Food Glorious Food: making the most of my loss

18 Aug
Food Glorious Food! Photo by Jess B.

Food Glorious Food! Photo by Jess B.

I am pleased to report that the waves of treacle have subsided slightly and I am feeling better than I was earlier in the week. THANK GOD. Not quite back to my ‘usual’ level of pain and fatigue but slowly getting there. I plan on doing a post about what caused this latest flare of little miss ME/CFS (other than the fact that she’s just plain mean) when I thought I’d done everything right to prevent precisely that kind of post-holiday flare but for now I thought I’d distract myself by posting about something I love.

One of the hardest things about having ME/CFS, okay perhaps not one of the HARDEST, but certainly a hard thing for me, is not having the energy to cook. I really miss not being able to cook, bake and basically play in the kitchen.

I LOVE food. And when I say LOVE, I really mean LOVE! If I had to choose between Mr B and food….arrgh it’s like Sophie’s Choice! (Of course I’d choose you honey 😉 )

Just a few food mags from my vast collection! Photo by Jess B.

Just a few food mags from my vast collection! Photo by Jess B.

Even though I can’t cook much thanks to ME/CFS, that doesn’t stop me from indulging my passion for it in other ways. My coffee table is overflowing with well-thumbed foodie mags and the majority of books on our bookshelves, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, are recipe books. And then there’s food blogs…oh my, what a wonderful world the internet is. Literally I can be lost for hours perusing latest posts (here are some of my current faves – Oh She Glows, Veg Hot Pot, The Intolerant Gourmet.) Isn’t it lucky than I have hours to spend on such a low energy activity. Maybe the world is nice after all.

What I think Mr B and Dad hear us chatting about! Photo source Morgue File User HotBlack

What I think Mr B and Dad hear us chatting about! Photo source Morgue File User HotBlack

If I’m not reading about food then there’s a good bet I’ll be watching a cooking show on TV or chatting with my Mum or sister about it.

My family are visiting this weekend and I suggested that as my ‘activity’ for the weekend we take a trip en famille to Whole Foods so I can stock up on all the health foods that ME/CFS dictates I eat. I asked my sister if she minded if that was how we spent some of her last weekend in the UK until Xmas (she flies back to Philadelphia on Tuesday, don’t get me started sobbing about that…), Lou’s reply was, ‘it’s a supermarket, full of food, of course I want to go, I love supermarkets!’ We are from the same Mother after all! I think my poor Dad and Mr B may wish we’d just shut up a lot of the time (tho that may not just be down to the topic of our conversation…)

Food is in my blood. My Mum loves food and is a wonderful cook. In her 20s she became a ‘brown rice lentil raving veggie’ (my Dad’s words not mine as that description could apply to me too) and has never lost her love of pulses, beans and legumes.  We were brought up on good whole grain, home made, healthy food. Oh and a good dose of homemade cake too! Though we did eat meat we still ate some veggie meals. Mum had to let her veggie side go when she met my Dad in her early 30s, he believed that if he didn’t eat meat 3 times a day he’d die (or something to that effect!).

Mum’s Mum (known as Nanny Jess) was also a wonderful traditional cook and served as a cook in the armed forces during WW2. I remember leafing through Nan’s recipe books from back then, how to make chicken soup for 500 men and the like! I have many happy foodie memories of my dear Nan’s cooking from mini apple and blackberry pies with fruit fresh from the garden or Grandad’s allotment that she baked just for me, salads with orange slices and hard boiled eggs decorating the top, home boiled ham, stewed and jarred plums from Grandad’s orchard, the world’s best home pickled onions and not forgetting Nan’s Christmas pudding and stuffing for the turkey too which are firm family traditions.

So yes, there is food in my blood.

Due to my lack of energy, my profound fatigue and pain on doing too much (like making myself dinner) the practical process of feeding myself is planned and prepared in advance. My Mum is wonder woman, literally. She fed me daily when I was living back at my parents during my illness, catering to my ever varying array of dietary requirements and intolerances. Now I’m back in London and ‘fending for myself’ (if only) Mum is being even more wonderful by donating her precious time to coming down to stay this week with me and Mr B to cook up a storm and fill our freezer with enough Jess friendly meals and snacks to last me 4 weeks or so until her next visit. It’s not like I can live on ‘normal’ ready meals (nor would I want to for that matter, far too processed to be good for us) not least due to cost but also due to wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soya etc etc somehow getting into every and anything processed! At weekends when Mr B is around more, he dons an apron and (under careful supervision from me!) whips up a storm. We’re big fans of simple clean foods such as prawn stir fries, poached chicken or baked salmon, all of which Mr B is becoming quite the master of (or will do in the coming months now I’m back in London!)

