In South Korea, people really do eat dogs. If you need a visual, check out my personal Facebook page and look in my photo album called “Uncensored Korean Files” to see a dog deli I photographed while I was teaching there.
Here in America we eat pigs, which are just as cuddly as dogs and arguably more intelligent, but we’re okay with that because for whatever cultural reasons, we Americans know that it’s somehow uncivilized and morally wrong to kill and eat a dog, but not a pig.
Similarly, we as individual family units live by our own quirky food limitations. A few weeks ago on Facebook, I posted this as my status for my 871 friends to respond:
“Alright parents, I have a very personal question to ask you for something I’m writing for Parents.com. Where do you cross the line on what you will and will not allow your kid to eat? For example, how much fast food is too much? Any particular foods you just don’t want them eating? What about when you’re not around, like if your kid is at a friend’s sleep-over?”
Out of the 24 comments I received in a 24 hour period, the overall consensus was “everything in moderation.” However, the variable I noticed in their comments is what we all consider to be normal in our everyday eating habits. And that’s sort of the whole point of what I was asking.
For example, for some, it was no fast food. For others, it was no meat that isn’t organic. Or no caffeine or no sodas. And then there’s me, the hard-core vegetarian of the group who didn’t bother to mention the long list of things I won’t allow my own kid to eat.
We all know that cancer, Diabetes, and obesity rates are radically higher than they were a 150 years ago before we as humans we introduced to highly processed foods and began eating them in the majority of our meals. So now we as parents want to protect our kids by making deliberate dietary decisions for them.
So here’s what I say: Let us all be weird in our own weird ways when it comes to what “unhealthy” foods we won’t allow our kids to eat.
I’m past the point of worrying that I might hurt someone’s feelings when they try to feed my son something that isn’t on “Dad’s list” of approved foods.
Maybe I err a bit on the radical side, but so what? My kid’s not going to starve nor be malnourished if I have a say in it. He just may be a bit deprived as an American kid who doesn’t get to experience the joy of chicken nuggets like all the normal kids. He’ll be okay.
It’s not that we all as parents are necessarily judging each other for what the other does or does not let their kid eat. Well heck, if I’m judging anyone for that reason, it would be me. I’m more than willing to label myself as the wacko dad here.
But hey, we all draw the line somewhere when it comes to what we won’t let our kid eat.
Back in August, in the midst of a Facebook message conversation, a friend I have known since Kindergarten described her perception of my wife and me:
“I think of you both as health conscious people….but I can’t picture either of you working out in a gym. I picture you as people who hike on the weekends or bike to dinner.”
Little did she know that I was already mapping out this post, explaining why I passionately oppose going to the gym, yet passionately promote daily exercise in other ways. It’s true, the last time I went to a gym, they had just discovered the hatch on Lost.
My friend was right. I am a biker; mountain biker, that is. At all times, my bike is stored in my Honda Element with me. Every day during my lunch break, I bike to Starbucks to read a book, or to the bank to deposit some cash, or to Whole Foods to pick up some Christmas presents for people.
I pretend that I live in a Mediterranean village in the year 1533, where I would literally have to travel miles at a time in order to get everything done that day. If I want to read a chapter in the current book I’m reading, I have to earn it by biking a mile and a half to get to a place to read it.
If it rains or is too cold, I have a heavy raincoat and “outside workout” clothes to change into. Even when it snows, I’ll still at least walk a few miles outside.
The point is to find someway to get daily exercise (at least 25 minutes) without having to depend on paying someone to use their facility. It doesn’t have to include a mountain bike, but it’s a matter of finding a creative way to get out of the office; even it’s just walking with a friend during designated breaks during work.
I say fresh air (even when it’s cold and wet) is still better than stagnant air inside an office. So let me go ahead and get into it, here are 6 reasons I don’t go to the gym:
1. Joining a gym often promotes an “all or nothing” mentality in which one’s diet follows. ”I was just too stressed to go to the gym for the past two days” often means a backslide into fast food lunches and potato chips as snacks.
