January 30, 2013

Food. Especially Pizza.

Every once in a while I get a craving for a food that I miss, a food that I haven't had in years and years.  Sloppy Joes. Jack's brand pizza, thin or self rising, don't care.  Chop Suey Casserole smashed between two pieces of white bread.  Ramen Noodles (hold the broth please). Pretzels with sour cream.  Skilletini from Carino's.    Luckily it's a fleeting craving.  I generally realize that it would taste like total crap to the palate which has developed over more than a decade of cleaning up my food act.


The clean-up began all the way back in the winter of 1999 when Jeff and I read a book called Reversing Fibromyalgia.  At the age of 19 I had already had Fibromyalgia for 7 years, and the bouts of severe pain, and unyielding insomnia and exhaustion where scaring us.  This book was our first introduction to the effects of food and food additives on the body, and the differences between organic and pesticide/chemical fertilizer grown foods.  It was enlightening. It made absolute sense, and it was so incredibly overwhelming that the new food relationship didn't stick long.  It did hang long enough for us to see my symptoms begin to improve, and for us to have to figure out how to make an entire Thanksgiving meal (for my extended family) with all organic ingredients, and no gluten.  The sticker shock was overwhelming too. The connection between food and health stuck with us though and we kept trying.

Over the years we would delve deeply into vegetarianism, and veganism which made my symptoms much, much worse.  We hung with it though, as our vegan friends explained that this sickness was the cleansing period.  But, alas, it was not.  It was my body screaming in protest, and the recovery from the foray into meatless eating was longer.   It was almost 2003 before we lived close enough to an organic food store to even consider sticking with an all organic diet, but the timing coincided with the addition of our first baby.  We tried.  We really did, but we ate out constantly.  We bought all of our groceries at Whole Foods Market, but we rarely made dinner at home.  As the years went on we worked on it, bit by bit. 

October 2008 010-Edit
Who doesn't love a mouth full of food pic?

Some things stuck, some took years of trying, but by 2007 our diet was finally, completely, different.  Most things that we ate were made from whole ingredients.  We added in homemade bone broth and raw milk, which brought shockingly fast healing for me.  We cut out food from cans, bags and boxes, and by the end of the year we had eliminated gluten, potatoes, grains, and sugar.  I refuse to tone it down; my life was completely transformed.  I had no symptoms at all.  None.  Not only could I sleep each and every night, but I could run, climb, carry, and any other thing I felt like doing.  I had energy that I hadn't had when I was 12.  I had NO PAIN.  No more crying.  No more thinking that the pain was going to consume me.  No more clenching Jeff's hand and locking eyes because I was afraid that I would start screaming and not be able to stop.  The change was completely freaking miraculous!  That change is what inspired the change in lifestyle that made news.  It all, all, all, comes back to food for us. 

As the years have gone on I have fallen off the wagon, and dragged my broken, aching, shamed self back on that many times +1.  Each time I have sworn that I would never, ever make that mistake again, but health and strength is a funny thing.  When you have it it's hard to believe that you could ever lose it. 

Tea Party finger foods at Nichola's 5th birthday party

When we hit the road in 2008 we were doomed.  We managed to stick to our diet for less than a month before we started slipping.  The funny story is that it was right here, in Taos, that did us in.  On our way from Texas to Wyoming, for the Rainbow Gathering, we stopped here.  It was our first intentional stop.  Every other place had been dictated by fuel, grocery, or timing, but I NEEDED to go to Taos.  It was out of our way, and I couldn't explain to my family why we should go to Taos, I just needed to.  So we bypassed Santa Fe and Albuquerque and headed into tiny Taos.  A photojournalist who had traveled with us up to this point disappeared for the entire next day, hitchhiking his way through Taos and ending up at a place called "Outback Pizza Taos".   It was actually Taos Pizza Outback.  He raved about the pizza.  Said it was amazing.  Said it was the best.  It wasn't, but for some reason that pizza became a need for Jeff.  He had to have some of that Outback pizza.  Had to.  HAD. To.  So we went. 

Even after not having anything like pizza for almost a year, it wasn't impressive, but it was Pizza.  Pizza became the theme of our travels.  We had pizza in nearly every town we stopped in.  Cheese pizza because it allowed us to better compare all of the pizzas we had tried across the 27 states we would visit.  Taos Pizza Outback doesn't make the top 20.  We had pizza at fine Italian eateries.  We had pizza from a gas station in Florida (it was pretty good) and we had pizza from pizzerias that had been making their pizzas in the same special oven for 50 or 60 years.  We missed the pizza in Chicago, could barely choke down the pizza in Virginia, and went back 100 times for the pizza in Appleton, Wisconsin.

