Rich's Diet-Page 3

Late 20's to Mid 30's

    A lot of stuff was going on for me when my dad had his first heart attack. But that was the straw that broke my dietary camel's back. I had been leaning towards a vegetarian diet for years and was eating a pretty wholesome array of natural and organically grown foods. I was also now married and playing in a band called the Cranberry Lake Jug Band. I was out of school and working an odd assemblage of part time jobs so that I could take road trips with the band. I had been thinking about going veggie for several years but never quite made the switch but once dad's clicker went on the blink, I knew I had to do something and the most obvious response that made the most sense was to change my diet so that I wouldn't have the same problem. Since I was doing a fair amount of travel with the band on weekends, I knew it was going to be a bit of a slog if I went total veggie and I dearly loved fish so I ultimately decided that I would become what I have recently started calling a "pescavore". That is someone who doesn't eat landed red animal meat or poultry but eats fish and other water dwelling arthropods, molluscs and shellfish. At the time I was just one of the vegetarians that ate fish. This made it a lot easier to travel since the band would often stop for a quick burger on the road and that meant that I could just get a fish sandwich and fries or eat seafood in the restaurant stops. I didn't give up dairy products either. I didn't think that was necessary and I didn't eat a whole lot of them at the time.

    I can't remember when it actually happened but during this time I had started to take classical guitar lessons and my morning routine was to get up, eat my bowl of oatmeal with a glass of orange juice and take some vitamin supplements (B-complex, C, E, A and D). Then I would set up my music stand, get out my guitar and footstool (for some reason, you have to use a footstool to play classical guitar) and start practicing my scales. About 10 minutes or so after I started, my nose would start running and by the end of the first hour I would have saturated one handkerchief. Play a scale and blow my nose. Play a couple more scales and blow my nose. I gave up on disposable tissues a long time ago because if I had continued to use them, I'd be broke by now. I'd hang the saturated one on my music stand (it was one of those portable aluminum stands so there was lots of air circulation) and start on a fresh one. I practiced an average of 2 hours a day on the guitar and then I'd spend another hour or so on the mandolin. By the end of the session, I always had at least 2 saturated handkerchiefs and often, 3 hanging on the stand. By the time I got to the third one, the first one would have dried and I'd start reusing it. I know this is a little gross but this wasn't the usual thick, yellow, mucousy snot you think of when you think of what you produce when you have a cold. It was almost like water. Very liquidy and pale with almost no odor. So I thought nothing of reusing the handkerchiefs or my wife would have had a laundry basket full of them every day or two. This continued for a couple of years and then one day, a friend of mine mentioned that oats and barley were mucous producers and during hayfever season, he avoided them completely. I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try. What did I have to lose? It meant finding another breakfast cereal so I substituted cream of wheat. Within 2 weeks, I no longer needed to hang handkerchiefs from my music stand to dry out. I hardly even used them at all!! I was astounded at just how quick the change occurred. I was so convinced that I cut out barley as well and it was like I was a normal person. Oh, I still needed a handkerchief now and again but not any more than anyone else. Did I mention that I lived on antihistamines and used nose drops all the time as well? I dispensed with both of them and to this day, I only use over the counter cold medications when I have a cold. I was a convert! I started reading food labels of all the store-bought items I used and eliminated anything with malted barley or oats in any form. My one holdout was beer. I was working for a local cheese and ale shop and could bring home all sorts of great international beers and ales and I was willing to put up with the temporary stuffiness for the occasional beer on a hot summer day. But that was it. So now my diet at that time had evolved to the following:

    Some other changes I had made along the way were also the result of my evolving lifestyle. I noticed that drinking coffee made me nervous and irritable and also gave me angina. At first I thought it was little heart attacks but when I asked my doctor about them, he said they were nothing to worry about. I disagreed. They were sharp stabs of chest pain and almost took my breath away sometimes. I eliminated all coffee during the week and only allowed myself water-processed decaffeinated coffee on the weekend, except when I was on the road with the band and then I drank whatever decaf I could find as long as it wasn't instant. Guess what? No more chest pains and I wasn't nervous and irritable any more. It didn't correct any other character flaws of which I had many but I couldn't blame the coffee for those. I had also eliminated all refined sugar products including chocolates. I had also eliminated some foods because I was boycotting them for various reasons. I wouldn't eat any products from Nestle or companies associated with tobacco companies. I had eliminated bananas because of the way the workers were being treated. The same with grapes.

    At this time I was basically a house husband and was doing all the cooking when I wasn't on the road. I baked all our bread, made all our cookies and other pastry type items. One of my favorites at the time were the carob brownies from Recipes for a Small Planet. Honey and molasses were substituted for sugar in all recipes when called for. We also had a big garden and were able to supply a lot of our own fresh vegetables during the summer and put away a lot of fruits and veggies in the freezer or can them. We were living on a very limited income and actually living quite well. We bought most of our non-garden foods at the Syracuse Real Food Co-op including cheeses, yogurt, bulk grains, bulk peanut butter, honey, molasses and just about everything else. At one point I was one of the store coordinators so I got an even bigger discount than non-working or working members. Life was pretty good. I had even started playing music with a guy named Tom, who sung popular folk-rock hits and we worked the bar-supper clubs etc for a little extra cash. I was the melody instrumentalist on fiddle and mandolin. We played stuff like Jim Croce's, "I've got a Name" and John Denver's "Country Boy". You get the picture. One of our popular gigs was The Ground Round. This was a chain owned by Howard Johnson's and their claim to fame was the free roasted peanuts still in the shell. Patrons would eat the peanuts and throw the shells on the floor to give the joint a kind of relaxed feel. For some reason, it actually worked. And I always got asked to play "The Orange Blossom Special" or some other Charlie Daniels fiddle piece. That duo lasted a couple of years and paid quite a few bills. Thanks, Tom.

    That was the situation until 1983. In 1983 I left my wife and daughter. I won't go into why or any of that except to say that in and of itself, it had no effect on my immediate diet. And a whole host of other life changes were about to be embarked on, of which I was, of course, completely unaware. Change has a funny way of sneaking up on a person. Sometimes it happens so gradually as to be almost unnoticeable and other times it just hits you in the face like a shaving cream pie at a country fair. This was going to be more like the country fair than the gradual affair.


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