A few weeks ago D and I decided that we were going to try the Paleo eating plan. Next year we’re going on an adventure-ish trip, and we want to feel more fit and more healthy and more other qualities that are necessary in order to enjoy all the adventures. We figure we’ll get more out of our trip that way, as opposed to, you know, feeling sluggish and opting to just sit in the room and put the hurt on a bag of Hershey’s Miniatures. Not that I would ever do such a thing, of course.
So Saturday before last I went to the grocery store and bought a big ole shopping cart full of organic produce and grass-fed meat. I even bought grass-fed butter, a product that was NEWS TO ME when I first heard about it several weeks ago. I bought coconut oil (NOT CHEAP) and fresh fruit and free-range Omega 3 organic blah blah eggs, and when I finally got home after my grocery run, I honest to goodness looked in my refrigerator and thought, “Well. I don’t know what in the world I’m going to cook.”
That was probably my first sign that the Paleo plan might not be the best use of my cooking strengths. And that maybe I hadn’t put enough time into planning what we were going to eat.
Nonetheless, I found recipes on Pinterest, mapped out a menu plan for most of the week, and figured that breakfast would be a breeze since I could make a smoothie or cook bacon and eggs. OPTIMISM ABOUNDED.
Last Monday was our first official Paleo day, and after a lunch of some all-natural, gently plucked, nitrate-free turkey (or something like that) as well as approximately five cashews, I was fired up about cooking a big ole London Broil on the grill for our supper. I realized early in the afternoon that I couldn’t marinate the meat the way I normally would (soy sauce, sesame oil, a little brown sugar, lemon, etc.), so I had to improvise. I searched the web for marinades, but they all involved ingredients I didn’t have or required extensive use of a blender. Since I thought I might make a smoothie the next morning, I wanted to keep the blender clean (sidenote: I do not enjoy cleaning all the little pieces and parts of a blender), so I wound up making a marinade with red wine, black pepper, and garlic.
(Sidenote #2: I do not care for red wine even a little bit, but since someone had given us a couple of bottles and I was desperate to season the meat, it seemed like a good opportunity to put the wine to use.)
(Sidenote #3: I am, at best, iffy about garlic.)
(Sidenote #4: I have no idea how I came to the conclusion that it was wise to marinate my meat in these things so that the meat could absorb two flavors that I don’t really care for.)
(WHAT A GREAT IDEA!)
The London Broil wasn’t all that bad, and I served it with a mashed cauliflower and roasted garlic (AGAIN WITH THE GARLIC) dish that was actually pretty good if you closed your eyes and pretended it was mashed potatoes. Then I ate six almonds for dessert.
BOY WAS I EVER SATISFIED.
The next day was easier at breakfast and lunch, and for supper I made some zucchini boats with bacon and banana peppers that were actually really tasty. The only down side was that it took me about an hour to do all the prep work for the zucchini boats, and that’s a high-maintenance meal by my standards, especially if I only make half a recipe and there aren’t leftovers that we can eat the next night. For dessert we had some air and some water, and it was totally fine except that I wept inconsolably.
I didn’t really weep. At least not openly.
On Wednesday I had plans to meet a friend for lunch, and I was super-excited about ordering a really good salad. I did just that when lunch time finally rolled around, and after I had carefully explained that the chicken needed to be grilled, and I didn’t need any cheese or croutons or anything that hadn’t sprung forth from the earth under pesticide-free conditions, the waitress asked a question that caught me completely off-guard.
“What kind of dressing would you like?”
Dressing? DRESSING? I’d forgotten all about the dressing. And I’d forgotten that Ranch dressing was off-limits in Paleo because it contains dairy and store-bought mayonnaise. And I’d forgotten that unless I had a Mason jar full of some homemade fruity vinaigrette in my purse, my only salad dressing option at the restaurant was oil and vinegar. Or maybe just some fresh lemon juice.
For the record, I did not have a Mason jar full of some homemade fruity vinaigrette in my purse.
I would imagine that we’ve all encountered moments in our lives when we knew that we were at a turning point in our parenting, in a relationship, or in a career. We’ve all faced hard choices, and we’ve no doubt weighed the pros and the cons surrounding whatever issue was at hand. We’ve all felt the weight of knowing that I am at a crossroads, and I have to decide which way to go.
I want to tell you that last Wednesday, in a restaurant right here in Birmingham, Alabama, I stood at a crossroads. If I turned one way, I would stay on the straight Paleo path, the land of oil and vinegar and grass-fed everything. If I turned the other way, I would walk toward the Hidden Valley, the land where even a little bit of Ranch dressing makes everything better.
It was my very own Sophie’s Choice, and I knew way down deep in my soul which path I would choose.
So I took a deep breath, looked the waitress straight in the eye, and smiled as I said, “Ranch, please. And THANK YOU SO MUCH OH MY WORD THANK YOU.”
I’m not gonna lie. Pouring that dressing on my salad was a sacred moment. Not that the meat I’d soaked in red wine hadn’t been perfectly wonderful and all.
When D got home from work, I told him about the recent Ranch developments. I explained that while I was perfectly willing to continue avoiding white flour, pasta, sweets, bread, etc., I was more certain than ever than Ranch dressing is the lynchpin that holds any healthy-ish eating plan together for me. Yes, I will embrace those grass-fed meats and the organic everything and even the grass-fed butter. But if I can have the option of occasionally making a salad out of some of that organic produce and then pouring a few tablespoons of Ranch over the top, then that, THAT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
D strongly supported my Ranch dressing concession. He supported it so strongly, in fact, that we drove straight to Jason’s Deli and lined up at the salad bar. And after I dressed my salad and put the ladle back in the container, I’m pretty sure that the Ranch dressing winked at me. Or maybe I was just giddy with knowing that I didn’t have to face a Ranch-less future. Regardless, I would’ve held the Ranch dressing’s hand and skipped off into the sunset if I could’ve.
Or skipped to the Hidden Valley, as it were.