I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.

The bacon here in the U.K. makes me want to cry a little bit. Not a full-on heaving type of cry, but definitely at least a few stifled sobs. The traditional bacon choice here is back bacon, which is, in a nutshell, not bacon. It’s not very fatty, and it often isn’t smoked. If an American were to take the word bacon out of the name, she would see this piece of food for what it is: a thin slice of regular pork. It’s not that there’s anything terribly wrong with a thin slice of regular pork. It’s just that it isn’t bacon.

I wouldn’t have thought that anything in the world could make me crave unsmoked back bacon. But then I discovered that Whole Foods exists in London (!!), and I bought some of the smoked streaky bacon that they had. Smoked streaky bacon is what Brits call the unforgivably fatty, deeply savory kind of bacon that we favor in the States. I was pretty psyched to have found it.

The minute I walked in the door at home is the minute I lit the fire under that smoked streaky bacon. And the minute I lit the fire — and smelled the inimitable smell of bacon frying on the stove — is the minute I knew that something was terribly wrong. It’s almost hard to describe the quality and quantity of smokiness that emanated from this bacon. It didn’t say so on the package, but I think it must have been Rage-Smoked. You know, like Applewood-Smoked, but really angry, and totally devoid of the delicate floral aroma of apples.

I’ve always maintained that in a world without bacon, a plant-based diet would be a foregone conclusion. It follows logically, I think, that in a country where the bacon is dead to me, a diet even higher than usual in unrefined plant products, including lots of raw ones, would be the way to eat. Maybe that’s what’s been going on with me and the way I’ve been eating recently. Or, okay, maybe I turned 35 this week and am having the teensiest bit of a crisis.

Turning 35 has got me thinking about aging, and how from this point forward, I would really not like to do any more of it than is absolutely necessary, thank you very much. I realize that in the grand scheme, 35 isn’t impressively old. But the popular press sure does do a hatchet job on the mindset of a rising 35-year-old, and like it or not, I’ve been voraciously consuming those messages for about 30 of my 35 years. Turn 35, and your bones suddenly go from calcium-accruing to calcium-maintaining, if you’re lucky. Turn 35, and you have to run uphill three hours a day without knees to maintain your bodyweight and muscle mass. It’s irony incarnate, too — because turn 35, and it’s all downhill from there. That’s what, it seems, we’re supposed to believe.

There’s all the vanity-related aging propaganda, which you can take or leave without too much consequence. But then, too, there’s the undeniable fact that many of us have come to accept aging as a slow march toward the diseases of civilization: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more.

Do you know what, though? I don’t really feel like buying it. I feel like getting healthier this year instead of less so. I feel like breaking some of my less-awesome habits, and maybe picking up a few better ones. I feel like still being able to do cartwheels with my girls, which I can; and maybe being able to do a handstand with them, too, which I can’t yet. I feel like waking up with plenty of energy, and maybe even feeling fabulous in the morning once in a while.

I’m throwing up my hands in the face of the popular mindset on aging. But I’m not doing it in frustration. I’m doing it to cheer.

All year, and I hope for many more, I’ll be celebrating with lots of healthy, plant-based recipes. Not so different from before, but maybe a little healthier (though no less delicious!), and maybe a little more plant-based, than they’ve been from time to time. I’ve been goofing around with more raw foods and am excited to be getting a Vitamix for my birthday (dedicated huge geek that I am), so you may see the occasional green smoothie recipe coming up soon. That’s what I’ll be drinking this year instead of the Kool-Aid. Hope you’ll join me.

Recipe: Savory Raw Kale Salad

Adapted from Raw Basics by Jenny Ross. Raw lacinato kale salads are fairly common these days, but if you’ve never tried one, you’ll be surprised by how easy raw kale is to like. By cutting the kale into very thin ribbons and then massaging the avocado and olive oils into it with your very clean hands, you’ll be making the kale both tender and flavorful without cooking it. Letting this salad sit, dressed, for a few minutes before eating it continues to tenderize the kale.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale (also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale)
  • 1/2 cup salt-cured black olives, pitted
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup julienned cucumber (a mandoline works great here)
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts (walnuts, cashews or almonds)
  • Himalayan sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Wash the kale and strip the leaves from the stems, discarding stems. Stack the leaves one on top of the other and roll lengthwise into a cigar shape. Cut the cigar crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces, which will unroll into ribbons. Set kale aside.
  2. Finely chop half the olives and leave the others whole. Place in a large mixing bowl, along with the avocado, lemon juice, cucumber, nuts, and a pinch of salt. Use a fork to smash some of the avocado pieces and blend the ingredients together.
  3. Add the kale ribbons to the bowl and, using your very clean hands, give that kale a serious massage. Toss it to coat with dressing, and then rub the oils from the avocado and olives into the kale to soften it. Let salad sit for a few minutes, and serve.

