Food, Travel, Girls and Rock and Roll
Food, Travel, Girls and Rock and Roll
Food is an important part of life for most people. For me, meals are like quick stop at a petrol station when you are on a long trip somewhere. I just use food as fuel to keep me going. But, time has changed and I have become very aware of how important good fuel is for performance and my eating habits have adapted so over the past few years. I would not burn dirty fuel in my car, so one day I realized that I should probably take better of me. And I am a partier. So, I need to counterbalance that somehow…
I grew up on a farm/ranch near Big Beaver, Saskatchewan, Canada. My dad raised cattle, and for crops he grew: wheat which makes flour for bread, durum which makes pasta, and barley that is a warm grain we fed to our cattle in the winter to keep their stomachs temperate on the very cold days. And it gets cold in Canada. You might think you know about cold, but in The Great White North it gets ridiculous. I have no idea why my forefathers stayed in Canada in those pioneer days after their first winter here, surviving in a sod hut through -40° weather. Had it been me, when spring broke I would have said, “Honey, load them there kids in the wagon and I’ll fetch the horses. We’re a headin’ south. Way south!”
Anyhow, my mother grew a fantastic garden and I spent my barefoot youth playing in the rows of corn, and the vines of peas which we kids used to go crazy over and eat right off of the vines as soon as they were ready. Those fresh peas in their pods tasted as good to us as a chocolate bar would have. There was no substituting the incredible tastes of fresh foods grown on our own farm. My mother also raised rows of carrots, onions, radishes, pumpkins, cabbages and tomatoes. In a special field on our farm, we planted acres of potatoes that my father would dig up on a fall evening with a tractor & plow and as kids we would come along with buckets that we used to collect all of upturned the potatoes and loaded them onto our pick-up truck. We stored all of those vegetables in a cellar on the farm and my mother would send one of the kids to collect what vegetables we would need for the evening meal. Going down into the cellar was sort of like shopping in the produce section of the grocery store.
Mom also had apple trees all over the farm that she used to bake our desserts. We even butchered our own beef on the farm. As well, mother baked her own bread from the flour that she ground herself from the wheat we grew on our land. This may make me sound like I am a grandfather, but this is what life was like on a farm in Canada as a little boy in the 1980’s. There is no way to have a more nutritional lifestyle that there was to be raised on a nearly self sufficient farm. Except that I was an extremely picky eater…
For vegetables, I survived on only corn, peas and potatoes as a child. No other vegetables we allowed into my diet. No exceptions. Not ever. I even stopped eating steak when I was five after I watched our family butcher a steer in our yard. For some reason, I still ate hamburger. Perhaps the idea that hamburger was processed somehow made it less relatable in my five-year-old mind to the steer that we had just butchered. I even helped to stack the packages of steer that my family was wrapping for future dinners. It took me years to eat steak again after that day.
Then when I was 12 my parents divorced and my mother moved away. My father had never cooked in his life, so we ate a lot of macaroni and hot dogs. My father could easily cook macaroni and hot dogs, so that was what we survived on. We usually put cheese on the macaroni. When we got tired of that, we topped the macaroni with tomato soup. One day a few months later at dinner, I gagged when I tried eat a hot dog. I could not stand the taste anymore. That was it for me and wieners and I were finished for life. So, dad had to get more creative in the kitchen, which meant that we moved on to macaroni and sausages. For some reason that confuses me today, at that time in my life I ate tomato soup and I ate ketchup, but I would not anywhere near a tomato. Kids are weird.
Naturally, growing up through my teens in a bachelor house was much different than it had been when my mother had been there in my childhood. Our house had been very traditional where my father worked with cattle and with crops during the day, while my mother took care of her garden as well as the housework and prepared meals for the family during the days in the spring, summer and autumn. I was the youngest child and the only one remaining at home when my parents divorced, so dad and I had to figure out what to do about the dishes. Neither of us liked the task, and my father was a very fast eater. That meant that he was usually finished eating first, and I would still be at the table when he completed his meal and removed himself. That meant that I would be the one who would have to clear the table and take care of the dishes. As a crafty kid, I learned to eat fast…faster than dad…
…Eating has just been a quick stop at the fuel station ever since.
As life takes you on the path you make, many things that you would never expect to happen on your journey…well they happen. When I was about 20 years old I saw a television show called ‘Felicity.’ It was about a very attractive girl who when to university and she lived in the dorms. They showed her life and to me it looked like she was pretty much just partying and having sex. I signed up for university that summer.
