Traversing a strange land

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut

One of my doctors has sent me off to a foreign land. And, while I do love to travel, this trip has me completely baffled. It is an unfamiliar landscape, uses a language I don’t understand and leaves me worried that I will never find my way home.

She put me on a plant-based diet.

Dr. Swisher, one of my favorite docs, actually teamed up on me, calling in another doctor who is working with him on some of his pulmonary cases. Dr. Zibas has had success adding dietary changes to conventional medicine in pulmonary and cardiac patients. She met with me for almost an hour, and I liked everything she said. They don’t do a cookie-cutter approach, so understand that this is for my particular case.

In other words, don’t try this at home.

Dr. Zibas gave me a lot of literature, books and documentaries to read and digest before I decided whether this was a good idea for me. I read two of the books, “How Not to Die” and “Forks Over Knives,” plus all the printouts she gave me. I didn’t watch the Netflix documentaries because, well because when I’m on the couch with my feet up, I would rather watch Masterpiece Theater or “Monk.”

I was pretty much convinced before I left the office that I could give this a try. Since I haven’t eaten beef, turkey, chicken or most pork (I eat bacon) for almost 15 years, Dr. Zibas felt the biggest part of this change was already behind me.

We neglected to figure in a few things. First, I am in mourning over my loss of sharp cheddar cheese. Second, you can count the number of vegetables that I actually LIKE on one hand. And third, I am now traversing a completely foreign land.

Here’s the problem: I am white-bread, season it with bacon grease, anything-is-edible-if-covered-in-sauce girl. Giving up steak didn’t bother me because I really only liked the A1 sauce anyway. Burgers? Steam a Krystal bun with the pickles, onion, mustard and cheese, and I don’t miss that square slice of meat.

On my first trip to the grocery with my new list in hand, I was in total confusion. Where (and what) is tahini? If the recipe says turmeric root, is that in spices or produce? Which breads are vegan?

Don’t even get me started on the oils. Butter? No, and I get that. But I also have to watch out for “highly refined and processed” oils. All sweeteners are also not created equal. And I’m still trying to figure out GMOs.

The helpful people at Publix customer service finally assigned me my own clerk to help me translate as we wandered aisle by aisle. I came home with groceries and a plan, and I have followed it pretty closely for the past seven days.

All I have to say at this point is: God bless the cacao tree…


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