October 2008 142-Edit
Frank's Pizza Palace

Though we don't agree on who had the very best pizza, strangely we all agree that it came from somewhere in Wisconsin.  My favorite (besides the frozen Jacks) was the thin crust, extra cheese from Frank's Pizza Palace on College Avenue in Appleton, WI.  Frank's has been a family pizzeria for so long it boasts being Appleton's first pizza.  Before you even step in the door you're covered in a thick, smokey, heavy scent of baking, yeasty bread, seasoned tomato, and burning cheese.  It's divine.  The pizza is old school, greasy, cheesy, heavy, cut in little squares, and requiring two hands.  The decor is just as cheesy, dimly lit, mismatched, goofy murals, Italian impostor statues, and faux greenery.  My grandmother took me there when I was a very little girl, and it is still as good now.  


Jeff's favorite was at the other end of College Avenue from a place called Sal's.  It was one of those late-night, bar hopper joints that served it by the slice.  The booths were red vinyl, and stocked with big shakers of crushed pepper and powdered cheese.  The crust was crispy from being reheated in a wood oven when you picked your slice, and the slice was as big as your head.  We weren't much for the bar-hopping, but the late night slices in walking distance from my mom's place were awesome.

Nichola's favorite pizza (she was less than two) came from a place on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin.  I barely remember the place, and can't even remember the name.  I just remember tiny Nichola insisting on her own slices and eating the entire thing by herself.  We ate there at least three times.

Quinn really liked Frank's pizza too, but his favorite was a place called Cranky Pat's Pizza and Pub, in Neenah, WI.  Funny enough, Pat was once Frank's partner, and Frank's used to be Frank & Pat's Pizza.  More than 57 years ago Frank and Pat moved from Chicago to the tiny Fox River Valley town in Wisconsin.  Cranky Pat's pizza was very similar to Franks, but salty.  Perfectly salty.  It was the kind of pizza that needed a veggie topping.  I agree though, it was a close second, and it probably took 6 or 7 visits to each before I could decide which I liked better.  It was a mood thing, but I was in a Frank's mood more often.

A place in Culpepper, Virginia, Luigi's Italian Restaurant wins for the worst pizza.  It tasted like soggy bread that had been spread with plain tomato paste (straight from the old can) and topped with a tasteless mozzarella.  {{{Shudder}}} It was so bad.  However, it was not the worst pizza we had ever had.  That honor goes to a place in Atikokan Ontario.  I can't remember the name anymore, but I remember the pizza.  It was so bad that we truly could not eat it.  Just couldn't eat it.  We didn't have the heart to tell the waitress in this tiny, tiny, tiny nowhere town in rural Ontario.  We claimed we weren't really hungry and didn't need to take the uneaten pizza with us, but she wouldn't hear of it.  She boxed it up, nice as could be, and sent us off.  We dumped the pizza in the trashcan outside, and never forgot the day that we discovered that there was, indeed, such a thing as bad pizza.

Now that I've worked myself into a full on pizza memory drool, I'm going to sign off. 

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Mmmmmm... so goooood. 


Kit Gana said...

I was very entertained reading your experiences. I really appreciate it much. Thanks for sharing your story.

Find out more: Pizza Restaurants South Yarra

Lynda Otvos said...

Yes, pizza... I learned to toss the crust into the air to make it rounder and how to flavor the sauce so it made my mama cry. I miss it.

Love the pictures of you all enjoying food. Have a great February.

Lizbeth Stanley said...

i really wish that my story could be the same as yours...i have it severely and unable to do anything...its very depressing. i have 3 kids and we have no life because i am too tired or too sore or too nauseous and so on. i hate this disease and not want it.

Aimée LeVally said...

@Lizbeth - My story is not only mine. There are many others who have healed from Fibromyalgia and other 'incurable' diseases through extreme lifestyle change. It is not really so simple as cutting out pizza, but healing is possible. The main thing that drives me is understanding that Fibromyalgia, though not stritcly hereditary, runs in families because of very specific, reversible causes. I know that if I can keep our family on a lifestyle and diet that eliminates my symptoms then I have a good hope of preventing my children from ever experiencing the pain and suffering, which, I'll be honest, is one of my biggest fears.

I grew up with a sick mother who suffered Fibromyalgia (and still does) and developed it myself by the time I was 12. There is a good book called Autoimmune: The Cause and the Cure by Annesse Brockley that I can recommend. Annesse recently sent me a copy of her book and it is thorough and understandable in its explanations and suggestions.

I know very well what it is to be too sick to have a life. After my second baby was born in 2007 I finally got so bad that I couldn't even walk alone anymore. As you know, by the summer of 2008 I was so well that I could travel the country and hike mountains. It can be scary, and difficult, but it is possible to get better.