I became interested in Sous-Vide cooking last year at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle (October 2015). A dark-colored liquid in a sample bottle was in my swag bag, labeled, “Steak Aging Sauce.”
The word, “Steak” was enough to grab my attention. I never say “no” to a good steak, and in my condition as a person with Celiac Disease and multiple food allergies, I am constantly in need of eating nutrient-dense foods, as I am on the thin side of the weight equation (although I am working very hard to rectify this, as I write this post).
In my household, M grills the steaks. Why? Because M is the Grill Master, I am not. Not that I haven’t grilled a steak or two in my life — I’ve even managed to smoke a ham and a small turkey in a smoker grill — it’s just that I’m not very good at it. That’s not just my opinion; M also has told me I have “issues” with my “mise en place,” as well as getting all foods cooked and on the table at the same time. I often over-grill things, either in my belief that it takes far longer to cook than it actually does, or when my patience wears thin after I’ve poked the meat a half dozen times, and the juices are still looking as red as my favorite color of Chanel nail color.
After IFBC, M watched me dump out the contents of the conference swag bag on the floor, and when I wondered aloud how the “steak” sauce could be used, he stated two important points:
Don’t use it until I’ve looked at all the ingredients for food allergens, gluten, and preservatives that make my guts go ballistic, and
Maybe I am becoming nostalgic as time goes on. I miss the days when I walked through the door of our unlocked home in San Jose, CA after walking home from school, and took in the smells of roasting meats and Chinese dumplings wafting through the Spanish-styled home on Goldfield Drive.
Mom hadn’t gone back to work quite yet; she would later take on a job in the accounting department of a large hospital in the area, so for awhile, Mom was the Domestic Engineer that is responsible for the green and white floral wallpaper that still decorates the front hallway of this home today (or least, the time I visited in 2012 and knocked on the door to ask permission to take a look around).
A particularly familiar smell of my wistful childhood memories is Mom’s jars of Chinese-style fermented cabbage and daikon vegetable. She would boil several glass jars, usually recycled dill pickle jars and their lids, and then fill them up with these vegetables after stirring in what looked to me like very little liquid, salt, vinegar, and spices. Using a pair of chopsticks, Mom rotated the chopped vegetables in the marinade over several days, scolding my father to not help himself to them before they were done.
When you’re a child, two weeks feels like forever and a day to wait; sometimes, Mom fermented a jar for almost a month before she began doling pieces out to us with our dinner meal.
My interest in pickling vegetables began this year when I developed a strong reaction to alliums (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks). When I could no longer obtain a source of fermented food like pickles from the grocery store, I realized that I needed to make my own. And of course, I thought about Mom’s pickled vegetables, with their crunch as well as the soothing results of a happy gut. I always remembered how fermented foods helped my gut maintain a healthy balance of gut flora needed to properly digest food.
It was time to call on Mom to see if she could write a recipe for something she had done from scratch without ever measuring a thing.
On August 21, 2016 I had the deep pleasure of putting in a long day of triathlon training and crossed the finish line of Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I can now say, “I am an Ironman!”, and not state wistfully, “Well, I hope after all this hard work to become an Ironman.” It’s now official.
Completing an Ironman race, as complex and amazing and difficult and painful and adventurous as it is in itself, is no small feat for the person with autoimmune disease and food “issues.” My Coach has reminded me all throughout the process of training that it’s important to respect the distance. Additionally, completing an Ironman race with autoimmune disease requires another layer of careful strategizing, testing, responding appropriately, and in my case, creating aspects of my training and fueling that are unique to me.
One of those aspects happens to be particularly challenging for the food-sensitive athlete, and that is nutrition and hydration across many hours. Because processed food, gels, and powdered nutrition have ingredients that make me terribly ill (either immediately, or over time), my Ironman journey necessitated my transformation into Food Scientist, Head Chef, Mobile Nutrition Strategist, and Hydration Manager. That’s a lot of hats (and helmets!) to wear!