That is what Ben is saying. "It's the jam," as he shoved a piece of almond-crusted Camembert, topped with not too sweet raspberry jam into his mouth. It was where salty, sweet, and nutty made something magical. Our family had agreed upon this while vacationing in Barcelona earlier that year. It was the jam. And the nuts, and the flour, and the copious amounts of beer, cava, champagne, and wine that became the theme of our travels.
I like to think that it all began somewhere around 2009 after watching Michael Moore's Sicko. I was always interested in politics, but never before had policies seemed so out of touch. In his film, Americans were sick and at a huge disadvantage. They lost their lives, their life savings, their homes, and their insurance all due to illness. I had so many political questions, yet so little knowledge about how the system actually functioned. As a result, that night I decided to major in political science. (Sound heroic music here... someone?) I had to know the ways in which Washington weaved their web, when and where their webs had gotten so tangled, and why healthcare was such a mother flipping mess?!?
But Paleo food! We’re getting there… Two years later, I had received my degree from UC Berkeley (Go Bears!), and that winter we flew to Dublin, Ireland. “We came to eat!” is a saying we often use to poke fun at our food focused travels and commitment to planning the day around our next meal. Our 3 months in Europe were no different, only we held nothing back. Honestly, I don’t know how we didn’t come back 50 lbs heavier, but I was sick.
First stop, Dublin. Imagine Shepherd’s Pie (or see below). It was perfectly glazed and flakey, veggie heavy, warm, saucy, and riddled with flour. Ireland’s national drink (Guinness, duh) washed it down perfectly. Beer, beer, beer, sandwich, bread, toast, Jameson, pie, biscuit, hearty Irish stew, let’s go to Amsterdam!
In case you were wondering, Amsterdam was colder. Especially when you get caught biking in the rain snow, but we're over it. Either way, a vicious pattern had begun to form. Beer, wine, beer, coffee, coffee, coffee shop, espresso, chocolate at a coffee shop, beer, bread, bread, aaaand then off to Brussels!
Brussels was the first city where we weren’t staying in a hostel and had a pretty nice apartment to cook in. Unfortunately, we only cooked once because 'twas the season and the holiday market was magnificent. Hot wine, chocolate waffles, BELGIUM beer, more beer, bread, coffee, cookies, chocolate, Delirium, and away we trained to Paris!
Ahhh Paree. The city where we consumed a cringe-worthy amount of desserts. We couldn’t walk 10 steps without fawning over a bakery! Cream puffs, macaroons, Croque Madame, Croque Monsieur, Bourgogne wine, FRESH, warm baguettes, olive loaf, creme brulee, blue cheese, brie, beer, champagne! Wait. Why am I writing this again? Oh yeah, Paleo! So we ate a lot in Paris. A lot of sugar and flours, and that’s when I got sick.
On an evening train to Switzerland, (No, that’s not a song. She went to Georgia, and it was midnight.) I threw up and got intimate with a Euro rail toilet. I was weakened from my Parisian cheese, bread, and wine platter (see above) and was convinced I had eaten faulty blue cheese. I may have, but days later a large, reddish brown rash appeared on my upper left arm. Either way, on with the eating! Raclette, burger, beer, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, beer, aaaand off to Barcelona for 2 months.
We knew we were being disastrous while we were being disastrous. It all just tasted so.damn.wonderful. Cultures and livelihoods so dissimilar from our suburban drives to the nearest Safeway, and we had become overzealous. Pan con tomate, Estrella Damm, postres, bread, wine, cava, queso, queso, patatas bravas, coffee, postres, wine, cava, gin y tonic...Holy ish I hurt. I was waking up with stiff fingers. Red lined the creases of my hands and a tightness lingered until the early afternoon. My fingers appeared swollen. They were swollen, and my arm rash was hard, warm, and now present on my upper right arm too.
After a visit to our El Born pharmacia, (pronounced pharma-thia), I received a tube of Cortisone and some suspicious looks. I’m pretty sure they thought I was a victim of abuse. I had two reddish, purple, splotchy, bruise-like marks on each upper arm. I truly looked like I had received some severe shaking. They hurt, itched, and looked horrible. Google suggested “Lupus,” but we said no. I didn’t have international health coverage, I couldn’t see a doctor, and so I began to count the days until we flew home.
What seemed like a month later, we set down in SFO. I was ecstatic to be home and even more grateful to make a doctor’s appointment. To make an already long story short, my doctor didn’t like the look of my rashes. She mumbled the word “Lupus,” and sent me for blood work. A week later, I was back for my results... Lupus. That weird, alien sounding word. My immune system was attacking my skin and joints.
That was just over 2 years ago and I have been warding off symptoms through an 80-20 Paleo lifestyle and exercise. He EXERCISES and I exercise. Sometimes I get rashes, sometimes I feel stiff, weak, and a little broken, but more often than not, I have learned to heal without meds. When I eat and drink bad, I feel it in my body and he just gets the poops. Lucky.
Fast forward to now, and Ben and I are living in “Uptown” Oakland where we have access to some of the best produce and meats around. Organic, grass-finished, wild caught, Whole Foods, pasture-raised, farmer's market, local, and overall, a foodie's haven. I feel like a modern day hippie… but I wax my pits. Most of the time.
If you've seen our Instagram (PALEOakland), you know that we get down in the kitchen and take breakfast and dinner super serious. Our Paleo lifestyle means that we cook using whole foods (no processed)! Meat, seafood, vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, nuts, and seeds for us! I am currently working towards a more AIP-friendly (Autoimmune Protocol) lifestyle because it's a semi new year and that's what you do, right? Really, I just want to feel better. Like all the time. And in order to do that I have to eliminate some foods that I love and flirt with new ones.
"Going Paleo" has significantly changed our lives and our concept of what food really is, therefore I felt it was only necessary to begin with some background. Or a long, drawn out story. You be the judge.
We are here to share, converse, heal, motivate, support, eat, eat, and advocate for the labeling of all GMO foods, but we will save that rant for another day. Until then, amigos.