Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. Daniel 1:11-16 (NIV)
Last fall, my doctor gave me three months to reduce my bad cholesterol, lower my blood pressure and lose twenty five pounds. She said that if I would just make better choices, eat right and exercise a little bit, I could reach that goal. I set out with good intentions, but then, my back started hurting and Christmas came along. When I went back to see her, I had lost only six pounds and my cholesterol actually rose two points. This time, she was firmer and warned of the impending need for blood pressure and cholesterol medicine. Why take an expensive pill with its numerous side effects when I can do it on my own? I signed up for the biggest loser program at work, found a gym partner and started a cooking class. The class is put on by the Wellness Project in our community and is all about eating foods that prevent cancer and heart disease. The instructor calls it a plant based diet, in other words, vegetarian. The classes are held weekly at lunch time so when we go, we not only learn what to cook and how to prepare it, but we get lunch, too. At the first class, she made vegetable stir fry, braised kale and a tremendous chocolate mouse made with tofu. I was so surprised at the tastiness of the meal and left excited about changing my family’s diet. Even the kale had good flavor! Youngest son is all for it, as his girlfriend is a vegetarian and he has been reducing the amount of meat that he eats. My husband, who only eat vegetables when they are cooked to mush opposed the new plan. I assured him that we are not going vegan and will continue to have meat several times a week, as I want to ease into this slowly. On Sunday, when we had company over for dinner, I proudly fixed the kale just as she instructed. It was nasty! I think that the teacher must have left something out of that recipe because it did not taste at all as good as hers. My mother in law, who is a fantastic southern cook, thinks I should have added sugar. That is part of our problem. I was raised to cook with lots of fat, flour, oil and sugar. Learning to cook with water, soy sauce and crispy vegetables is going to take some work. On Monday, we were invited to some friends’ house for dinner. Husband sighed in delight to find the table laden with biscuits, chicken and dumplings and zipper peas cooked with ham. It really was good, and our friends gave us enough leftovers for a second meal. Stir fried vegetables and brown rice can hardly compete with that. Yet, I will continue to try and make better choices. If a seventeen year old young man like Daniel in the story above and even my own son can do it, surely this older and wiser woman can.