A Frágile Traveler Traveler’s Diet

It’s not easy to be me…

Not said to complain or illicit any visceral response.  Just the facts, living with the complexities of any disease is not an easy task, let alone traveling with them.  So, I work hard to attempt to control the pieces that I can.

A couple of summers ago I was beyond lucky to participate in a clinical study at the University of Iowa, with Dr. Terry Wahls.  I was so very sad to be randomly chosen to be in the regular food control group.  I wanted desperately to experience the purported benefits of her stringent Paleo diet.  After about four years of research and work she was able to reverse her extreme Multiple Sclerosis.  She learned to walk again relinquishing her prone wheelchair, using food as medicine and exercise to retrain brain waves and recalcitrant muscles.

It turns out that my spot in the regular food group could not have been a better one.  For 12 glorious weeks my friend Janet and I ate anything and everything we wanted.  As a dedicated foodie my love of good bites can be indulged in some questionable  ways!  I love unsalted butter, cheeses of all varieties, and well-baked artisan bread.  Oh, Fervere, on 17th and Summit!!!  I so miss the Olive Rosemary loaf, polenta bread, travel grain bread, cheese bread, and so many more.  Bread at Fevere is not only beautiful but baked in a wood fired brick oven with so much love.  Genuinely, art, as I believe all good food is.  But then, I love the heavily breaded fresh fried chicken strips one can find at Winsteads on the Kansas City Plaza.  A  limeade there is made even sweeter with that tasty scoop of lime sherbet.  Take fried food to an even further extreme and there is nothing like the menu at Catfish Charlies on the historic old 224 Hiway just east of Wellington, Missouri.  Everything there is fried to perfection and the fresh caught Missouri Catfish is divine!  They will even give you a candy ring pop sucker, straight sugar, for your ride home.  Of course, you have to be very good to be invited to choose one!  Dairy delights?  Paleterias Tropicana on Kansas City’s Southwest Boulevard will scoop up a monstrous three-tier ice cream in a sugar cone that challenges you to eat it all before you’re wearin’  it on a hot summer night.  Yep, you bet we ate with gusto as I prepared to abstain from all.

I traveled to the University of Iowa three times for data collection and training on how to begin an extreme Paleo diet.  I would have chucked all the test results, the tedious weights, measures and Iowa travel to continue with my favorite food extravaganzas but an interesting thing happened.    I had changed nothing in terms of the pharmaceuticals my Neurologist prescribed for me.  By the end of my wanton gluttony for my last visit to Dr. Wahls I could barely walk and had little energy.  I returned to Kansas City to adopt a severe Paleo approach to my cooking.  I excluded grains, beans, dairy, and eggs.  I purchased meat from local non GMO butchers.  I consumed lots of fat from meat as well as high-end olive oil, coconut milk and avocados.  Everyday, I ate about 3 cups of greens and always a couple of cups of fruit.  I ate twice a day, a huge breakfast late and a generous dinner typically fairly early.  Within about 3 months, I stopped taking a drug that allegedly made me walk faster and another that addressed restless leg syndrome.  I stopped my monthly infusions about a year after my diet adventure.

Fortunately, retirement gives me the time needed to cook and manage my food choices.  I believe that everything is individual so I am not suggesting that my system or Dr. Wahl’s will work for everyone.  As I write I continue to dial in my diet and exercise program to suit my needs.  I do suggest everyone should be thoughtful about how they feel based upon what they eat and how they exercise.  Now, can you imagine how I can possibly eat on the road?  It is really not hard.  It just takes some planning and as one of my favorite former colleagues often said, “When all else fails lower your standards and move on!”

breakfast toast
Gluten free toast with fresh ground almond butter and serious Italian coffee is hard to find on the road.  This is just one tiny, tiny piece of my generous breakfast.  I generally have a large sausage, and a bowl of fruit with full fat coconut milk.

Last September I began with great trepidation a foray into plane travel.  I thought I might be able to survive a trip to Chicago.  I have a good friend that was preparing to defend her tenure for yet the third university for which she has worked.  I know how academics are.  She would not cook for herself, foregoing a skillet for a computer. So I traveled to Chicago to cook for my friend while she prepared.  I was so scared to jump on a plane.  Given my diet and physical liabilities plane travel was very worrisome for me.  My daughter dropped me off at the Southwest’s Redcap station at KCAI for a mid-morning flight.

Hi, unfolding my paper itinerary , I asked if I was in the correct spot to check my luggage.  “You would be if you were flying Southwest but this itinerary is for United Airlines.  You will need to take the shuttle, which boards down there, to Terminal C.  Do you need help?”, the Skycap said, politely.  This was not a confidence booster with which to begin my trip.  I always travel with extra time so I sucked it up and wrestled my luggage a half city block down the sidewalk.  I boarded the shuttle and made it in plenty of time to my gate to pull off my cowboy boots and slip on my house shoes to slide through security.  So far, only one error.  A looming problem was that I had not had my daily pot of very strong Italian coffee.  I arrived at O’Hare with a pounding headache.  Fortunately, I have a former colleague in Chicago who picked me up and whisked me off to find coffee, lunch and groceries for my week of cooking for my friend.

