Sideways Cottage is a record of my experiment in plant-based eating and a collection of vegan recipes–borrowed, adapted, and created.
I’ve been vegetarian for over twenty-five years now, and something I noticed quite soon after my “conversion” was that I seemed to avoid many of the garden-variety illnesses that many people around me seemed to be catching. A year or so after I became vegetarian, I read Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Food for Life, and, after hearing Dr. Barnard speak, decided to try veganism for the first time. I felt fantastic and immediately lost the extra weight I’d been carrying around since my child’s birth three years earlier. But I didn’t have the discipline to maintain it, and since I was only in my mid-thirties, the spectre of those diseases of middle age wasn’t yet a motivating factor. After spending my forties running marathons and working out (and eating to maintain energy for these pursuits), I entered my sixth decade with what now seems to have been an appetite for indolence and indulgence. After a couple of years of eating too much cheese and drinking too much wine (and gaining weight–surprise, surprise!), I realized that if I had any hope of avoiding chronic–and often age-related–diseases (type 2 diabetes, arthritis, T.I.A.s, strokes, cancer, heart attack, etc.) that so many people my age are now enduring and if I wanted to lose weight and feel good, I was going to have to make some major changes in my habits. Another motivating factor is that my mother had a heart attack at the tender age of fifty-eight. While I understand that genetics play a huge part in all of these diseases, diet and exercise can also play a part, and that’s the part we can control.
Why “Sideways Cottage“? It’s what we call the house where we spend most of our time now that we’ve retired from teaching English literature and composition at a teaching university in Vancouver. The reason for the name is that the top half of our house was brought over (on a barge!) to our island from another gulf island twenty-odd years ago. We suspect that the cabin was too close to the property lines on either side, so the owners turned it sideways. They also raised it and added a funky wooden spiral staircase to connect the floors. When you enter the house on the main floor, it feels like a typical suburban house–all drywall, tile, and laminate floors, but when you take the spiral staircase up to the second floor, the house becomes an open-plan cabin–complete with well-worn fir floors and a cozy wood stove.
The banner at the top is the entrance to our cabin…
Notice the sign, which is from the Ontario cottage of James’s youth and, by the front door, the ceramic cat, which was modeled in clay–decades ago–by my father on my childhood cat, Tookie.
Oh, and my name isn’t really Margaret Schlegel–it’s the name of my favourite literary character from my favourite novel of all time: the great E.M. Forster’s Howards End.
Welcome to my experiment!