Number of servings (yield): 2

  • Ken Fletcher

    U.K. bacon not bacon?

    Excuse me! We were eating bacon hundreds of years before your country even existed.

    And anyway, you can buy the stuff you call bacon in the UK. Can’t say the same the other way round.ReplyCancel

    • Hi, Ken! Since we’re online and I don’t think we’ve met before, I can’t tell whether there’s any humor in your comment. Either way, I am very happy that you enjoy your British bacon, truly. And although I won’t be partaking in too much of your bacon in the near future (or mine, for that matter, as I mentioned), I am busy enjoying many other facets of your country and its much-longer-than-my-country’s history these days. So no hard feelings, I hope!ReplyCancel

  • Ken Fletcher

    No hard feelings intended or detected. I’m very much enjoying reading your impressions of the UK from an different perspective.

    But I couldn’t let your outrageous slur on our prime cured porcine go uncommented upon!

    :)ReplyCancel

    • Ah, excellent — and absolutely fair! :)ReplyCancel

      • Laura

        Here here Ken, Im a Brit living in the USA for my sins and I crave real Bacon every day…in a sandwich with the glorious brown sauce, and maybe a free range fried egg…. so much I missed bacon and their good friends the sausage I raise my own pigs… I just can’t get on with the super fatty bacon that often has no meat on it at all… Ahh carolyn you may be forgiven (as you are an American, and know no better) eventually you will come round to our way of thinking my husband did… lol
        P.S throw the Vita MIx away.. you only live once…oh and I’m new to your page and already love it…just found it today!ReplyCancel

        • Hi, Laura! If you’re raising your own pigs, you’can do and say whatever you like around here. That’s just awesome.

          On the Vitamix front: I’m not sure when I got to the point where taking control of my well-being started making me even happier than pork products. But that seems to be where I am at the moment. So I ain’t throwin’ it away.

          And for what it’s worth, I’m getting a real kick out of being American in the U.K. It’s an exercise in under-promise/over-deliver. When everyone expects you to be borderline-idiotic, it’s easy to look pretty good by comparison. :)ReplyCancel

  • British bacon is a crime against humanity. Except when it’s placed in a sandwich with British sausage and slathered with what they call “brown sauce”. Yum. It’s no wonder I gained 12,000 pounds living in London. P.S. I think my mention of a meat-on-meat sandwich might have just made a Vitamix cry.ReplyCancel

  • Nothing like pork products to get people riled up. Coming from a state with 2 warring pork BBQ styles, I know first hand it’s sometimes better not to say anything until you ascertain what side someone comes down on in the controversy. :)

    Good luck with the healthier eating!ReplyCancel

    • Steph, so true. Religion, politics, sports teams, and pork.

      And thanks for the encouragement! I have to say, it’s going really great so far.ReplyCancel

  • Rest assured, Carolyn, that no matter how old you are, there’ll be evidence out there that you should now be worried about x, y, and z. Yay you for deciding that you’ll decide how it’s going to be instead of letting “them” tell you.

    For what it’s worth, I never felt more beautiful than when I was about 40.ReplyCancel

  • Age is all in mind my dear…
    Enjoy your thirties they won’t come back again;-)
    And also enjoy your Vitamix…
    Trust me every birthday brings with it beauty of experience and glow of wisdom, and it sure does look sexy…
    I love my thirties…. Hope forties will get even better.ReplyCancel

  • i love kale :)

    y’know what’s sad? i couldn’t remember if i’d turned 35 yet or not. i haven’t. it’s this december.ReplyCancel

    • Lynn, I love it. I’ve totally been there. Age is all about the attitude anyway…. :)ReplyCancel

  • carol

    well i just turned 61 this month.they all say i don’t look it but still what i wouldn’t give to be 35 again as it seems like only yesterday.talking about the bacon makes me wish i had some.i pretty near never buy it because of the nitrates and nitrites.when i do buy it lately it’s spoiled almost every time.as for the fat in it it’s not really the enemy it’s made out to be.with out some fat in your diet you will actually have health issues such as bad digestion dried up swollen and painful joints etc.don’t let them fool you.as for me i use and dearly love Dr.Joel Wallach .com radio programs and his vitamin and mineral products.they will make one a new person.ReplyCancel

    • Hi, Carol. You should try one of the many brands of bacon without nasty chemical preservatives in them, if any are available in your area. Applegate Farms, Wellshire Farms, Niman Ranch, and lots of others make delicious, naturally cured bacon.

      I think it’s really important to note, though, that for people who want to avoid animal products for whatever reason, a whole-foods, plant-based diet can provide the body with all the fat it needs. Just look at this salad — nuts, avocado, and olives. (And even leafy greens have some fat in them, for reals.) To each her own happy diet and good health!ReplyCancel

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