I've spent the last four years slowly changing the way my family and I eat. The first two years were just trying to get away from processed foods and add more whole foods to our diets. The last two have been focused on eliminating gluten from our diets (I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2008).
Now, over the last six months I have been adding to our slow and steady pace of changes an idea that has many names. There's Slow Food and of course the whole organic movement.
I prefer to call it Intentional Eating. (I'm sure someone else has, as well.)
Here is the thought process, and it is very simple: Ask where your food is from. Think about the answer. Weigh it against your beliefs and standards. If it passes the test, feel free to consume. If not, put it back and eat something else.
Now, I go really slow when it comes to things like this. I want to dive in and make huge, sweeping changes and then after a few days or weeks my stamina peeters out and I can't do it any more. This happens because I am reacting, not changing. What I want to do is change.
So I've learned over the last couple of years that, though I am definitely a Hare, I need to channel my inner tortoise.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Barbara Kingsolver's book has helped a lot with this transition. She and her family moved to an inherited farm in Maine and decided to make a commitment as difficult as marriage and as binding as financing a brand new car: Eat only local foods grown by them or in a very small radius to their location.
Amazing and infinitly inspiring. I'd love to move to a farm in Maine and do something similar, but I, being a serial extrovert, would have to take a few other families with and make a mini-commune or risk unfortunate consequences to my heart and soul.
Not to mention that my husband's livelyhood requires a much more urban location. There's not much of a market for running live audio in chickens coops or goat pastures and I have no idea if there is even a noteable music scene in Maine for his band to play.
For me, this commitment is too far a reach and beyond my abilities as a working mother of three young(ish) children. It's a goal for later, tucked away in my heart for excited exploration in another season of my life.
Right now what is tangible is the idea of eating (mostly) local and organic. This means no oranges or bananas unless the fact that they are organic and not from too far away (California not Florida, Mexico not India) can justify their purchase. Luckily I think now that our children are older, we could safely eliminate both from our diets and no one would really notice. I also think that if we only purchased those fruits on occasion it would make them more special and be a justifiable occasional treat.
It also means spending more money, but only in a way. You see, when we bought our first 1/4 cow from Klesick family farms this year, we invested about $400 for this locally grown, humanely raised and slaughtered, grass fed, organic beef. Along with this purchased I decided I would make 1-2 fully vegetarian meals every week to make up for the cost of buying all this meat all at once. Lentis and blackbeans are cheap, even the organic variety.
This, coupled with detailed meal planning based on specials at our local co-op is how I plan to balance our grocery budget. We save in other ways, like using reusable "paper" towels, purchasing in bulk, and using baking soda and vinegar for everything from house cleaning to shampoo and conditioner. (We're not quite there yet, I can't feel good about dumping a bunch of unused cleaning supplies and shampoo into the landfill and who's going to want a bunch of half empty bottles of srubbing bubbles and window cleaner?)
Occasionally we get off track, like when my husband bought a pack of paper towels out of the blue after not purchasing them for 4 months. He didn't even really know why he bought them. It'd be easy to get frustrated, but if I stress over the trees chopped down and bleaches dumped into the water supply and fuel used to deliver those rolls from Indiana to Everett, WA I'll be wasting time on something I can't change. Life is full of mistakes. Chalk it up to an on-field error and move on.
What I am excitedly dreaming about in these long winter days is transforming our rental's tiny back yard into a beautiful space with raised beds where I can grown some of my own food, organically. I've NEVER done more than grow a handful of cherry tomatoes from a plant sold at a grocery store. I have no real experience in gardening and don't even know where to get locally grown, organic seeds or starts. I don't know how to build raised beds from reclaimed wood and I don't know how to manage pests. I don't know a good way to sequester a potty area for my dog so I'm not dealing with land mines while I work out there. I don't know how to make the best use of my tiny space...holy smokes, I don't know much at all, really!
I do know how to read. And so I am. Diligently.
I started with Barbara Kingsolver and will move on to other books, websites and advice from friends who are one, two and fifteen steps ahead of me in the adventure that is gardening.
In fact, I bought this book for one of those friends and it never actually made it into his hands. I'll have to be sure he gets it when I'm through.
You should get it too, if not for inspiration or your own intentional eating adventure then for a great story that has great information woven all throughout.
I recommend finding a locally owned book seller in your area, but if you have to search in a used bookstore or the library, please do find it.
If any of you are on your own intentional eating or organic gardening adventure I'd love to hear from you!
Here's to thinking a little bit harder about our choices, consuming less, supporting our local farmers and starting new adventures!