Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Diabetes--does it get in the way?

There's a lot of talk lately about Sonia Sotomayor and her type 1 diabetes. Will it affect her ability to be a Supreme Court justice? Of course not. Mostly.

Trying to tell someone how diabetes affects your life is difficult. It changes everything. And at the same time, it's not a big deal.

In a story about Ms. Sotomayor and her diabetes, Time Magazine ran this photograph of a woman injecting herself with something. And yes, you can take insulin injections in your arm by squeezing it up against a chair or wall, but there are easier ways to do it. (And ways that look less like a hype getting a fix.) The most common places to give yourself an injection are the stomach, legs, and butt. They're easier to reach and they have more fat as well.

If I were to pick a photograph to show what diabetes is like, it would be this:

Yup. Food. I eat a lot of food in bowls. When you have type 1 diabetes (which I've had for 23 years), you have to count every bite of food you eat. For me, the easiest way to do this is to eat out of bowls. This far up the bowl is one cup. This far, two cups.

Pictured there, one cup beans, half a cup rice, for a total of 50 g carbohydrate, which translates to 7 units of insulin. I do a mental calculation like that every time I eat.

And that's the hard part of having diabetes. It's counting everything you eat. Thinking about when your next meal will be every time you step out the door. Keeping track of five prescriptions that need to be renewed at different times. Carting around a bag of supplies everywhere you go. Noticing that you walked three miles today instead of two. It's six doctor's appointments a year. Four to ten blood sugar checks a day. No vacation.

But all these things I do, they're what keep me healthy. Sometimes I'll catch someone giving me a look when I test my blood sugar. I guess testing reminds people that I'm "sick". Which is ironic. Testing my blood sugar and taking insulin make me healthy. If you ever notice me ignoring my diabetes for days on end, like a normal person, start worrying.

Occasionally, my blood sugar goes low. And I lose fifteen minutes or so of time waiting for things to come back into focus. And that part isn't such a big deal.

Twenty-three years into this, I have no complications so far. Statistics tell me I'll die seven to ten years earlier, probably from a heart attack. I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about dying at 87, rather than 95 (the age my great-grandmother lived to).

There are a lot of factors that should be considered before choosing Ms. Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice. Her diabetes just isn't one of them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Vegan Texas Chili

Texas chili isn't like chili anywhere else. Texas chili never ever has beans. Ever. Once you add beans, Texans will politely call it a bean stew. Some people say that Texas chili shouldn't have tomatoes either, but no one pays much attention to that rule.

I've been wanting chili for a few weeks, and nothing is hitting the spot. Dewey makes a very nice, er, four bean stew, but it just isn't chili to me. The no-bean rule is always a problem for vegetarians because once you add those beans, it's not Texas chili anymore. A sausage patty recipe on A Veg*n for Dinner gave me the idea of using bulgur in place of the meat. And it worked wonderfully. The bulgur soaked up the flavors and kept a nice chewy bite. This was pure comfort food.

Bulgur Texas Chili

1 or 2 tablespoons oil
small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 cup bulgur
3 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 can rotel (I used mild)
1 can water
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Fry the onions in oil until they are soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add all the spices and stir to combine. You can leave out the cayenne to reduce the heat a bit. Add the bulgur and stir everything together again. Combine the soy sauce and ketchup and pour the mixture over the bulgur. Stir continuously until combined.

Pour in the can of rotel (or about 10 ounces diced tomatoes). Fill the can with water once and add to the other ingredients. Add the tomato paste and stir everything once more. Bring everything to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the chili is too dry, add some water. Texas chili can be anywhere from moist to somewhat soupy, whatever your preference. Serve with tortilla chips, fritos, or cornbread but NEVER rice. (Another one of those rules.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Zucchini Cakes

My college roommate La and I used to make these great hashed brown zucchini cakes. We especially loved eating them at passover (subbing matzah flour for the bread crumbs). La even adapted the recipe into a sort of pizza crust. Unfortunately, that recipe used 6 T Parmesan cheese to bind the cakes together and to provide a bit more flavor.

So when I saw this recipe for zucchini cakes adapted by one of my favorite bloggers, I knew I needed to veganize it. The eggs in Kim's recipe are mainly for binding, so I knew pureed silken tofu would do a great job.

Zucchini Cakes

2 cups grated zucchini
salt for draining the zucchini
1 cup bread crumbs (I like panko)
1/4 cup pureed or mashed silken tofu
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegenaise (optional)
flour (optional)
oil for frying

Salt the zucchini heavily and let rest in a colander for half an hour to drain. Rinse the salt off the zucchini and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs and Old Bay seasoning in a medium bowl. In another bowl, mash the silken tofu with a fork (or puree) and add vegenaise and mustard. The vegenaise adds a nice amount of flavor to the recipe, but you can leave it out to cut down on the fat.

Combine the bread crumb mixture and the zucchini and mix thoroughly. Add tofu mixture and combine well. You should be able to form the zucchini mixture into cakes with your hands. If the mixture is too wet and won't clump together, add flour by the tablespoonful until it reaches the desired texture. Form zucchini cakes about the size of your palm.

Fry the patties in oil over medium heat until browned on both sides (about 4 minutes a side). Serve with tartar sauce.

(For vegan tartar sauce, just mix vegenaise with a bit of dill relish.)

In gardening news, I have volunteer corn. My father tried to plant corn in Texas for years and couldn't get it to grow. And here two weeds I let get out of hand turn out to be corn. Go figure!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eeyore!

Eeyore of Liberty

Every year, Austinites meet up in Pease Park for Eeyore's Birthday Party. The festival started in the '60s as a spring party for UT students, and over the years it has grown into a large festival benefitting area non-profits. Every year's theme is the same: the birthday party for dreary Eeyore-who-lost-his-tail from the Winnie the Pooh books. Besides the Eeyore of Liberty and a donkey petting zoo, none of the festival activities have much to do with that story. But I think the carefree attitude of the festival captures the spirit of the Pooh books pretty well.

Thousands of people gather for drum circles, dancing, body painting, hula hooping, and costume contests. This was my first year at the festival and it was, well, relaxing. It's not often you see adults having so much fun.

May Pole

Hula hooping


This was the drum circle early in the day when only about fifty people were drumming and a handful were dancing. By the afternoon, it was so crowded with dancers and drummers I couldn't get close enough to get a picture.

Only in Austin do the bikes grow on trees!