Whizzing through Chicago traffic at what seemed like the speed of light to me, we began a discovery tour of some of Chicago’s best butchers.  I had done some research first and had known some addresses but my lack of caffeine was painful at this point.  I never get headaches but…I needed some coffee, now.  Passing a Dunkin Donuts, Jim says, “I guess you won’t eat there, will you?”  Actually, Dunkin Donuts has very good coffee.  Just as I am about to utter an emphatic “yes”, I spot my kind of place…A small family owned Ecuadorian eatery. ecuador chicago

It was great.  Dark, thick black coffee, a bowl of ceviche, served with lime slices, roasted corn kernels and a big bowl of rice.  I don’t eat most of what’s on the table but I am happy to share the incredibly fresh shrimp with my friend.  Light protein and coffee.  A meal made in heaven for me. The restaurant owners were so gracious in their gleaming yellow cafe.  It’s the middle of the day and this is an appetizer for the much heavier meal I will prepare later.

ecuador chicago 4
Shrimp ceviche is such a clean clear flavor with squeezed lime.

We proceeded onward to collect up what special meats I can find at two of Chicago’s most famous butchers.  First, Gepperths…

gepperths meat mkt
The magazine article says it all!  What a great place to pick up our protein.

In this tiny hallway of a shop you wouldn’t believe what great food abounds.  This is a carnivore’s idea of fun and the butchers are great conversationalists.

gepperts 2
So many choices and this is only about an eighth of the selection.

Laden with an armful of meat we headed to the next butcher shop, the Paulina Market.paulina chicago 3

Bigger but more expensive with even more selection this is yet another meat lovers heaven.  I leave here with more delights to fill my cooking week.  The last stop is Whole Foods for veggies, greens, coconut milk and staples.  I am set to cook for Gretchen just like I do for myself everyday.  This is traveling easy since I can land and recreate my diet in her kitchen.  Ah, Chicago seen from her kitchen on the 17th floor.  I love cooking in the sky.gretchens

chicago view
Storms are particularly wonderful up here.

But when I am on a more complicated journey, like my recent venture to the West Coast.  It’s much trickier.  That’s when I pull out the Epic Protein bars, dark chocolate covered almonds, and a piece of fruit.  That will keep me solid until I can land somewhere for a decent salad free of cheese, croutons and of course hold the bread!  I was lucky to be with my friend James in LA and he knew wonderful inexpensive good food digs.  We ate in the Hollywood neighborhood on Sunset at Bosa Nova, a Brazilian restaurant where I had a huge spinach salad with broiled chicken.  The last meal we had was at Zankou Chicken, on Sunset Boulevard.  We had their spit cooked chicken with garlic spread and pickled turnips.  The food was cheap and fabulous not to mention the customers.

shrawma la
This young woman with hiway yellow hair was a visual delight!

San Francisco was expensive and so uphill!  When I landed back in my B&B after a gallery tour, I spent a few evenings reviewing menus online through GrubHub.  I could order a burger without the bun, sweet potato fries and a big salad for under $30.  Not bad for San Fran fare.  Many online restaurants listed gluten free options.  That was a huge help because when I went out on only two occasions it was very expensive but oh so fun.  I totally overdosed my self on fish at a most romantic spot on Fisherman’s Wharf.  Scomas, a seaside restaurant in business since 1965, is definitely a place I will return to again but I will reign in my appetite better next time.  Oysters on the half shell, crab cocktail, and fresh caught halibut proved to be more fish than I could handle but wow it was a fabulous dinner.

San Fran fish
Classic 60’s decor

For me it’s all about balancing out about an 8oz serving of meat, with about 3 cups of greens and another couple of cups of fruit at each of my two meals.  Of course a very serious cup of black coffee in the morning and a decent glass of red wine at night.  I can find that on most roads without too much trouble.

curbside cafe
The Curbside Cafe in San Francisco is where I had breakfast most mornings.  That is when I was brave enough to walk downhill!  When I asked for cinnamon for my fruit the waiter brought me a big shaker of it!  Delightful!!!  I had fried Italian sausage here for breakfast.

While it is not easy eating well without breaking the bank it can be done on the road anywhere I go.  I have to plan carefully and be prepared to cushion my tummy with some protein, fruit, chocolate or nuts.  Plain almonds will do but…dark chocolate covered is really best!

Experiment with your food and consider how you feel.

Keep moving!

The Fragile Traveler

#handicapped travel #Chicago #Gepperts Butcher #Paulina Meat Market #Ecuadorian Food #Delicias Crucita #Los Angeles #Zankou #Bosa Nova #Dr. Terry Wahls #Paleo diet

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