Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eating Part I: We're Thinking About It, Or, When a Pig Sty Comes in Handy

Dear conscious readers,

And I hope you are conscious (my blog isn't that boring, I hope!)...

It seems as though most of us are making an effort to eat better, or more nutritiously, in some way.  Whether it's trying to cut back on fats and sugars, transition into a vegetarian diet, or choose organic foods, everybody is becoming more and more conscious of the choices involved in eating.

Living the whole foods/chemical-free lifestyle can be a daunting task to look at.  Suddenly we're being told to avoid all dairy, or only buy raw dairy, or make our own dairy (OK, that last only applies to new moms).  Produce should be organic.  No, local.  No, fresh.  Or all three.  Actually, if you are really serious about this, just hang some buckets from the rafters, and put some pots in the windows, and grow your own broccoli sprouts.  Make your own pots, by the way.  Here's a pamphlet on how-to.  Whole wheat flour, red not white, ground by unifine process to preserve the nutrients, or better yet buy the berries and grind it yourself!  No, just go outside and grow a mini wheat field in your backyard.  Have a backyard farmstead!  Buy organic eggs.  No, buy free-range eggs.  Better yet, raise your own chickens.  Hide them from the neighbors if it's illegal in your city.  Can produce.  Better yet, dry produce.  No, freeze it.  No, just buy a ton of onions and stow them under the bed.  Eat kefir every day.  Make it yourself, store-bought kefir is of the devil.  Get lots of enzymes; learn about intestinal flora.  Wash your hands.  Don't wash them.  Thirty seconds - make it two minutes!  Bring your own soap.  You can't trust the soap they put in plastic bottles ... it might have parabens.  You'll die.  Sodium laureth!  Toothpaste?  Mouthwash?  Hand lotion?  Your deodorant is killing you ... You shouldn't use plastic containers - no, just not that kind of plastic.  Are you serious about your health?  Make curds and whey!  Eat the spider, too, it contains living enzymes critical to health ...

Needless to say ... it is a little overwhelming to try to change everything in your life at once.

So, don't.  Don't change all at once.  Change one thing at a time.  This is not a blog about what you need to change, should change, or what is best for you.  This is a blog providing helpful ideas, based on my own arduous journey so far, for those of you who are interested in updating your foodstyle.  

Pick what's important to you!  I started with produce.  When we got married three years ago, I decided to transition us over to completely organic produce.  That took time - about three years, actually.  Even now I don't buy every twig and stem organic, but 95% of our plant intake is organic.

Why did it take time?  I had to learn a lot about organic produce.  I had to develop the motivation.  It's not enough to say, "Hmm, organic is cool and hip, I think I'll pay triple the price for tomatoes today."  You need to be seriously motivated - internally motivated.  So motivated that it moves your mini-ballots (a.k.a. your dollars).  "Hmm, pesticides are leaching into our groundwater and every year I pay taxes to have them cleaned up.  I'm also paying taxes to subsidize illegal farming practices.  Slaves in Florida are picking the conventionally-grown tomatoes; the cheap tomatoes aren't actually cheap, they're just paid for by somebody else.  I think I'd rather pay more to buy them from the guy who grew them just a few miles from here and picked them with the help of his son and his family.  I'll pay triple the price for tomatoes, and happy to do it!"

Little by little, motivation and interest grew.  Did an organic pear taste different than a conventionally-grown pear?  I don't know; not like there was a staggering difference.  But did I do some research and find out how many different poisonous chemicals I'd be consuming with the conventionally-grown pear?  Yes.  And then, believe you me, then I could taste the difference (not literally.  We're speaking in intangibles here).  By the way, there are on average 28 chemicals on a pear when you eat it.  This includes six that cause cancer.  (As a general rule, though, local. organic and non-genetically-modified produce will ALWAYS taste better.)

I know conventionally grown produce doesn't make you sick, personally, but have you noticed things like cancer on a general upswing in our country, lately?  Infertility?  Early puberty?  Mood disorders?  Allergies?  Asthma?

Mandatory carved a kiwi hedgehog ... she begged me not to post the picture
and I listened respectfully and obviously heeded not. 

What do I do?  
Pick one thing that interests you, that you can change.  I picked organic produce to start.  Inch by inch, we transitioned over.  I met farmers.  I collaborated with friends to buy organic in bulk and split purchases.  I went to farmer's markets.  I did things that were inconvenient, like going produce shopping on Saturday morning at the market instead of just picking it up while I was at the grocery store.  I canned a lot; I dried a lot.  (I didn't freeze a lot, 'cause I didn't have a big freezer in the beginning.)  The key is here, I did a little at a time, progressing as I learned, and learned more and more every day!  It didn't happen overnight.  

