my food renaissance

Thanksgiving is just about 1 week away! Insane. Makes a good segue to a long-winded chat about food. I'm not usually one to write persuasive essays, but I just have a couple of things that need to be said:

I nearly choked on my Wonderbread* last Thursday night when my friend Chelsea (who was coming to spend the weekend with us, arriving the following afternoon) announced that she and her baby were on a gluten-free diet. Gulp. What did that even mean? I had absolutely no clue, except that we probably couldn't order pizza. (!?!) A split second later, I was googling easy gluten-free recipes and scouring over blogs like this one and this one. I made a list, checked it twice, and fled for the health store, in hopes of filling their bellies with the right stuff while they stayed under our roof.

(For those as in the dark as I was--a gluten free diet basically means no wheat. Sometimes people skip dairy too, sometimes not. They eat lots of fresh, healthy fruits + veggies. Lots of protein, rice, and nuts. A whole lot of good, wholesome things. A whole lot less empty carbs and processed junk.)

It turns out that Chels started this whole holistic, organic, extra healthy kick after her daughter was born and she needed to completely transform her diet in order to successfully keep breastfeeding. In a little over a year, she's become a walking health encyclopedia and even started a great blog along with a friend about their adventures in holistic parenting. As the weekend went on, we chatted a ton and I felt like my eyes were really opened about our society's big, fat messed up perception of real food.

I'd never been resistant to the whole/organic/locally sourced food movement (in fact, I've always thought it was pretty neat)--I had just never taken the time to be educated about it. I'd caught bits and pieces from NPR, I stood in awe of the girl who makes her own granola bars and the girl who makes her own yogurt, but I'd never really put all the pieces together to understand why it's all such a big deal. I'd always enjoyed a good trip to the farmer's market, bought organic milk for G and tried to cook nutritious things as much as possible-but I never ever thought I'd be the girl preaching on her blog about free range chickens and the dirty dozen.

Maybe I am the last girl on earth to have finally sat down to watch Food Inc., but in case I'm not, I highly, highly recommend that you see it too. I can say with an open mind that our society's recent and rapid advances in agriculture have produced some positives: food has become more affordable and more available. I won't discredit that. But suddenly our food has become, well, a whole lot less like food. When I look around at the grocery store, I admit that I've been getting a little disgusted. Everything is processed, packaged, and filled with pretty much unrecognizable ingredients. I won't even begin to rant about the government influences, money trails, legal red tape, factory farms, horrible pesticides, unnecessary antibiotics, genetically modified monstrosities, inhumane working conditions, and ridiculous amount of waste that are involved here. God must be so sad about what we've done to his Creation. How we've abused and distorted all the good things he's made for us. It all makes me lose my appetite.

I will say that I am looking at our food from a whole new angle. I am finally beginning to digest all of this food rhetoric and am beginning to see the bigger picture, the repercussions it has on us as a society and on our future. I am taking a second glance at what our grocery budget is really funding, and am thinking about more ways to exercise my vote and effect change on my family's dinner table. Although our world and our food system are royally messed up, I am comforted knowing that I am a steward of my body and my refrigerator.

I can make small choices and changes that will better nourish our bodies and can support local farmers who supply food with integrity.
I can subscribe to a CSA.
I can dodge the dirty dozen (and spring for the organic versions).
I can hoard the clean 15.
I can learn how to plant a garden.
I can try to grow some good veggies in our own backyard.
I can visit the farmers' market more regularly.
I can get beef, pork, and eggs from my aunts and uncles (who conveniently still own family farms!)
I can make a New Year's resolution to freeze and can more things next summer.
I can search for healthier recipes.
I can skip the chips, soda, crackers, and cookies at the grocery store.
I can learn so much more: I am really curious to hear your thoughts, tips, sources, and suggestions. I know this is a really hot topic and that there's an enormous wealth of information out there...I have barely scratched the surface.

This was a biggie--thanks for reading.

*P.S. I don't actually eat Wonderbread. Never have, never will. I just chose to pick on this ungodly resemblance of food substance for dramatic effect. Sorry for the tall tales. :)


Amanda said...

Ooh, I just got a great new cookbook of slow cooker recipes that are all gluten free. It's called Make It Fast, Cook It Slow. Probably available from your local library. The author also has a blog: crockpot365.blogspot.com

JSchaller said...

Happy to have another convert join the ranks! You're right, you can get buried by information if you start digging, but I try to keep my head above water by just doing my best to buy "real" food and make meals myself. That way I dodge the chemical ingredients and preservatives, and save some money in the meantime.

Caleb and I enjoyed reading Fast Food Nation and watching SuperSize Me. That kicked us off on a holistic journey, and we've been eating better, using "alternative" medicine, natural birthing, and cloth diapering ever since!! (Our families think of us as the "special" ones, I think.)

jen @ homeinthecountry said...

We're on the same plan - trying to eat local, healthy foods. I'm pretty proud when I visit the grocery store & don't need anything from the center isles. That's not to say we don't have our moments (ahem, chewy chips ahoy, so bad, yet so good), but it's amazing how much better local foods taste and how much better we feel after eating them! I hope you'll share more about your journey (+ recipes!) as you go!

Unknown said...

Hi Jessica! I'm so excited you're thinking whole food! A good resource for whole food information is the Weston Price Foundation: http://www.westonaprice.org/

What really got me started on the whole food quest was the documentary The Future of Food:


A great book that explains whole foods and has a wealth of recipes is Nourishing Traditions:


Justin's sister blogs about feeding her kids sustainable food and shares recipes:


a useful website for tracking down local farm food:


Kat said...

I have to admit that I was relieved when you said you've never eaten Wonderbread :) That stuff is awful!
I grew up on a family farm - we didn't have a lot of money, so we always had a big garden, where we grew veggies, we ate our own grass-fed beef, and kept laying hens for eggs. My parents aren't health nuts in the least - we just did things that way because it was more affordable! But now I that I live in the city, I see how much better and healthier we all were back then. Now, my whole family (including myself) is overweight and I truly believe it's because we've all stopped eating real food. I am making a much more conscientious effort to get back to that, and hopefully my influence will rub off onto my family :)

Amy said...

If you haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I highly recommend it. After reading it, I joined a CSA for the first time, started baking my own bread, made my own cheese and just started changing my habits in general.

kate said...

I'd never heard of the dirty dozen until I read your post. I need to print out and carry the article with me when I'm grocery shopping.

ashlie said...

I always get so overwhelmed about this issue. I know that it's important but I have a tendency to go all or nothing. I need balance. I think I'll choose a couple things from your wonderful list. Thank you for the thoughts :)