Pros & Cons inspiration did not strike again until the day when I was buying a half-gallon of Silk unsweetened cashew milk for my lactose-intolerant husband, and the bearded stranger in front of me in the Co-op checkout line volunteered that he never eats cashews because of the toxicity. A public service announcement, I guess. Even while I felt scornful about his food-paranoia, his warning nagged at me. I was trying to take care of my husband's health by reducing his obviously inflammatory milk consumption; what if, instead, I was slowly poisoning him with a concentrated brew of expressed cashew toxins?
Two or three months passed during which I continued to buy cashew milk for my husband, did no further research, and witnessed the sudden downfall of our democracy.
This morning-- a Saturday morning in December, just before the electoral college ratifies the unthinkable-- I sat with my husband, eating a breakfast of bacon & eggs, toast and clementines, and drinking hot chocolate made with cashew milk. Please be advised: hot chocolate is NOT as good with cashew milk, though I have made it with almond milk and that is fine. For the first time, I thought to tell my husband of the bearded man's earnest warning. My husband scoffed. After all, he smokes, doesn't exercise, and has an unhealthy devotion to cheeseburgers. Is it really likely that cashew milk will take him down?
I don't know. So here goes:
Beyond personal health, however, the exposure to urushiol inherent in cashew harvest and processing means that excessive cashew consumption may have ethical repercussions, as described in The Telegraph:
The nuts – 60 per cent of which are processed in India – are exceptionally hard to extract. A cashew has two layers of hard shell between which are caustic substances – cardol and anacardic acid – which can cause vicious burns.
Many of the women who work in the cashew industry have permanent damage to their hands from this corrosive liquid, because factories do not routinely provide gloves. For their pains they earn about 160 rupees for a 10-hour day: £1.70. [...]
Conditions in Vietnam may be even worse than in India. Cashews are sometimes shelled by drug addicts in forced labour camps, who are beaten and subjected to electric shocks. Time magazine has described this trade as “blood cashews”.
Now that we have concluded that cashews are safe, if possibly unethical, to eat, I have a few words about another current American dietary trend, our toxic friend Donald J. Trump.
An asshat, yes, you say, but a dietary trend? What do you mean?
Just what I say. After the election, we spoke of five stages of grief. But, as far as I can currently tell, there have been only two stages of eating. 1) 48 hours or so (your experience may vary) of total loss of appetite, during which we had to remind one another to drink water and nobody cared if they had a splitting headache or were subsisting on a couple of handfuls of Ritz crackers. 2) A sustained, not-yet-over period of frantic stress-eating, legitimized widely by Anne Lamott confessing the same on Facebook, but shared by many, characterized by a massive intake of carbs (and sometimes alcohol) and a sudden absence of regard for one's own health or even vanity.
At some point it occurred to me to drink some bourbon, and it was like the best thing I had ever tasted.
The "Trump 10" is apparently a real thing.
And it's not just quantity, it's quality too. I don't feel like cooking. While broccoli still tastes great when it magically appears on my plate, I have stopped bothering to serve a salad with my pasta. Too much trouble, and who cares, really? We've taken to eating frozen burritos, frozen vegetables, accidentally-vegan macaroni-and-"cheese" out of a box. I buy candy, and chips, and donuts. This cannot be good for me, or us, or the world. Also, I don't want to become a drunk.
This is true toxicity, this hopelessness and insecurity and downright fear and dread that we feel. The unhealth of Trump's own food choices has somehow become contagious, even while all his other choices are ones we repudiate. At this rate, on January 21, the date of the Women's March, a sea of bloated, sad faces will fill the streets of Washington D.C., and we will march uncomfortably in our tight pants.
I have no solution to this. There are so few ways to make myself feel better these days, so few routes to pleasure-- which is different from happiness, now inaccessible. Pizza is accessible.
Tonight my husband and I will go to the bad diner. This is the one we choose when we're feeling low-energy, like after a long, horrible weekend day at work, or when we are sick or our cat has died. The food is unreliable and the coffee weak, but there is absolutely no pressure there. You can eat with your coat on if you're feeling chilled, or hunch over the table with eyes closed; the waitresses know us. My husband can get a cheeseburger.
Someday I hope we are well again.