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Friday. Day 5 of our beloved 12-day detox.

Our annual neighbourhood fair opened tonight, and I had to drag the sulkiest Wayne you’ve ever seen up to the street where all the action is. “You usually love this thing,” I told him. What was he so miserable about?

“It’s basically an eating fair,” he complained. An eating fair where everything was totally off-cleanse.

He was kind of right. We walked (more quickly than usual) past the folding tables covered in warmer trays filled with sticky-sweet barbecue, flour-wrapped spring rolls and their requisite sugary sauces, fajitas and rotis stuffed into floury wrappers. Then there were the cinnamon buns the size of my head. It was useless.

We did buy some barbecued corn on the cob that tasted so sweet I accused them of dipping it in sugar water. (They hadn’t.) And some hippie-tastic “pizza” from the raw-food restaurant (palace of the cleansers) made with a sprouted buckwheat crust (no flour!) and cashew “cheese.”

On the way home, I excitedly suggested we share a so-called Power Ball from the organic café on our corner, a healthy little meatball-sized cookie-substitute made for the Enchanted Broccoli Forest set, that contains sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, agave and carob chips. Dwayne took one bite and curled his lip down. “This is off-cleanse,” he said and handed it to me without looking at me. He was disappointed. “It’s like a chocolate bar, basically.” No sugar, no chocolate, no caramel, no nougat, no wafer, no hydrogenated wonderful anything, yet it was a “chocolate bar” – had we come that far?

I took a bite and loved it. I wanted to eat it forever; but he was right. The carob chips probably weren’t unsweetened. And there were rogue craisins in there that weren’t on the ingredient list. He glanced over to see what I’d do next. I inhaled it with the urgency and pleasure of an addict.

When I got home, I took my dejection into the kitchen, looking for something sweet. I wanted dessert. I wanted it super-badly. I swore at the goddamn strawberries. Does this look like dessert to you:

But I have to tell you, after five unsweetened days, these berries delivered! They made me swoon like a dessert-bereft castaway. I retracted my bad swears fully.

Still, it isn’t always a juicy berry that you want when you’re surrounded by the cinammon-bun eaters out there. So tomorrow I’m making my own frigging Power Balls. Stay tuned for reactions from Wayne, and a recipe.


Wayne and I are cleansers. We’ve been doing it twice a year for almost a decade. In recent years, we recruited a group of friends to come cleanse along with us. It’s fun. I send around nerdy, galvanizing motivational emails and we swap recipes and meal ideas to keep us on track – but it isn’t hard to stay focused. You start to feel so damn good by Day 5 or 6 that the thought of a whoopie pie – or even a grilled cheese sandwich with ketchup – seems sickly.

It’s a liver detox, and I’ll spare you the religion – but the items we abstain from for these 12 days are flour, dairy, tropical fruit, anything fermented (vinegar, soy sauce, tempeh, black tea), anything high in naturally occurring molds (grapes, dried fruit – beloved raisins included), yeast, refined sugars, and alcohol.

Today is Day 4 for Wayne and me. General irritation: Let’s say 5 out of 10. The overall feeling like something tar-like (and perhaps chocolate-flavoured) is bubbling up from deep within my organs and out through my skin: 7 out of 10. Interest in cooking: a whopping 9, folks. One of the best by-products of a clean-living program like this is it really gets you back into the kitchen no matter how deep the food rut you’ve fallen into, no matter how many veggie dogs lay heaped around you down there.

And so, after a summer of Pho Huang takeout and corner-store snack runs and jam on everything, me and the whole foods are back. On Tuesday, Wayne cooked us an incredibly delicious, simple curry from 50 Great Curries of India. (Highly recommended.) I’d forgotten how majestically cleanse-worthy Indian food is in general, and that it is actually possible to make passable curries if you have a solid cookbook on hand.

The funnest part of all of this, though, is eating so much bloody fruit. The fridge is full of berries, and the baby is in ecstasy, getting fed unlimited quantities of blueberries at all hours.

Any cleanser will tell you the amazing thing that happens to fruit after you’ve spent a few days cutting out all the other sugar from your life: Fruit starts to taste sweeter than sugar itself. It starts to taste like fruit must have tasted to a whacked-out Ken Kesey, covered in fluorescent paint and standing under a strobe light. A single red strawberry will blow your mind, man! Seriously. Or as my sister (on Day 6 of her first cleanse right now) said about a sad old mushy pear in her fridge: “It tastes like pie.”

But I promised no religion, so I’ll leave you instead with the Indian recipe we loved a couple of nights ago, the one that Camellia Panjabi calls “the first lesson in making a curry.”

But wait. Why the Screw-You-Gwyneth Cleanse? When I told my dear friend Gelstein that I was cleansing, she came over with a printout of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanse meal-plan that appeared on the actress’s website, Goop. A sweetheart, that Gelstein, but I was shocked – absolutely shocked – to hear how the reed-like Hollywood set cleanses: a snack is coconut water. Dinner is cucumber soup. Lunch is carrot sticks and radishes with carrot dressing on top. Hence the cheekbones.

One thing that always makes me proud (zealous?) about my own cleanse program is that you can eat as much as you want, from most of the food groups that most of the world subsists on. Oh yes, there is rice. Meat, even, if you’re up for it. And enough almond butter to totally destroy your Oscar moment. But imagine how my crank-o-meter would rank if carrot sticks were for supper; what is the long-term good of that? So I say screw you, Gwyneth Paltrow, and your weight-loss gimmick, defiling the good name of better cleanses everywhere.

Irritation makes me hungry.

To the curry:

8 0z. of mixed diced vegetables

4 tbsp oil
1 large onion, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4-inch square piece of fresh ginger, chopped
3/4 tsp coriander
pinch of turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
2 tomatoes, chopped
chopped coriander leaves to garnish

1. Heat oil in a heavy pan. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until deep brown. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the coriander; stir for another full minute, then add the turmeric, cumin, garam masala and paprika and sauté for 30 seconds. Add 200 ml of water and cook for 10 minutes. Put in tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes.

2. Now the curry sauce is ready. Add salt to taste. Put in vegetables. (You can substitute 1 lb of chicken; 10 oz. lamb; or 8 oz. of fish.) Add 400 ml of water and cook until done. (Wayne was in a hurry and used less water.)

Makes enough for 2.

Saturday night, 10 p.m., something sweet:

One frozen banana, half a fresh one, lots of plain, organic yogourt, a little almond milk and a pinch of nutmeg.

I thought for a moment that I could drink it in a controlled, mindful, sanctimonious-vegetarian kind of way, but I ended up throwing it back like a freshman with a plastic mug full of Purple Jesus.

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Words of Wayne

Look at what Wayne discovered on his breakfast plate (medium: banana string). It's the Playboy Banana. I ask you, Dr. Freud: How does he find this stuff? If he could have, he would have put it in his cherished Food Oddities mug, along with the treble-clef pretzel and the Bill Clinton potato chip.


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