A little too complicated for my low energy cooking. But doesn't it look gorgeous?! Photo by Jess B.

A little too complicated for my low energy cooking. But doesn’t it look gorgeous?! Photo by Jess B.

I mourn my loss of actually being able to cook but try to make the best of what I can do. On better energy ME/CFS days I will use my main activity slot in the afternoon to make an easy quick recipe. Okay so I can’t embark on making a 4 course gourmet dinner or a giant 4 layer chiffon sponge  cake, but I can do small 20 minute activity sessions in my kitchen. These are fun times for me both in the making and of course the subsequent eating! I make things such as my pineapple baked oatmeal recipe or a simple recipe like this from Oh She Glows for frozen chocolate banana bites or I’ll prepare a simple marinade for dinner. Anything that isn’t too labour intensive or time consuming.

Often I have a companion in the kitchen to do the ‘heavy lifting’, stirring you know, the really hard stuff…or I let machines do the work for me. I love my mini chopper and  grinder. No aching arms from long chopping sessions here!  If I can I’ll sit on one of our breakfast bar stools whilst cooking so as to lesson the impact on my achy legs. I never wash or even tidy up in the same ‘activity’ slot. I don’t even load the dishwasher at the same time. Yes it’s frustrating and hard for a ‘now now now’ person like me, but if these adjustments mean I can indulge my passion every so often then that’s good enough for me for now. It’s not about depriving myself of the activity I love it’s about making it work in an altered way so my body can cope with it.

Cooking is not the only thing I miss of course. There are more serious and also some trivial things that I greatly miss too. But that’s for another post.

What do you mourn the loss of? Have you had to give something up that you love due to ME/CFS? Has chronic illness changed the way you do something you love?


8 Responses to “Food Glorious Food: making the most of my loss”

  1. heila2013 August 18, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    I’m soooo happy for you that you are feeling better!
    I love food too but I hate cooking! I think in my next life I’ll have to marry several men, one of them being a 24/7 chef! 🙂

    • myjourneythrume August 20, 2013 at 9:02 am #

      Thank you! Slowly getting there. In a way I wish my other half enjoyed cooking more but then again then we’d probably end up fighting over what/how to cook whereas now he takes instruction from me very well! Everything happens for a reason!

  2. currankentucky August 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I love my food too but like you my meals are now planned ahead, and are mainly omlettes, baked fish or stir frys, anything I can make easily. As for my kitchen after cooking, its a mess! But sitting eating is more enjoyable than pushing to clean up directly after cooking! I miss being spontaneous, being able to just do something, hell, I know how many steps I have between my bed and toilet, between the fridge and table, between my couch and kitchen. I miss working and earning money, I miss running, racing, challenging myself, I miss reading, sooooo much. I miss going out for a night, I miss loads and loads and loads but in the cauldron of all that’s missing I’m happy. I can’t explain it, and today is not a day for trying as my brain is just about turning! I’m a more grateful person now than I ever was, and I like to also think I’m more compassionate and of course I LOVE my friends and family and appreciate them more than ever before.

    • myjourneythrume August 20, 2013 at 9:00 am #

      I’m exactly the same altho I miss so much I am still happy. That is a healthy place to be I think (now if only our bodies would get on board the healthy wagon we’d be onto a winner!) I hope you have a better brain day today 🙂

  3. Laurie @ Whisking & Writing August 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    My thoughts are with you in your struggles. I do want to say I wholeheartedly agree with one thing: “Food is in my blood.” (Well, I agree with a lot of that, but that in particular.)

  4. E. Milo August 20, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    It’s my blog’s one year anniversary and I just wanted to thank you from the deep depths of my weakly galloping heart for reading and giving me support this past year. It means so much and, even though I am still anxious about the messages/comments I didn’t have the energy to answer, please know I think about you all the time and send good vibes towards all my online friends during my daily meditations. Hoping you’re having an ok day. Elizabeth x

    • myjourneythrume August 20, 2013 at 8:58 am #

      Huge congrats on reaching your one year anniversary with your blog. That is a great achievement for anyone but especially for those of us dealing with chronic illness and fluctuating/missing energy. I love reading your blog and as much as I wish you weren’t suffering it is nice to know that I am not alone and that there are others like you out there who understand exactly what I’m going through. I know exactly what you mean about anxiety about replying to comments. Me too. I’m better than I was but it still eats away at me if I don’t reply fairly promptly. Stupid really cos other chronically ill bloggers presumably totally understand that we are not always well enough to reply. I’m so happy to be counted as one of your online friends, you are definitely one of mine. Have the best day you possibly can, Jess x

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