast-” food or pharmaceutical companies, or even government agencies, that stand to benefit financially from the outcome of the “research” (Big Food is just as big a lobbying power as Big Pharma, I’ve learned).
A couple of years ago, after being part of the start-up of a small support group for families with T1D kids here in our area, I became more and more aware of how little so many of these parents were being taught about true nutrition. I also started meeting more families with T1D kids who were coming down with celiac and/or Hashimoto’s Disease (they have shared genetic markers with Type 1), and some of these Moms started emailing me asking for recipes and food ideas for their kids that were both gluten free and low in sugar or carbohydrates. I began to think about compiling a blog, but barely had time to brush my teeth, as not only was I dealing with a T1D kid (a full-time job in and of itself), but we were just starting off on our new project (details below), plus I was trying to train a baby-sitter and a school nurse at her pre-school in how to care for Vini.
Around this time, I happened to meet up with an old childhood friend who is a publisher, and he suggested I do a book, and so, now I am writing an “alternative” cookbook for diabetics AND getting this blog together, SLOWLY. I say “alternative,” because it gives nutritional advice that goes against the grain of what the American Diabetic association (ADA) and mainstream nutritionists tell diabetics to eat, though more accurately it would be called a “traditional, nutrient-dense, low-carb” cook book. Something like that. Maybe that will go into the title. I say the book is for diabetics, because in general it will be, but the nutritional advice stands for anyone who is concerned about their health, anyone who is aware of the toxicity of sugar and wants to basically get it out of his or her life and control insulin/bloodsugar levels (I am discovering more websites and blogs every day by other people concerned with these issues). I say SLOWLY, because there are some weeks I get not one minute to even sign onto my email, let alone test recipes or sit down and write, though I am more than half-way finished with the book. I’ve decided to do the blog to maybe start to get some of the info I’ve discovered out there for those parents who keep asking, and anyone else who’s interested. My publisher doesn’t want me to put any of the recipes that will be in the book up on the blog (I may do one or two anyway!), but I have other recipes and ideas, and links too, plus would hope that anyone that might come to like my blog and the things I put up here would buy my book once it’s out even if they did already have half the recipes in it!
So, that aside:the ongoing “life-project:” living here in the hills, growing as much of our own food as we can, starting to cultivate some market crops (medicinal mushrooms among them–Maitake, Reishi, Turkey Tail) and make the property we live on pay for itself in other ways (teaching nutritional/herbal cooking workshops with an herbalist friend [stay posted this fall!], knife-forging and other metal-working workshops), and slowly trying to neutralize our carbon footprint. Zeke is a renewable/sustainable energies genius, so we are bit-by-bit converting our property completely to solar and wind energy (the place we left in the Central Coast of Cali was a wind-and-solar-powered ranch). Of course, everything takes time. For example, Zeke is hand-milling all the lumber to build our inverter shed from dead-standing trees, and trees that fell in a huge ice-storm that hit us the first fall we got here;we are dismantling a large Goshen-stone wall that someone put up about 20 years ago, that cut a big ugly line across the property and made it impossible to walk down from our yard to the field that is slowly becoming our garden, orchard, hoophouse/greenhouse/general growing area. We will use these stones to make the floor of what will be a grape-and-hops-growing “arbor/gazebo” (the grapes and hops are already growing), that will also be an outdoor kitchen for teaching some of the cooking workshops. We are trying to rid the property of myriad non-native decorative invasive plants that the previous owners planted everywhere, and replace them with all edible and medicinal plants, as many native as possible. Zeke has built a kiln that can fire clay to cone 10, and can also be used for metalsmithing. We have terraced and triple-dug the rocky hillside we live on to plant our crops (this year we’re growing lots of herbs, berries [gojis –Lyceum– among them!] and veggies, also oats, barley and seed sunflowers). We’ve harvested all kinds of delicious wild food (massive amounts of garlic ramps!) No animals yet (other than our 2 cats), but eventually we’ll get chickens. Zeke says not until he has time to build a good coop, so we don’t lose too many to predators (I was driving to town yesterday and a big black bear rambled across the road right in front of me. We have one up in the woods that tosses our compost and knocks over our garbage frequently, plus foxes and coyotes). (I used to raise goats, but am done with that kind of intensive animal husbandry for a while. We have enough small local friendly farms where we get great grass-fed meats and fresh raw dairy.) You get the picture:20 projects going at any given time, one by one slowly moving toward fruition.
SO, this blog is about that:our daily adventures (or the daily plodding along, however you look at it) moving toward a sustainable lifestyle, combined with what it is like raising a type 1 diabetic kid. This may sound like two disparate subjects, but really the blog is about the intersection of planetary (and community) health, and individual health, ways to create and sustain an ideal;about how when we damage our bodies, we damage our world, and vice versa.
I am going to put this up in my “about” section on the blog, for now, so anyone out there will have a general idea of where this will eventually be headed (hopefully sooner than later, but I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and even look at the blog in the last week, so who knows…?). I’ll keep trying, get some recipes up, some photos, links, etc. This page will be as constantly evolving as the whole project, so check back to “about” from time to time, as everything may become about something else at any moment!
“…connecting with our experience by meeting it feels better than resisting it by moving away.”
-Pema Chodron, in “Comfortable with Uncertainty”