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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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