Significant health issues, whether or not they are our own, impact everyone within a blast radius. On occasion we heed advance notification; often we are struck without warning. The diagnosis hits our core – a swirl of uncontrollable energy ignites and explodes. The shock waves resonate with our family and friends; there are emotional and financial casualties. The ensuing community disruption is unintended fallout. In the aftermath, we assess the scope of the impact. We realize that no one in our circle of family or friends remains unscathed. For many of us, an internal coping mechanism gets activated when we confront difficult situations. We find ways to adapt, new ways to survive. A phoenix rises from its own ashes, the cleanup helps us rebuild and we move forward.
I suffered a health scare while in college nearly twenty years ago, a journey that spanned nearly the entire school year. Despite my best attempts to move on from this experience, a silent scar remains. My memento evokes a constant reminder that life, and each day we live, is ever so precious. It’s these pivotal moments that shape our existence and form our inner constitution. There’s an old saying, “take a man by his word, take a bull by its horns” – if I didn’t experience life by grabbing the bull by its horns before my first annus horribilis [terrible year], I certainly did afterward. Reprieve and relief sparked a passion to travel and experience the world. Bitten by wanderlust, I became addicted to taking cooking lessons in exotic places. I’ve always loved food and cooking, and I discovered that learning how to make local food, from scratch is a great way to taste history, explore culture, and stay out of trouble (especially when traveling solo).
Conditions for creating a perfect storm presented themselves in 2006. Within a matter of months, we were painfully reminded that life can turn on a dime. This time, my perspective changed from being the patient to being the caregiver. My mom had been undergoing renal dialysis. She was waiting for a donor to appear on the Canadian kidney transplant list. Her sister tested as a near-perfect donor match. Together they underwent a live kidney donation/transplant procedure. That same year in Los Angeles, my husband collapsed and was rushed by ambulance into the emergency ward. He was diagnosed with a 95% blockage in the main coronary artery – it was heart disease. The medical team quickly installed a stent and he averted a potentially fatal scenario.
There is just as much stress and equally as many things to worry about (when you’re the caregiver instead of the patient). As caregivers, we stand guard as our world becomes more tenuous: we wear a mask of hope for our loved ones as they bravely battle a disease, we embrace life by looking forward, and all the while we delicately hold our own life’s balance in the palm of our hand. Through trial and error, we learn that even some of our most basic daily rituals have fallen within the blast radius. Jeff quickly transformed into an instant healthy-eating/low-sodium diet convert, reacting out of pure shock. My mother’s diet also quickly adjusted by virtue of her kidney failure/dialysis treatments. I was a gradual and initially somewhat begrudging low-sodium adopter (in looking back on these events, I don’t feel that it was a worthwhile use of energy to have resisted the switch).
Shortly after learning about heart disease, we tried cooking separate meals as a small family unit. You can imagine how well that went – two “foodies” holding down busy day jobs: twice as much cooking and dirtier dishes that followed. After several months of working my fingers to the bone, my soul stopped wanting to fight an uphill battle; especially when the double meal deal wasn’t really worth the trade off (extra salt and more cooking). If I did convert to low-sodium eating, it had to be on my terms: tasty, interesting, fun, dynamic foods and flavors. I wanted to eat something that I could get excited about, something I could look forward to – not something that tasted (or looked) like a cardboard box.
Drawing upon our travel and food experiences, we began to weave our recipes, cooking methods, styles of cooking and flavor/taste memories, into an integrated and healthier lifestyle. We’ve developed many low-sodium tips and tricks. In many cases, I think we’ve made the food taste as good, if not better than the “original versions”. We decided to share our travel adventures on our blog because some of our family and friends aren’t mobile. We wanted to find a way to chronicle our experiences and brighten their day.
Why We Started Low Sodium Blog
Over the years, the low-sodium diet prescription has become prevalent across our family and circle of friends. They each adopt a low-salt diet for a variety of different reasons. Many of our family and friends didn’t know where to start. They’ve arrived at our doorstep disenchanted, disheartened, skeptical, and/or misinformed – with the belief that a no salt diet means eating bland food. Our first pointer to them is to cut salt from their diets and instead, create a flavor exchange by using a balance of high flavor, low-sodium spices and herbs. I’ve watched as their faces grew more somber as they’ve processed our proposal. Cynical, until they eat our low-sodium foods.
Slowly, “the look” goes away, and a smile eclipses their sadness. Witnessing their transformation brings a sense of joy that is nice to share.
So get inspired! Take the bull by its horns. We know you can do it, because we did…
(P.S. We shoot our own food photos, and yes – we eat the dishes afterward. Usually we do a good job at guarding our sample plates until our blog work is done. Sometimes there are unanticipated surprises, as seen below).