gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, vegan, ACD friendly, raw
When my brother, Julian, and I were wee little ones, we were simply enamored with The Oregon Trail. While other kids got hyped up over Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was this historical east-west wagon route of American expansion that really lit our fire. We spent hours playing the Oregon Trail computer game, and when that didn’t cut it, we actually reenacted the journey ourselves up and down our street. I sat inside a wagon, holding in place three hula hoops covered with a sheet, while Julian complemented his role as human companion traveler with the more laborious role of united oxen unit. Looking back, this was probably the part of the game that didn’t seem so much like a “game” to him as it did “the price one must pay for being a little brother.” So what did playing “Oregon Trail” entail? The basics: 1) Packing gingersnaps wrapped in a handkerchief and eating them off of plates made of tree bark, 2) Watching our stuffed animals die from poisonous snake bites, and 3) Using words like “reckon.” It was the real deal.
This August, I lived my childhood dream. Kind of. Scott and I took a little road trip up the coast and I got to meet Oregon for the very first time.
It wasn’t quite like I’d expected. Cholera never struck. We didn’t have to ford any rivers. The only supplies we stopped for were back-up jars of nut butter I could eat with a spoon… my sole road-trip-friendly, anti-candida-diet treat. This Oregon Trail did not test my ability to survive. It did, however, test how long I could go on being ridiculously happy. The answer? It’s still going. :)
Some fun discoveries to which our Oregon Trail lead me:
1) Healthfood stores are the ruler by which I use to measure the cool-factor of any given place. Nearly every city or town we hit, I arrived having already searched for the local healthfood store on Yelp. In each store, the same routine was executed: take a quick inventory of the organic produce, then find the fastest route possible to the nut butter section. The verdict? The Ashland Co-op wins. At life.
2) Nothing says “adventure for all the senses” as “pirate-themed mini-golf with 3-D glasses in black light.” However, halfway through I needed to remove my 3-D glasses to keep from falling over due to sensory overload. Seriously, glasses on: walls were ASKING me to walk into them and objects were BEGGING me to trip over them. Ye’ve been forewarned, matey.
3) I want to live in Ashland someday for this reason alone: Ashland-ese deer do not (I repeat: do NOT) run away from you when you approach them. They’re friendly like dogs. Wild, graceful dogs that enjoy causing traffic in order to cross the street and eat your rosebushes. My new circle of “deer” friends (ha!) would be Disney movie worthy. And yes, that means I’d teach them to speak and yes, we would sing together and frolic around.
4) I might be turning into a hippie. I like it. The hippie-ness became apparent somewhere between realizing half of our luggage was actually composed of raw, sprouted, crunchy foods (the kind that would chill out to Bob Dylan if they had ears), and witnessing myself prance through the Redwood Forest exclaiming, “I feel like a fairy.” That actually happened.
So what do hippies, deer, black-lit pirate adventures, and obsessions with healthfood stores have in common? Pecan milk. Okay, maybe not. Well, except for the hippies – I think making milk out of nuts might have a certain hippie factor as well, no? I mean, making homemade pecan milk regularly pretty much counts as practice towards mastering being an Ashland hippie.
More important than the hippie factor, though, is the pioneer factor. Making your own nut milk gives milking your own cow a run for its money. Both are verypioneer, and very Oregon Trail, dahling. Fixing up this recipe requires time, patience, and cheese cloth – all things that remind me of living in the old timey-times. Beware – I may be crossing the line into corny territory here, but devoting careful attention to this careful process feels somewhat sacred to me. I connect to something much greater than myself: a fresh perception of living simply in order to survive. Living a life in which everything done is performed with the sole intention of ensuring, protecting, and promoting life. It’s a basic devotion to survival: Living to live. And strangely enough, even the simplest thing I do that reinforces that perception – whether it be cooking from scratch or concocting a homemade facial cleanser – feels more fulfilling to me than some grand success I might achieve in school, my career, or any context that might attract attention or praise. Isn’t that curious? Those little acts of creating something from nothing are rare in 2011. Everything is done for us. Computers, blackberries, ipads are invading our daily life, usually taking over the work our brains would normally do. And yet, in this world where such advanced technology is our reality, it is actually those little acts of creation that seem the most real to me. Maybe because I pour so much of myself into them… They have life.
I’m guessing this is why I loved playing Oregon Trail as much as I did. The game served as a reminder that life is about actually living. And being a kid as it was, there wasn’t much room for anything less important (like the countless cares we confusedly begin to value as we approach adulthood) to get in the way. Not a kid anymore, you say? That’s your choice. It’s not too late.
Get your pioneer on. Pack up your own gluten-free gingersnaps, construct your covered wagon, bribe a loved one to pull it, and take your first few steps on your very own Oregon Trail. You can start by whipping up some velvety, sugar-kissed pecan milk…
Sweet Pecan Milk
1 cup raw pecans
3 cups water
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
vanilla liquid stevia, to taste (I use NuNaturals alchohol-free vanilla liquid stevia)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sunflower lecithin
1) Soak raw pecans in filtered water with 1 tsp salt overnight.
2) Drain pecans, rinse until water runs clear.
3) Place pecans in vitamix with 3 cups of water and remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
4) Optional: strain through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth.
5) Refrigerate and enjoy within 4-5 days!