During the holiday season, an eating disorder can be the unwelcome guest at the dining room table. Holidays are intended for rejoicing with loved ones and reveling in gratitude, all the while concentrating this joy around indulging in rich foods. When an enormous slice of apple pie topped with a mound of whipped cream accurately mirroring Mount Vesuvius is placed in front of someone with an eating disorder, overwhelming feelings of isolation begin to take root. As I glance across the table at my younger brother luxuriating in every mouthful of pie, I feel eyes glaring with strain, yearning for me to finish the slice of pie. Can't she understand that a pound won't be put on for a single slice? Guilt begins to cloud my brain. Guilt for not following my own stringent rules dictating proper calorie counts, but mainly guilt for not enjoying the meal that my family lovingly prepared. The thoughts become continuous white noise in my head that cannot be silenced. Before I know it, everyone's plates are polished, notably my brother's after being licked clean, and I have missed every meaningful conversation and memory made, due to the overpowering voice of my eating disorder.
Holidays are also often characterized by parties involving buffets and the grazing of appetizers, which instill fear in those struggling with eating disorders. To amplify feelings of control, those struggling create a specific outline of foods that they resort to, never straying from their comfort zone of familiar foods. Holidays force affected individuals to take risks with foreign foods and distance themselves from being in control. Holiday parties create anxiety, as you are forced to navigate tables lined with food and, after meticulous analysis, choose what will occupy your plate. Loathing food is not the problem here. In fact, people with eating disorders fantasize about food, and thrive off of their longings for it. While hospitalized, my roommate and I spent hours watching food network together, and indulging in thought of preparing food (her favorite fantasy being her mother's fried chicken). Time passed as we talked about the food we longed for, but never allowed our controlled selves to admit to loving. This was not within our rule books, and thus, would force us out of control. In our minds, admitting to liking the taste of food would translate to a loss of authority and mindless eating.
I am still working on being comfortable enough around food to properly socialize without being confronted with obtrusive thoughts. During this holiday season, I have found that parties are more enjoyable when my food choices are planned in advance. This recipe my mom created has been a continuous favorite at parties with vegans and non-vegans alike, and has also aided me in navigating overwhelming holiday spreads. It has left carnivores stumped, refusing to believe that it is not made of cheese. This, however, does not stop them from spooning the leftover queso. This recipe will prove to be a staple in your party food arsenal.
2 cups raw cashews
2 1/2 cups water
*1 package of daiya (dairy-free) pepper jack cheese or daiya cheddar cheese
*1 tsp of "Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base" mixed in 1/2 hot water
1 jar of mild or medium salsa (depending on your heat tolerance)
*1 jalapeño minced (with or without seeds)
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
The juice of 1/2 of a lime
1/2 tsp salt
*If you cannot find daiya cheese, use a dairy-free cheese of your choice.
*If you cannot find the "Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base" you can replace it with vegetable broth. This specific no chicken bouillon can be found in most major grocery stores and amazon.com.
*If you prefer more heat, include the seeds when mincing the jalapeño. If you prefer a more mild queso, discard the seeds before mincing.
1. If using a Vitamix blender, pour in raw cashews and water and blend until creamy. If using a regular blender, soak 2 cups of raw cashews in 2 cups of water overnight. When ready to blend, drain the water and pour the cashews into the blender with 2 1/2 cups of fresh water. Blend until creamy.
2. Pour the cashew cream into a saucepan over medium heat. 3. Stir the mixture frequently until it starts to thicken.
4. Add in the "Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base" and water mixture to the thickened cashew cream.
5. Add 1 package of daiya cheese, or dairy-free cheese of your choice, to the cashew cream mixture in the saucepan.
6. Stir frequently until the cheese is fully melted.
7. Add 1 jar of salsa, 1 minced jalapeño, cilantro, the juice of 1/2 of a lime, and salt to the mixture.
8. Thoroughly stir all of the ingredients until fully mixed together
9. Pour into a bowl and enjoy with your favorite chips or top your favorite Mexican-style dish with this queso for a contemporary version of tacos or nachos.
This queso can be stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated for up to five days. Simply reheat and serve to enjoy.