2. Gyms promote a perfectly sculpted body as the goal, instead of a realistic, healthy one. We’re not movie stars; we don’t need six pack abs. The focus should be on being healthy, not losing weight. Weight loss is a side effect of active habits, not a target itself.
3. Gyms cost money. I’m not going to pay for what I can get for free.
4. There is a pressure to commit to a gym. Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler tries to quit the gym, recruiting Ross to help him, but then Ross gets suckered in to joining the gym too?
5. Working out puts too much focus on calories. For me, it’s about the the right food choices to begin with. I bet my daily calorie intake is slightly high, because I eat plenty of whole fruits (which are already naturally loaded with sugar) as well as avocados, nuts, and whole milk (full of good fats), but I weigh 20-something pounds less now than I did in these featured pictures of me from 2008 on my honeymoon in New England, before I had made my lifestyle changes- like biking and cutting out processed foods.
6. People size you up at a gym. Plus, it’s easier to do the same to other people; focusing too much on bodybuilders who basically live there.
So I say, liberate yourself from the gym. Despite all the rage, you don’t have to be a rat in a cage.
It’s weird, but true: There are more non-Jewish Americans who are kosher-abiding than those who are actually Jewish. Last October, a book by Sue Fishkoff came out that I would love to read. It’s called Kosher Nationand it explains why America has gone kosher. Fishkoff shares:
“More than 11.2 million Americans regularly buy kosher food, 13 percent of the adult consumer population… There are about six million Jews in this country. Even if they all bought only kosher food, which is not the case, they would not be enough to sustain such growth. In fact, just 14 percent of consumers who regularly buy kosher food do so because they follow the rules of kashrut. That means at least 86 percent of the nation’s 11.2 million kosher consumers are not religious Jews.”
My wife and I, along with our nine-month old son, are among that 86 percent. We are not Jewish, or even Seventh Day Adventists (who also do not consume pork or shellfish). But we are adamant about our kosher diet.
So is it a religious thing for us at all? Not really, but sort of. We just kind of stumbled into it.
Through the Mexican bloodline in my family, I have adopted eczema- a vicious skin disease. My mom has it on her neck. One of my uncles has it on his knuckles. And I had it on the palms of my hands; in particular, I had dyshidrosis, where tiny clear blisters form, then pop, and dry out the skin- basically burning it.
For several years during my 20′s, I had what I call “Freddy Kruger hands.” It was embarrassing, overpowering, and even depressing to live with. I was desperate to figure out what exactly it was and more importantly, how to cure the “incurable” disease.
And so began my journey into the world of natural cures and holistic living.
My skin problems peaked shortly after getting married. My wife and I took our honeymoon in New England, eating pretty much nothing but shrimp, scallops, and lobster the entire time. It was good eatin’.
When the week ended, I got back and realized that my entire body had broken out. I found myself in a cloud of despairing depression for no good reason.
I learned that the bottom-feeder shellfish that I consumed were full of heavy metals, including nickel. On top of that, my tungsten wedding ring also contained slightly toxic metals.
Eventually, I remembered that somewhere in the Old Testament of the Bible (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) God instructed the Jews not to eat certain animals. I was always under the misconception that those food laws were simply there for a certain group of people to show their obedience to God. Now I realize that those random food laws were God’s way of helping people to know what foods to eat- even as a way of avoiding cancer and disease.
By not eating the animals that are lowest on the food chain, along with all carnivores, the human body is exposed to much less toxins.
And the whole thing about not mixing dairy products with meat? Simply put, that combination prevents food from digesting through the body too slowly. Otherwise, the undigested food remains in the body for too long, potentially causing health problems.
Needless to say, as I converted to a kosher diet, my eczema gradually disappeared; as a side effect, I also lost 25 pounds in the process. So I became inspired to invent The Shell Diet, which is basically the kosher version Mediterranean Food Pyramid.
And that’s how we became a kosher, Gentile family.
Granted, I’m not saying it was an easy transition. It’s still tempting to smell crispy bacon that a co-worker is heating up in the microave or dine at a seafood restaurant where I lust for buttery scallops. But for me, it had to be all or nothing. Anything was worth getting rid of my eczema.
