Organic watermelon radishes from Hairston Creek Farm

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I am not a fan of non-fiction books but I don't think I have ever enjoyed a book more than Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In this book, the author describes how for one year, her family ate only what grew in their farm or in the farms nearby. We don't live in a farm but after reading this book, I decided our family could at least do its best to buy most raw food we eat from chemical-free local farms. We also made the decision to use these raw foods to prepare any other foods that we were accustomed to consume that are considered 'processed'. I don't pretend we are as ambitious as Barbara Kingsolver and her family, but I think we have made great strides toward making decisions about our food that are better for us and our planet in just a few weeks. So, what exactly are we eating these days? Here are some of the things that we are buying/preparing ourselves:
  1. We are buying as much raw foods as we can eat each Saturday at our farmer's market. In the current season, this includes carrots, salad greens, beets, radishes, squash, brussels sprouts, etc. in addition to some meat and cheese that come from local, grass-fed animals;
  2. We are buying everything else mostly at Whole Foods. For example, organic eggs produced by pasture-raised local chickens, organic (hormone and antibiotic free) local milk, butter, and cheese (more on dairy later), whole flour, rice, other grains, and some additional meat at Whole Foods;
  3. We are making our bread. Have you ever read the ingredient list from the bread you buy at the grocery store? I challenge you to find a brand that has only wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt;
  4. We are making our own chicken stock;
  5. We are making our own crackers;
  6. We are making our own jam;
  7. We are making our own ice cream;
  8. We are making our own cookies;
  9. We make our own pizza; and
  10. I have started drying tomatoes now that they have come into season - they taste just like sun-dried!
As the weeks go by, I will post the challenges we have faced to achieve all of this. We both work and our kids play select sports so there is not much time left in the day to do much baking (challenges abound). However, I will tell you one thing: When we ate dinner last night at a restaurant and our kids let us know that the pizza we make is much better than the one we were served (which was not cheap), it made it all worth it!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wake-Up Call

It is a tradition of mine to try to watch at least most of the motion pictures that are nominated for an Oscar before the big night. This year, I attempted to also watch the documentaries that had been nominated. Although my family has been buying mostly organic products in the last three years or so, nothing could have prepared my husband and I for how we felt after we watched Food, Inc. I had long ago suspected (out of common sense) that pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides were detrimental to our health. Here is what I did not know:
  1. How our food is produced these days is driven mainly by the fast food industry, an industry. The fast food industry wants to be able to sell food cheap. In order to do this, farmers are pushed to grow as much food as possible and as cheaply as possible. Do you really think that corners are not cut in order to achieve this? Why do you think that it is cheaper to buy a burger than a head of broccoli, for example? Production of broccoli is not subsidized by the fast food industry. Cheap meat is.
  2. I did not know that farmers have been tricked into buying genetically modified seeds and that that most seeds that farmers sow these days are owned, sold, and controlled by the same chemical companies that sell the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that I had decided long ago had no place in my home.
  3. I did not know that some chemists from these same companies, now work in the same government entities that are supposed to keep our food supplies safe. Conflict of interest? You bet!
So, this was my wake-up call. My wake-up call to start getting informed about what exactly I am eating and feeding my family. Although I had taken the right steps in that direction when deciding to buy mostly organic foods, there was still much to be learned. Since Food, Inc., I have read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Maria Rodale's The Organic Manifesto. The purpose of this blog is to chronicle how my family has changed the way we eat so that we are eating mostly organic, local, and seasonal foods and to document the joys and challenges we face as we make our departure from cheaply-produced, nutritionally-compromised, conventionally-grown whole and processed foods. To encourage others to realize what we have known all along: When we produce anything as fast, easily, and cheaply as possible, there is always a price to pay later. The question is, when it comes to our food, what is the cost?