Had a bit of a frightening experience on Saturday when I realised that what I'd thought was a urinary tract infection might actually be my body starting to break down its own protein. (Extremely stinky dark-coloured urine with a high concentration of urea. Don't ask me how I know what urea smells like, I'm a chemist by training.) After panicking wildly I realised several important things:
1) that I was in danger of malnutrition - yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but living off nothing but toast & breakfast cereal & occasional pieces of fruit isn't actually that good long-term. I had carbohydrate & some vitamins, but not all of them, and nowhere near enough protein.
2) the reason I was so damn tired and depressed was because I was desperately malnourished.
3) I couldn't face eating because of the nausea - but even if the nausea lifted, I still couldn't face eating because of the total lack of variety in my diet.
4) so not only was I not eating a good combination of things, I wasn't eating enough. (I think I was eating about a third of the amount of food that I normally eat in a day).
5) the nausea and the lack of variety in diet things were a vicious cycle, because I couldn't do anything about the lack of variety in my diet (like stand and cook a proper meal) until I stopped feeling nauseous all the time, and I couldn't stop feeling nauseous until I'd eaten properly.
6) the frustration wasn't doing me any good either.
Something a lot of people don't know about me is that in my second year at college, when my head was in an extremely bad place, I had a borderline eating disorder. I mean, it was depression that caused it, but it could easily have become full-blown anorexia had I not been able to sort it out. Food was my enemy. I wouldn't eat all day to punish myself, and then at nighttime when I was too hungry to sleep, I'd just eat like a can of sweetcorn out of the tin. Then, other times, if I really really hated myself that day - I'd eat expensive ice cream until I was sick. Very, very bad patterns.
I don't remember now how I got out of that behaviour (maybe I lost enough weight to get my self-esteem back, I don't know), but the thing is - 1996 was the last time that food was my enemy. Since then, and especially in recent years, as I've learned about my food intolerances and got myself onto a diet that my body likes, food has been my friend. I fucking love food. Comfort eating to me means good eating - my comfort foods are things like fresh vegetable stir-fries, falafel with pitta bread and salad, veggie sausages in a freshly-baked baguette. When we can afford it, and even when we can't, Richard & I like eating out - maybe up to 4 or 5 times a week.
Suddenly, here I was in 2005 - with food being my enemy again. Is it any wonder I was depressed?
So it became pretty clear that what I needed to do was sort out the damn nausea. The problem was, my usual surefire kill nausea technique - eat ginger nuts until my stomach's settled enough for "proper" food - wasn't going to work, owing to the fact that each ginger nut biscuit contains 1.5g of fat. Yes, I know about peppermint tea - it's wonderful stuff - but it's not solid.
To cut a very long story short, I found a recipe for vegan gingerbread cake that was fairly low-fat to start with, and then I amended it using a banana (bananas can replace eggs or margarine or both). Although making the cake was a bit unpleasant because random food smells in the kitchen made me feel violently ill, the cake itself was enough to overcome them. Once full of cake, I was able to read through my cookery books without (much) retching. And basically, since yesterday, I have been in the kitchen - trying out recipes and cleaning up. Leah Leneman is my new best friend.
I have made: weird kidney bean and rice burgers (a bit too dry, but I know how to fix them next time), potato scones (entirely without fat except whatever's naturally in a potato!), risotto with homemade vegetable stock and peas, baked tofu (although tofu is extremely low fat, not being able to deep-fry it is a problem, because the soggy texture of non-fried tofu makes me nauseous at the best of times - baking it makes it crisp), and low-fat strawberry ice cream, starting with real strawberries and soy milk (not cream). I also have 101 strange new ingredients, like tahini, brown rice miso stock, vegan bouillon, vegetables I would normally turn my nose up at, and vanilla pods - and some new uses for ancient ingredients (apparently adding yeast extract a.k.a. Marmite to tofu can make it taste "meaty"). I need to go to a health-food shop to get gram flour, cornmeal, peppermint sticks, and some other kind of vegan mince, because the Realeat frozen mince is 10% fat when made up; but I'm not sure whether I'm well enough to go out by myself yet. But I probably will be after I've eaten properly for a few more days.
The one thing I'm really looking for at the moment are recipes that don't actually take the entire night to make, because it's all very well me spending 3 hour stretches in the kitchen and coming out with 3 or 4 dishes when they're freezable - but not everything is. (I can actually multi-task fairly well, now - once it would've taken me 3 hours to make a single dish.) One particular recipe in that book said it was quick, but the first step was "Mash a can of chickpeas". Now, chickpeas are really hard - and it took me about 20 minutes to mash them by hand with a fork. I tried using a potato masher, but that wasn't helpful at all - the holes were the wrong size, and the chickpeas got stuck. I think I need to get a full-size food processor, as the hand blender we've got isn't really enough.
I'm still looking for recipes. If you come across any very low-fat vegan or easily-adapted-to-be-vegan recipes, give me a link. They need to be fairly unexciting, as I'm going easy on garlic & chilli for digestive reasons. (Don't just say "search vegan-food.net", I kinda know that already). Don't bother with soup, though - I think I have enough soup recipes now (and I'm bored with soup, having eaten it far too much lately).