So, I left my small town of Big Beaver, population 55, and headed to university in a city, called Regina, population 200,000. To us from Big Beaver, Regina was the ‘big’ city, “Where all of them damn city folks lived, that could hardly drive a damn car.” My dad had a serious girlfriend in his life by then and she loved to plant a large garden and can the fruit and vegetable rewards. I would make it to the farm about once a month to replenish my stocks, and would head back to the city with our farm’s beef, canned fruits and homemade apple juice from our own trees. At university I partied and had sex for five years and then the university I attended gave me a degree. Felicity was right! I then moved to South Korea to get a job teaching English as a second language. A peculiar curve-ball for this farm-boy…
Food took a slight modification in my life from this point on. It had to. Moving to South Korea was the beginning of adaptation for me and the opening of my eyes. I was still a very fussy eater, but I could get new styles of foods into me, as long as they were mostly meat. That was how I ate. And then somewhere else in Asia, the major change of my life happened. I met a girl. She was not just one of those university girls, or one of those just-out-of university girls that I had met in South Korea. This one was different…
Now this is not a love story I am serving you, although I suppose it could have been. This is just background information on the direction that my eating life has taken me. I was floating down a river in Laos, a country just north of Thailand, when a beautiful German girl splashed into the water beside me. She was absolutely gorgeous and I tricked her into thinking I was cool. Maybe it was her deficiency that she only spoke about 30% English that made her think that I was cool. Whatever the case may be, I stole her from her travel partner and took her to an island at the bottom of Vietnam where we lived in a guesthouse on the beach and rode motorbikes around the island all day. It was like being on a honeymoon without actually having to get married. I liked her so much that as I was later taking her to her airplane in Saigon, I invited her to meet me in Australia.
Sometime later, I flew into Australia and she flew in the following day. I bought a van for us to live in and make a circle of Australia. We were the proud owners of a fantastic 1982 Nissan Urvan. It was plain grey van when we got it, but we named her ‘Helga’ and painted her name on the front in red Gothic letters. We painted flames on her doors, put skull and cross-bone stickers on the centers of her wheel hubcaps, and I later mounted a dead ram’s skull that I found in a pasture on her kangaroo bars in the front. Helga made it so that I had two beautiful girls in my life! Helga was badass. Every man who saw her gave us a big thumbs-up. Every woman who saw Helga made a disgusted face to herself and made a wide birth around the van so as not to get too close to the dead ram-skull. We blasted The Beatles out of her windows for 11.5 months as we drove around the country. Helga became pretty famous in Australia.
Helga had a pop-top roof that rose up so that we could stand up while we were camped. In the middle of the van was a two person bed that we slept on. Helga also had a fridge, a stove, a microwave, a sink, a closet and when I was showing her off to our friends I used to point at my girlfriend and say, “And there is the dishwasher.” My girlfriend never thought that joke was as funny as I did. We shared the dishes, though I still ate fast.
Living in that van for a year and making a circle of Australia really changed my eating habits. In fact, living with a woman in a van for 11.5 months will really change your life. My girlfriend was a vegetarian and I was pretty much a carnivore. Our van was too small to make two separate meals, so we had to meet in the middle. She started to eat meat and I began, for the first time in my life, to eat vegetables. And guess what? They turned out to be pretty good. A salad, something I previously considered to be personal poison, turned out to be excellent with the right kind of dressing. I eventually learned to love all vegetables, except the onion. Onions were my most hated of all vegetables as a kid. I have eaten turtle in Papua New Guinea, kangaroo in Australia, cow tongue in Ukraine, pigeon eggs in China, bulls-blood soup in Korea, crocodile in Laos, calf testicles at home…but I still cannot forgive the onion. They are just too old of an enemy. We will never get along…
I make no apologies to the onion. That strong poignant smell, so bad that it makes your eyes water… Why are we eating things that make us cry? And all of these people who love to put onions in my food and tell me, “Oh, but there are just a few of them, and you cannot taste them anyhow…” Well, guess what jerkface? I can taste them. If I can taste them, but you cannot taste them, and you know that I hate them, then why are you putting them in the food we are eating?!! Onions and hip hop, constantly showing up and trying to ruin my life with 100% suck…
So, that kind of brings things up to speed. I have become so adept to vegetables that I eat them as frequently as I can and feel guilty when I eat meals without them. Growing up as a near carnivore on land where the sale of cattle was a major source of our family income never exposed me to think beyond meat. My father is a very tough cowboy and I often joke to my friends telling them that if I came home and told my father that I was gay, he would just be weirded out, but if I came home and told him that I was a vegetarian that he would throw me off the place and disown me.
