“you know our beautiful new couch? yeah. totally toxic.”

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To say that my skin has endured a Brooklyn-style beat-down would be an understatement. I don’t know whether it’s Los Angeles, growing older, or the fact that my skin is becoming sensitive to everything (cue visuals of Julianne Moore in Safe prattling on about her totally toxic couch), but the past few months have taken a toll on me. During my Great Depression, a time when I ate a whole baguette slathered with butter, frozen “organic” enchiladas and halloumi cheese by the pound, I started to feel sick and then I noticed whiteheads setting up shop all over my forehead. One night I woke to burning raised hives, which covered 80% of my body, and I thought, fuck, not again. I went to a dermatologist who gave me a cortisone shot and prescriptions for steroid creams. The steroid cream triggered my second folliculitis outbreak, and I’ve been on antibiotics for weeks. Finally, the bumps have finally started to recede. And let’s not even discuss allergies so severe it sometimes became difficult for me to breathe.

All because my body reacted to what I was putting in it. Lately, I’ve become hyper-aware of the air I breathe, the food I eat, and the products I put on my skin and use in my home.

I loathe drugs. I only like taking medication if it serves to progress, rather than impede, function. And yes I know that the Felicia of 2001 would find that hilarious, and that’s okay because that Felicia used to subsist on Lean Cuisine and Starbucks and we’ve come a long way, baby. Now I take antidepressants because they’re necessary for me to focus and function. I take birth control pills because I’d rather not lock myself in a bathroom for three days every month. I used to take anti-anxiety medication because I have a crippling fear of flying (I’ve screamed during turbulence more times than I’d like to admit). Only recently did I stop taking Xanax because pills really don’t work when the plane starts shaking mid-flight. Nothing works, really, other than me curling in a ball, doing my deep breathing, and telling myself that turbulence is normal. Even when it feels like it’s anything but. Now I only take medication if it’s completely necessary.

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Monsanto, aka Satan, does exist and it’s ubiquitous. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed not to find food tainted by Roundup or any of the litany of chemicals plaguing our soil in the name of greed and profit (here’s looking at you Koch brothers and shady politicians on both sides of the aisle). I work in marketing and I often joke that my profession boils down to throwing glitter over shit, and that statement couldn’t be more accurate when we’re talking about Big Food. Everyone lies. We know that the term “natural” is obtuse and meaningless, but it makes us feel good much like the cool sensation from toothpaste or the suds from shampoo–both giving the impression of cleanliness when they’re actually just marketing ploys satisfying human behavior. Years ago, I sat in on a case study on Fabreeze, a product that, when launched, was initially a complete failure. Only when marketers conducted at-home focus groups did they learn that people gained a certain level of satisfaction from using the product after they’ve cleaned their space–the product functioning as a kind of digestif. We’re learning that Big Organic is just as shady as conventional, and every day we’re greeted with the news that some food may or may not kill us. Fear drives traffic and lies sell products, so it’s no doubt that we sometimes walk into a supermarket, restaurant or farmer’s market either completely ignorant or violently skeptical.

I don’t even trust Whole Foods anymore, but what can I do? Move to my own private Walden and grow my own food? Drink water from my own well? Sure, if I had Angelina Jolie money, but I live in reality and in this world, I have a budget and a life that is filled with little compromises. Even then I’m acutely aware of my privilege–the fact that I’m now able to afford vegetables and farmer’s market meat, which are often considered frivolous expenditures in homes where people are barely making ends meet, and this financial fragility isn’t getting better anytime soon. And I don’t foresee the lies and big business surrounding food, GMOs, and farmer equities getting better in my lifetime. Until then, I try to buy as much locally-produced food as I could. I try to educate myself on what’s going on with labels and faulty manufacturers.