Even for our son, it’s not necessarily easy to keep him kosher. For example, most infants’ pain relievers contain Red Dye 40, which is derived from petroleum; while others may contain Crimson Lake, which is made from scale insects. (The only insect permitted to eat by kosher law is the locust.) When I was a kid, I had a lot of stomach problems, as well as, anxiety attacks- that is, until my parents stopped allowing me to have foods with red dye in them.
It’s strange that I would become the least bit of an expert on being kosher; especially for the fact that I don’t really have any Jewish friends.
Dining out just isn’t the same when you have a nine month old who either needs a nap or is itching to crawl around on the floor the entire time.
Needless to say, I’m going through somewhat of an annoying time right now because I am a “good food” connoisseur. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a quiet, dinner at a classy Italian restaurant of my choice- like Carabba’s. Or even my favorite place in downtown Nashville: The Flying Saucer.
It’s dang near impossible to enjoy a nice meal out at a restaurant with my son, especially around lunch time as he is nearing his naptime. And it’s not his fault- he’s a baby. What business does he have in a restaurant where Chuck E. Cheese is nowhere to be found? The last time I was at a restaurant with him I became so frustrated that I decided I am over eating out with him until he is older.
Because either my wife or I has to let our food get cold as we walk him around the restaurant to keep him from getting upset. After all, he truly is obsessed with crawling around and seeing different scenery. I can’t fault him for that. But at this point, I’d rather just eat at home.
For me, it’s simply just not worth the frustration. I recognize my lack of patience and my blood pressure’s habit of spiking when I have good food in front of me, that I am paying restaurant pricing for, but I can only sneak quick bites of it before Jack either A) gets upset or B) I do.
Fortunately, I am blessed in that my wife shares my same love of good food and drink. She is a wonderful cook whose menus cater to our health freak-conscious, kosher, Mediterranean food pyramid-themed dietary needs. So much of the time, I tell her I’d rather have her food than what we could get at a nice restaurant anyway. And it’s true, without a doubt.
Not to mention, we have adopted the Millionaire Mindset. It’s hard to enjoy a $16 plate of pasta with chicken when you can make it yourself for less than four dollars and still have leftovers. Eventually the day will come when I can enjoy a nice meal out again. Until then, here’s to fine dining in our own kitchen.
Every year for Thanksgiving, Vanderbilt University gives a free turkey to all of its employees; unless you’re a vegetarian. To be clear, my wife and I are not full vegetarians; though the majority of our meals are indeed meatless.
If this makes any sense, our diet reflects a kosher version of the Mediterranean food pyramid. Needless to say, last November right as our son was about to be born, my wife received her free Tofurky, instead of a regular turkey. However, because he was born so close to Thanksgiving last year, we never cooked our Tofurky.
It has remained in a friend’s freezer for nearly nine months, until this past weekend. We decided to have a very belated Thanksgiving dinner… with a “turkey” made of tofu. But that’s not all. A Tofurky comes with stuffing, gravy, a “jerky wishbone,” and even a chocolate cake dessert.
Since Jack’s 7 o’clock bedtime prevented him from joining the festivities, he instead had some zucchini and pears that my wife prepared for him with our Baby Bullet. Jack will turn one a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so maybe he will get to try some of the real bird… or some of the fake bird, I should say.
So what was I thankful to God for during our Thanksgiving in July this past weekend?
That both my wife and I were able to return to our employers here in Nashville after an eight month sabbatical which we thought was a permanent move. Not only that, but the fact that both of us are truly enjoying our jobs with a newfound appreciation.
That we were able to get Jack into a really good daycare which is right down the block from where I work.
That despite my wife’s car breaking down for the 14th time, we didn’t get totally stranded in the process; and that my parents are letting us borrow a car from them until we can get my wife’s car fixed.
I am thankful for friends who are gracious enough to allow my family of three to stay with them for the next couple of months until our renters move out of our condo.
And of course, I am thankful for my wife and son whom I can share a July Thanksgiving meal which includes an eight month old Tofurky. Thank God for them and all that God has taught me through them so far.
Now that July has passed, I need to get ready for Christmas in August…