I recently made a trip to India to escape the winter. When I went to there, my plan was to spend my day in a hammock and write. In that time I totally cleaned up my life. I knew that it would take serious focus to be creative so I ate as healthily as I could to fuel my body and feed my mind in the best possible way…Back to my: ‘If you burn bad fuel in a car, it will not function well, so how can I perform on bad food?’ theory.
So, I made some cuts in my life that would enable me to give my best performance every day when I was writing.
– I cut out alcohol for the three months I was in India. I once heard that it takes your body two weeks to fully recover from one hang-over, and I wanted to start every day fresh. Going out and partying all night, sleeping in late and then being hung over all day makes for limited productivity, and I did not feel like giving up the 36 hours for one party. So, alcohol was out.
– I also cut meat out of my life. I did not want to risk cat, bat or rat, so meat took a three month abstinence from my diet. I wanted to see how my body would react to a vegetarian diet, and I thought that avoiding meat would be the best possible way to avoid food poisoning.
– Then I went to a ‘Meaning of Life’ meeting with a friend and the people at the meeting made it apparent to me that sugar was much more unhealthy than I had ever imagined. I have a sweet tooth comparable to a pregnant woman, and I eat something sweet after every single meal. I have ADHD and I am aware that sugar has an effect on this and most certainly impedes my performance. The meaning of life people had a conspiracy that sugar is no longer pure and is now loaded with chemicals to keep people from being too clever. That seems like a pretty far out conspiracy, but it is hard to imagine that the leaders of our world are slopping back Orange Crush and Mars bars while they ponder major decisions. So, sugar made a disappearance from my life for the three months.
– Lastly, sex also took a hiatus during this time as well. I was single, perhaps due to too many dishwasher jokes and onion reluctance, and being single causes a lot of distractions in a man’s life because of a wondering mind. Bikinis lined the beach in front of my hammock. I supposed that 70% of my thoughts were occupied by ones causing a lot of pondering and un-productivity. So, I kept myself to myself. That is not to say that I was totally against affections of pleasure as I was more than happy to be pursued…but my own hunting days were extremely restricted at that time.
I gave up four of my favourite things for three months while fueling my body the best that I could. I left India three months later, after the most productive time I have ever had during any stint of writing. Any body fat that I had was suddenly missing and I felt accomplished and tanned. Ah, life there was alright.
I have since returned to western civilization. I try to eat well and I am a lot more conscious about my consumption, but old habits die hard. After three months of no sugar I would feel very sick whenever I would try to eat anything rich, such as chocolate cake, cookies or pie. My body reacted terribly to having sugar re-loaded into its stomach and I had a week of sickly stomachaches after anything such as a triangle of cake. I went back to everything else, some of them were quicker to get to than others, but it was the sugar that had a serious effect on me. I truly believe that sweet sugar is nearly a poison that we have simply adapted to.
After six weeks of being back in western culture, my regular body fat has returned to the places where it usually rests. I try to eat health-consciously, but I am back in North America and this is the hardest place in the world to eat healthy. You can find mixed nuts, the only remotely healthy snack conveniently accessible in North America, in a little corner of a store after you have walked past the rows of chips and rows chocolate bars. But you cannot get pure nuts here. Trail Mix here means ‘nuts, dried fruit and small chocolate candies.’ Why do they have to put chocolate in there? That conspiracy that the meaning of life people mentioned flares up in my mind. It is so tough to eat healthy here and consumerism has geared it this way. MacDonald’s hamburgers for $1… You cannot eat any kind of real food for $1 that is not ‘an’ apple or ‘a’ banana. No wonder that people of poverty in North America as the sizes that they are.
And worst of all is that unless you buy organic, all of the fruits and vegetables that you buy in the regular supermarket are just watery growths full of fertilizers to make them mature fast and plump. How many times have you bought a mandarin that just tastes like water? I have worked on farms in Australia where the watermelons were irrigated with water and fertilizers to make them grow huge and beautiful. Once we had a 19 kilogram watermelon. 19kgs of watermelon! That is about 1/3 of my body weight! They grow fast and they look nice, but they are usually short of flavor. A lady once told me that years ago, an apple was 70% nutrition. Today a regular apple in a supermarket is 17% nutrition because it is just water and fertilizers. Because of our consumer driven society, and we are taught that the plump red apple is the one to buy. Most people do not think twice about buying the plump red apple when it is next to the small and shriveled organic apple that does not look appealing at all. And that is a shame on our society. I know nothing for certain of the numbers that I use as they are just hearsay, but I do know for a fact that people need a lot more education on the food that they are eating.
Burn good fuel. It is the key to a healthy body and a healthy mind. And if you want to be extremely productive, quit alcohol, meat, sugar and sex. But do not quit them all for too long… You will run the risk of imploding, being boring, or being extremely angry!