I am incredibly lucky to be able to eat whatever I want when I want -- I don’t have any known food allergies, I can find pretty much any ingredient within biking radius of my home and I live in the Bay Area, home to a wealth of stellar, international dining opportunities. However, sometimes my jeans doth protest, which is when it’s time to schedule a cleanse.
I wrangled a colleague, Brianna, into embarking on the Wild Rose 12-day Herbal D-tox cleanse with me, which basically involves cutting out all dairy, anything made with any type of flour, shellfish, fermented goods (including soy sauce, vinegars and miso, in addition to alcohol) and any sweeteners. Given the restrictions, it’s best to prepare all your own meals, which I was really looking forward to -- with limitations on what I could eat, every day would be like an episode of Iron Chef (but without Fuku-san and a rich bounty of ingredients to choose from).
The unexpected bonus of cleansing, as I discovered the first time I did it in 2009, was having a lot more free time to unwind. Then I found that I could make and finish my meals quite quickly, and used the time I’d normally allot for drinks or dinner out for walks around Manhattan (where I was living at the time), yoga and reading. It was a great way to jumpstart healthy eating habits and general life habits. I was hoping for the same this time around.
Day 0 - A rookie cleansing mistake: not sufficiently stocking the pantry and fridge. That happened last time and for the first two days, I was flailing like a whale in a krill-less sea, weakly subsisting on plain vegetables with a handful of raw almonds. I wasn't going to go down that route this time!
Day 1 - Our spirit animals -- I'm on the left. Clearly the time was nigh for a cleanse.
Day 2 - Whew, thank goodness for partners who like to cook and clean food processors! Chris made muhammara, a delicious roasted red pepper dip, tonight, minus the breadcrumbs. We used crunchy romaine hearts to spoon it up.
Day 3 - Hump Day struck with unexpected temptations in Brianna’s inbox. Tasked with saving all the food porn from a casino and resort client, poor Brianna rued the day she got into the PR industry.
I told her to just think of all the subpar pizza she's had in her life and imagine that that pizza is on par with those slices.
Day 4 - This is Chris' cocktail from S & R Lounge, where we met friends in town from New York. We went to The Cavalier afterward for another drink. I've never pounded so much sparkling water in my life!
Day 5 - To celebrate the Year of the Horse, my office got dim sum for everyone. Dim sum dim sum everywhere and not a bite to eat. Brianna and I sipped our glasses of water while everyone else tucked into egg tarts, roasted pork buns, shrimp dumpling and flutes of Prosecco.
Later that evening, Chris and I went to see the Martha Graham Dance Company perform at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. The woman sitting next to us, seemingly cultured, ate clementines and Dove Promises throughout the performance. I don't think it was due to my cleansing state of mind, but her irritating crinkling of aluminum wrappers and citrus peels did make me wonder why, when and how eating at any time became something people thought was OK.
Day 6 - We didn't have time to cook a Chinese New Year meal so we celebrated the next day with whole grilled sardines, the character for fish being a homonym for abundance in Cantonese.
Day 7 - Finally we discovered the more picturesque end of Redwood Regional Park. We enjoyed the trail mostly to ourselves due to the rain, and spent some time in this levitation tree.
Day 8 - A spartan dinner of brown rice with pan-fried firm tofu and scallion ginger sauce and a separate dish of choy sum sautéed in garlic.
Day 9 - Ta-da! I finished this cowl for my sister-in-law, who lives in the polar vortex zone.
I had started this over Christmas and told myself I'd finish it "this winter", which meant that I hadn't touched the scarf since we flew home before New Year's. Glad I had the time to finish it and send it off before the next big snowstorm.
Day 10 - As I watched a colleague eat a handful of Popchips, I realized that I didn't have a favorite healthy snack. Now that I can't eat just anything to quell peckishness, I've started making large portions of grain salads that I can eat for lunch and as a snack, although lately I haven't been hungry between meals.
Here's the recipe for a kasha salad that I've enjoyed for several lunches:
1 cup kasha
1 Persian cucumber
4-5 tbsp of your choice of chopped flat-leaf parsley, green onion and mint
2 tbsp high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (the ones that smell fruity or grassy are great flavor enhancers)
Juice of 1 lemon
Sliced raw almonds
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1. Boil two cups of water with the clove of garlic. Once the water is boiling, add the cup of kasha, cover the pot and turn the heat to medium low. Check to see if the kasha is done after 15 minutes; if so, drain it in a colander. Fluff the kasha with a fork in the colander to release the steam.
2. While the kasha is cooling to room temperature, dice your tomato and Persian cucumber, and chop your desired mix of herbs and green onion.
3. In a bowl, combine the kasha, green onion, herbs, Persian cucumber and tomato, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Mix the salad with a wooden spoon. Add your olive oil, lemon juice and sliced almonds, mix it again, and serve.
Day 11 - Getting close! For dinner tonight, I made ginger-fried cauliflower with chive buds and added katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
I'm not sure if the bonito was wild caught (another tenet of the cleanse) but on day 11, I'm just going to say yes.
Day 12 - A Friday night in and I'm eagerly anticipating breakfast tomorrow by preparing dough to rest overnight for bread.
Over the last 12 days, I have realized that without any restrictions to my diet, I generally consume far more than my body requires. I'm amazed that I ate less but never felt my stomach growl, thanks to this particular cleanse's emphasis on "bulk-forming foods." Any hunger I felt was more of a mental longing for cheese or wine that would inevitably pass after busying my mind with knitting or a crisp copy of the New Yorker.
I'm reentering the bountiful world of glorious food and drink five pounds lighter, and aim to keep to my cleansing revelations.
*Raised on beef oatmeal and the logic of using chopsticks instead of a whisk, Audrey’s earliest exposures to eating and cooking extend to the present where she finds joy in discovering novel food and beverage pairings. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her home-brewing turophile husband and their collection of kitchen gadgets, bicycles and wine maps.