I would talk about how cutting out gluten and dairy again from my diet have eliminated my allergies and the hives on my skin, but that topic is polarizing. People levy this discussion with that of dieting or food restrictions and let me be the first to tell you that if I could return to a life of eating Sidecar huckleberry donuts, you damn well know I would. If I could put cheese on my fucking bean pasta you know I would. This isn’t about dieting, it’s about my body having an adverse reaction to certain foods. And even that argument is countered with “food sensitivity doesn’t exist” to which I respond, ten years ago doctors were prescribing women antidepressants when they described symptoms that eventually surfaced as celiac disease. In short, I don’t believe long-term scientific studies have caught up with the pace in which our diet, the environment, and our food supply have changed. But let’s not talk about gluten and dairy and say we did.

Living a healthy life is expensive and exhausting.

For the past six months, a few of my friends who are beauty writers were kind enough to supply me with everything from deodorant to toothpaste to facial cleanser because that stuff adds up. You walk into any target and CVS and you could easily spend $50 on items that keep you clean. The irony in this is that these products don’t really serve you regardless of the luxury packaging, the celebrity endorsements or the commercials with English or French voice-overs. Many of these prestige products (ah, the promise of increased efficacy) are manufactured using similar formulas and factories as the “cheap” products. And when I start reading the multi-syllabic list of ingredients, each product listing water as the first and most concentrated ingredient, it reminded me of the time I read an ice cream label and asked, what is guar gum? 

What is this shite I’m putting in and on my body? But then again, we live in an age where people are comfortable injecting their faces with botulism. So there’s that.

natural beauty products

With each paycheck, I’m slowly making product swap-outs. I’m buying products whose ingredients resemble words in the English language and they’re working. Some of them are shown in the snap above, although some of the products (Caudalie) are mass manufactured–they’re holders from my friends’ extreme generosity, for which I’m grateful. I’m stocking up on more vinegar because that will get out cat vomit in carpet far quicker than some newfangled $10.99 bleach cleaner.

This post started one way and ended differently. I don’t have the answers to the long, meandering post I’m sharing with you, but I’m doing the work of being more thoughtful about what I put on and in my body, what I use in my home, and the environment in which I surround myself. It’s expensive and exhausting to live a healthy life, to cut through the confusing and conflicting news articles. It’s hard finding out what’s true and what’s marketing copy. It’s hard not having the food you crave and want and having to deal with people who sometimes respond to health issues with swallowed laughter and sarcasm. It’s hard knowing things and not having the ability (or the knowledge) of what to do. What do you do when you can afford farmer’s market pork and then you read an article about people who know McDonald’s is unhealthy but what are their options? What do you do when politicians don’t really talk about food or climate change because there’s a host of other ills in our country, but all the way Big Food does little to benefit the economically disadvantaged. What are the small things you can do that allow you to use your privilege to benefit others?

I welcome your insight.

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sakara life organic food delivery: it’s a million dollars, but it’s worth it

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When it comes to food, specifically food delivery services, I’m Captain Skeptical. I’ve tried them all. For nearly six months I subscribed to a service that shipped me a box of pre-measured ingredients and recipe cards, and fell disenchanted with the heavy wheat and dairy in the vegetarian meals. I ordered flash frozen foods and picked at tepid asparagus. Most of what arrives is a visual science experiment, and, invariably, I’d always have to hoover a bowl of cereal to supplement my “healthy” meal. Also, nothing gives me more pleasure than planting myself in the kitchen. Nothing gives me greater joy than the arcane fusion of art and alchemy when it comes to making food. Well, perhaps writing fiction, but you know what I mean. Creating something from ether, from air, is not only nourishing for yourself, it’s also the ultimate expression of your love for others. Here is this bowl of hot homemade soup in my hands, and it’s for you. Because this is how much I love you. We’re born gatherers, and our finest moments have been when we’ve spent time with our beloveds, nursing a bowl, a plate, a crumbling cookie coming apart between our fingers.

So you can imagine my reticence when I first heard of Sakara Life. My longtime yoga teacher snapped photos of the meals and sung its praises, and soon the motley lot followed suit. And you know me, if it’s popular with the cool set I tend to run blindly in the other direction.