Don't be intimidated.
There's a lot of knowledge out there.  There's a lot of information, pamphlets, books, blogs, flyers, websites, and leaflets.  You could literally drown in a sea of words and research.  Don't feel like you have to read everything and highlight every Michael Pollan quote today.  You'll get there ... in time.  Don't be scared when somebody acts like you need to be living the "whole lifestyle" this very moment.  Everybody started somewhere, and is learning bit by bit.  No matter how snobbish they act, they started somewhere, too.  You'll do what you can, as you are able.

It is hard to act snobbish while carrying a ginormous watermelon

If you already know a few things you want to change, make a list and start checking them off. 
Interested in upgrading your food diet?  Make a list of things you want to change and how you want them to be changed.

Eggs - free-range (or organic; or locally raised; or all of those things)
Milk and Dairy Products - non-ultra-pasteurized (or raw, or local/non-ultra-pasteurized, or all homemade from one milk supply)
Meat - grass-fed, no hormones/antibiotics, pasture-raised (or local, or just organically raised, or grass-fed)
Produce - organic, locally grown (or part-home-grown, or start with frozen organic)
Dry Goods - buy organic flours, sugars, etc
End result: Eliminate everything processed and pre-made!

If you want to get more intense, you can have another list of external products that will eventually change:
Lotions, soaps, deodorants, perfumes, hair products (gel, hairspray, mousse), toothpaste, mouthwash, diapers, wipes, plastic containers...

Don't start with the most complicated thing! 
Want to change over to pasture-raised, organic eggs, 'cause you can't stand the thought of factory eggs no mo'?  Maybe you are thinking of having your own chickens at home.  Great!  Just don't start with the chicken house, please.  It may take months to implement and meanwhile, your goal of changing over your egg-source will remain unfulfilled.  Maybe start by finding a local supplier, while you do your chicken-house research.  Take graduating steps.  

For instance: When I wanted to change our meat supply over, I started with just purchasing organic meats.  Then, as I got deeper into the research, I decided organically-raised, grass-fed, non-injected meat was better.  Then, as I progressed even further down the road of Comestible Enlightenment, I decided that organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, non-injected meat raised by a small farm within 100 miles of my home would be even better, so I found a local farm that fit the bill.  My next step, I suppose, will be staking a butchering hog outside of our apartment.

Visiting the local farm ... 
Trader Joe's has lots of options; other organic grocers will also have many options. 
Remember, don't drown in information.  However, as you tackle each item, do your research and due diligence on it.  Find a book at the library or watch a documentary to learn about it, and you'll find your inspiration and motivation growing.  Food Inc, Food Matters, and other documentaries like that are easy, interesting (albeit one-sided and biased), educational, and motivational ways to get started.  Learn about what you are investing in.  

Talk to people.
Find other people who support your New Alimentary Habits.  They will know People.  They will know Books.  They will know Farms, Stores, Secrets.  They will know Information.  And you'll only find them by blabbering, so start spreading the word (as a word of warning, for every Nice New Supporter with Information you meet, you will meet on average 4 - 10 people who will Ridicule Your Decision, possibly because they are embarrassed about their own eating habits).

Remember that you aren't a bad person because you eat conventional produce or ultra-pasteurized milk.
Everybody does what they can with the information they have.  (Maybe you know in your head that you want to eat organic, but you can't afford it - well, do research until your mind is so full of disgust with conventional that you can't not afford it!)  Make sure you are informed and aware.  Don't assume that only hippies eat organic; don't assume it's out of your budget; don't assume you have to shop at Whole Foods; and don't assume that you know anything about pesticides or what's on your food if you haven't done the research for yourself.  And for those that do eat organic, don't assume that your Costco-produce-shopping neighbor hates the world, doesn't care about their body, is a sinner spiraling to hell and is trying to kill you with pesticides.

Both of you, please, just don't slam it before you understand it!

Now, what are some practical steps to eating better and better food?  I'll share some information in the next post in this series!

For now, I don't want to drown you!

Mrs H

Eating Part II: Practical Steps, or, Why We Bought a Cow (Really, We Did!)
Eating Part III: At the Farmer's Market, or, (One) Way to Be a Blabbermouth!

This series is linked up at Monday Mania



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