The older I get, the more I am making, yes you read that right, MAKING myself enjoy REAL food with REAL ingredients. Its what drives my passion for gardening and small scale homesteading. If there are just a handful of things I can instill in my kids, one of them will be to appreciate Real food. Not food-like items that has been created in some lab with a label full of ingredients that I cant even read. Not food that has been sprayed with poison in the fields but has been labeled as safe to eat (If the bugs don’t want it, or die from eating it, why should we?!). Not food that has a week’s worth of sugar consumption hidden in it, to mask the taste. But REAL food.
“The best food in the world is straight from the garden, with very little done to it. It’s authentic”-Quote from the movie ‘Paris can wait’. For the past week, everyday after school, me and the girls have been walking around the property eating our fill of dewberries and the occasional strawberry. We wind back up at our Kitchen garden, where we pull up fresh carrots and sit on the back steps, crunching away to the sweet songs of the mocking bird perched up high on the light wire above us. At dusk, we go to the chicken house and collect fresh eggs and put in the egg skelter sitting on our kitchen top. Its moments like these, that I hope will stay with me when I’m old and grey. Seeing those little stained berry faces smiling and laughing with each other. The look of accomplishment they have when they pick and eat produce that THEY helped grow and take care of. The satisfaction of getting fresh yard eggs from a clean and chemical free environment from chickens that are not just taken care of, but loved (albeit roughly loved sometimes HA).
Between my Freshman and Sophomore year of College, I took a couple of college courses in Italy. I was completely shell shocked at the difference in Real Italian food and “Americanized” Italian Food. It horrifies me now to say, but I was DISAPPOINTED with the food! Their normal meals weren’t the elaborate dishes I associated with Italy. The Pizza didn’t have an inch thick crust (I was a Thick Crust gal back then), there was NO Pepperoni ANYWHERE and the Eggplant Parmesan’s Eggplant wasn’t coated in flour and deep fried in oil but rather baked with olive oil and herbs! The romantic version of Italia’s awesome cuisine was greeted with disbelief and dissatisfaction by my palate created by my “Standard American Diet”. If it wasn’t deep fried, sickeningly sweet and a portion big enough for a family of 4, I wasn’t impressed. Reading entries from my travel journal, I (foolishly) complained about the food, but went on about how good the fresh pastries and gelato were. I also wrote about how expensive a can of Coca Cola was, compared to Water, Wine or Coffee-their main beverages. I would splash out the equivalent of $3 for an 8-12 oz can of Coke! Amazingly, by the end of my 5 week trip, I was singing a slightly different tune to the tastes of Italy. I was appreciating the tastes of the daily hand made pastas and breads, good quality local Olive Oils and fresh produce. I actually ENJOYED drinking the water with my meal instead of paying a ton of money for a small warm glass of Coke. A year later, I had a similar experience while studying in England. Their traditional foods were “like sooo bland and not good like American food”. However, the UK was quite different from Italy 12 years ago and I was able to eat my full of Pizza Hut, KFC and Cheeseburgers in any of the larger towns.
Fast forward a decade later and I had continuously gained almost a pound a month! Whoa. That is an eyeopener! That combined with two little girls and one on the way, chronic diseases on the doorstep of 45% of Americans, and easy access to online articles with science based information, Patrick and I started on a journey to change our lives. If we weren’t both in this together, it would be impossible. It takes a true change of lifestyle. Growing food without pesticides and herbicides takes more work, picking off (and sharing with sometimes) the bugs, pulling the weeds and taking months to prepare soil to rebuild nutrients that will even allow the food to grow. Its a conscious effort but an empowering one. We know that this food we grow is wonderfully nutritious and disease fighting (whereas chemicals used in conventional farming is linked to cancer, autoimmune diseases, infertility, etc, etc).
Buying organically grown and healthy foods takes much more planning and a higher grocery bill. If I just went out every other day and bought our planned dinner meals from the local grocery store, our food bill would be outrageous! That is NOT how I roll, I buy BOGO’s and sale items. I buy from local farmers when at all possible. I plan meals around what I can buy organically that will not break us (example on snacks: Banana’s are a cheap organic fruit while Grapes and Berries are sometimes very expensive). Some staple items are no more than conventional items and I sometimes get them even cheaper by shopping the sales! But it does take planning. Our grocery bill is offset by not eating out often, eating LESS of certain things and growing what we can ourselves.
When we eat, it should firstly be for nourishment and then for pleasure. And those two things are not that hard to blend together! Sometimes, it just takes a little palate cleanse.
On our family trip to Ireland last year, we LOVED the food culture there. The Irish are very proud of buying and eating local. Their meats (Beef, Pork, Chicken and Eggs) are all listed as ‘Raised in Ireland’ with the county and farm names. Their seafood is fresh (caught that morning and cooked that day/night), straight off the coast or out of the Rivers. Their seafood is what I miss the most, which is really saying something since I live within an hour of our coast! –We recently have been eating more seafood and have been disappointed with most of the restaurants we have went to locally. Our past two visits, we have been told ALL the seafood is local -including Basa/Swai Fish from Asia and Salmon (really?!). — Even their chips have the farm listed that the potatoes were grown on! I know for most people, its who cares? But I am proud to be part of the food movement. Organically produced fruits and vegetables, humanely and naturally raised animals (Grass-fed and pastured pork) and supporting local farmers. We have became quite passionate about it.
Making a lifestyle change takes A LOT of effort. If your change is not conducive with your surroundings, it can be even harder. Ultimately, we do what we feel is right for us and our families. That doesn’t always align with what everyone else is doing, and that is perfectly ok.