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However, last week was low. The kind of week where I would’ve been a prime cult candidate. When you ask how seemingly educated and rational people fall victim to cults, notice a pattern. People fall prey to the promise of idyll, of light, when they are in, or traveling through, their own dark country. But that’s a whole other post, a whole other book, another time, but know that I mourned the loss of gluten and dairy like you wouldn’t believe, and I found myself clicking to Sakara’s site, googling founder interviews, fawning over photos, and said:

FINE, I’LL SPEND A MILLION DOLLARS ON HOME DELIVERY.

After a week of enjoying the service, I realize where, and how well, that money was spent. You guys know I eat, and eat well (I’m humbled to have this privilege), but Sakara is the BUSINESS. Would I do this every week? No, unless I was a millionaire or didn’t care that I’m still paying off six-figure graduate loan debt (Thanks, Columbia MFA program!). However, I would splurge on this service once a year, or for a magnificent gift, because the food is seriously inventive and extraordinary.

After rattling off my laundry list of food sensitivities (did I mention I can’t have bananas for six months? Let’s add sweet potatoes, millet, turkey, and a load of other beloved foods to the list), Sakara hand-delivered food I couldn’t imagine creating. From spring pea spring gnocchi to sprouted quinoa and goji berry salad wrapped in collards, to a sunchoke griddlecake w/ garden herb salad, to a bowl of forbidden rice + tatsoi noodles draped in black sesame dressing, to a cucumber salad that still haunts my waking hours, the dishes are satisfying, rich in flavor, and you can tell you’re eating fresh, consciously-produced food. There were some moments when I shook my head and whispered, Bless your Sakara heart if you think I can subsist on that (read: roasted vegetable skewers. Come now), however, those moments were minimal, and I was sated after every meal.

In a fit of delirium (cue the cult feelings again), I ordered another batch of meals having been thankful that my nutritionist gave me a code for a 10% discount–listen, every dollar helps, people–because after enduring The Gluten Blitzkrieg and Purge of 2014, a woman needs a little splurge.

I’ll keep you posted on next week’s meals, however, if you live in the tri-state area, have a small fortune to drop on yourself, or want to splurge after surviving a full-body rash from eating CACIO E GODDAMN PEPE, I would seriously encourage you to check Sakara out. Or you can pray for a Gilt City deal.

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a week lived in technicolor

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1. cobalt blue dress @ anthropologie, fitting for my European holiday | 2. tulips @ union square market | 3. gramercy tavern from the outside | 4. cobalt walls from domino’s small spaces issue | 5. rubirosa supreme pizza @ rubirosa | 6. me trying warby parker specs on for size | 7. books by sam lipsyte + taiye silasi are on deck, along with a soy cappuccino | 8. the finest cup of coffee + chocolate walnut cookie @ la colombe | 9/10. tulips, tulips, tulips | 11/12. my new food joint of the hour: hu kitchen | 13. colombe cookie redux | 14. washington square park, viewed with wide eyes

chow here now: feel good guru: toronto, ontario

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The upside to having a hacking cough that makes me sound as if I’m a trembling woman in her twilight years (you might be wondering if there is such a upside, but I assure you there is) — an aversion to all foods that are naughty and a hunger for all that is virtuous, clean and healing. Over the past week I’ve been an incubus of infection, battling a sore throat and raspy, endless cough, mainlining Vitamin C as if I were on life support and even ingesting Airborne tablets, of which I truly believe to be WORTHLESS. My appetite is not as voracious as it normally is and the only meal that gave me true solace was the delicious kale salad you see here, which can found at Feel Good Guru, a new raw takeout shop located near Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto.

Owned and operated by Moira Nordholt, a self-taught vegan chef who “plays with kitchen chemistry” (love that bit), this is not your ubiquitous, greasy takeout joint. From sprouting wheatgrass to homemade raw cookies and fresh juiced concoctions, you’ll feel as if your organs are getting a SHOWER after chowing at Feel Good Guru.

And we won’t talk about the Kit Kat I ate while watching Taken 2 in my hotel room and just say we did.

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