Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Am I what I eat?

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk About Food
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I love food!  I like to buy it, I like to prepare it, and most of all I like to eat it!!  What I don't like are chemicals...  Or unethical practices...  Or unnecessary excess...  Over the years, I have come to realize that food is so much more than what we eat - it profoundly impacts our world, our communities, and our bodies on a daily basis.  Now that may sound like a daunting statement, but there is hope!  You have the ability to choose what the impact will be by how and where you spend your money in relation to food.

After learning about where our meat really comes from in high school, I have been on a food journey.  There have been times where I have been vegetarian, and there was a time when I just did not think about what I was buying and eating.  Over the past four years, however, we have become much more purposeful in our food decisions.  We have learned how to pickle beets and eggs (my favorite!) and make preserves.  We have a growing container garden.  In the spring and fall we hunt for mushrooms and have enjoyed lots of game meats from a dear friend.  In short, we strive to eat organic, local, and ethically.

We eat organic produce, meat and dairy products - especially now that I am a breast-feeding mother, I do not want pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals leeching to my daughter.  We eat local, which also means eating in season.  One of the best parts of eating local is getting creative with ingredients, after all we are only human, and root-vegetable season is mighty long around here (though my favorite root veggie preparation is still the classic - roasted with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper).  We eat ethically by choosing organic, cage-free, hormone-free, free-roaming meats.

So how did I get here?  I started small - when I went to the grocery store I would try to stick to the perimeter, that's where all the whole foods are (produce, dairy, meat).  Then, I started visiting our local farmer's market in the late-spring to early-fall months turning to local and seasonal produce.  Next, I joined a program called Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks, which provides organic produce that is mostly local, so that we could continue to eat local fare during the winter months.  This year, a friend introduced me to Grass is Greener Gardens and I'm in the process of joining their meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  We are at the point where I no longer need to go to the grocery store.  If we do need something like cereal or grains, I choose to go to small, family-run stores in my neighborhood rather than the large chain grocery store.

I am proud of the way my family eats, but also realize the journey is far from over.  The next stage is to learn to cook as well as my mom (who is, hands down, the best cook ever!)  And in the future I hope to teach my children the beauty of simple eating.  Help me on my journey - what are your favorite seasonal summer foods or recipes?

A disclaimer: I live in a city, and along with city living come some distinct benefits in relation to food.  I know that some of the options I have available to me are not accessible to individuals living in more rural areas (though I would argue that rural areas have their own distinct benefits!)  I also recognize that I have the luxury to be able to choose to eat a certain way - many families in my same city live in areas where there are no grocery stores, where fresh produce is far more expensive than processed foods.  I am also happy to report, however, that many vendors at our local farmer's market accept food stamps, a small victory, but a victory none-the-less.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Lauren Wayne said...

I'm really impressed you've got so much food coming to you! We were part of a produce CSA for awhile but didn't always use up all of our week's haul (particularly leafy veggies — shhh, don't tell), so now we do occasional organic deliveries. But, I think your way would force us to eat much, much better. I might have to go back. Cool that you have deliveries that run through the winter, too.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Learning how to cook? Ask your mom for 1) lessons and 2) recipes. The lessons will be something you will never forget - what precious little time we have with our loved ones! And the recipes will be there when your memory of the little details fail - and for your kids :)

Summer said...

I'm jealous! :) We moved from a place where farmers abounded, to where people look at me weird for suggesting there might be a local farmer's market somewhere. Though, I've yet to find one. LOL

laura elizabeth said...

This is such a wonderful post! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I live in Dallas, TX and it's really difficult to make the best choices. This will really help. I hope your RVA summer camp is going well!! I'm SO behind! Happy Tuesday! :)

Melodie said...

I'm impressed that you forage for mushrooms. That's one thing I have never been able to bring myself to do. Too many horror stories of my youth about kids picking the wrong ones and winding up in the hospital. Of course that was for picking magic mushrooms, but still, it worries me. I need hand holding if I ever do it.

Unknown said...

@Lauren - yes, those leafy greens can be a challenge, I have some chard calling my name for dinner tonight in fact ;)

@Dionna - I'm working on both those suggestions. Unfortunately my mom lives a plane ride away, but we do have a family cook book that we add to annually.

@Summer - oh I hope your mystical farmer's market does exist! Food-wise, we live in a very good area :)

@laura elizabeth - It is hard to make good choices, but after they become habit (and you are used to things tasting a certain way) it gets easier. I am woefully behind on RVA camp, I have to thrift some tees and silverware as I'm going to start my mat and chandelier next! :)

@Melodie - oh we do have our hands held! At this point I could easily go morel hunting on my own, but we still go with a friend who is practically an expert, because we too had the same "am I going to die if I eat this" fear when we started years ago!

Taking Time said...

Me too...v. cool about the mushroom foraging!!

I am in sync with this post:-) once you start paying attention to what you eat you can hardly shop at stores anymore!


Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

Wow, great job eating healthy. Sometimes it is not easy to do when you live in the city. I live in a part of the country were farmers markets happen everyday of the week and I am also very blessed to live next to my mom and dad's 80 acres. We did massive gardens this year, have chickens and ducks, and just today purchased a milk cow and calf.

Unknown said...

@Earth Mama - I completely agree, you start to taste the chemicals, and that's never a fun thing.

@PurpleDancingDahlias - ahhh, see you are a wonderful example of the amazing opportunities rural living has. Someday I hope to have a regular (non-container) garden, so I am in awe of your massive ones!

Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes said...

Wow, I'm impressed with all you do!
Right now our favorite summer foods are strawberries and raspberries (picked ourselves at a local farm), and sweet peas purchased at a farmer's market. DELISH! Gotta love summer!

Rach said...

Awesome post! Seriously considering signing up for the Fresh Picks now that I'm actually further in the city. I'm actually at the Wicker Park farmer's market a lot on weekends but it would be nice to have fresh things for the winter months too.

Kat said...

Your journey sounds so much like my family's. I would love to learn how to find edible mushrooms! How cool. My daughter finds them on walks and always asks me "Can I eat this!?" Maybe one day soon I'll be able to tell her!

Thanks for the great post!

BeanMa said...

Wow I just bought conventional cherries from Washington state (I live in NJ) from Whole Foods :(

I would love to get where you're at some day. No grocery stores. Wow.

mrs green @ littlegreenblog.com said...

I think a lovely thing to do is get a seasonal cookbook that appeals to you and make the commitment to try one new recipe a week. Another lovely thing is to ask friends and family to donate a favourite recipe.

This time of year we have a glut of tomatoes, herbs and courgettes (zuchinni), so these are great cooked together with onions and garlic and made into a kind of ratatouille that is perfect hot or cold.

Enjoy your journey!

TwinToddlersDad said...

Very cool and inspiring post. I like your "taking small steps" approach. We need to do something like that.

We are careful about our food shopping. We get organic milk because we don't want the growth hormones and antibiotics. No soda, and only a limited range of packaged foods. Your advice about staying on the perimeter in the grocery store is right on.

Cooking at home can be simple if you know a few tricks and plan ahead. No need for lessons or fancy cookbooks! We have a lot of kid-friendly simple recipes on our website; check them out!


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