Sunday, October 16, 2011

06.14.11 2011 Challenge Check-In: FOOD!

It is almost exactly the middle of 2011. Despite the fact that I made no real New Year's Resolutions, I find the mid-year mark an apropos time to check in with some of the ideas I thought I'd be developing by now. This is also an opportunity for me to confess how true-to-self I am actually living. So let's take a peek into my kitchen--

Four months ago, I mentioned that I wanted to simplify my food life this year. I think I'm about halfway to fully realizing this goal. On the one hand, we've joined our local co-op [which we LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I could write a whole separate post just about my love affair with our co-op]. The Farmer's Market is starting to pick up, and I planted my very first backyard vegetable garden. About once per week, I challenge myself to make something new or useful and have found a very handy supply of homemade bread, cereal, granola, yogurt, and snack recipes. I am still obsessed with the More with Less Cookbook and consult it every week for at least half our meals.

Because of my commitment to eating more locally grown and seasonal food, our meals tend to be more vegetarian, very fresh, and contain minimal ingredients. I splurge once a week on a more complicated and hearty meat-based dish but honestly, I've found that I don't necessarily prefer those. And I'm pretty blessed to have a freezer full of fresh-caught deep-sea fish from my father-in-law's Baja fishing trips [we enjoy Wahoo almost weekly - an amazing fish that cannot be caught commercially] I still haven't taken the plunge to join a meat CSA  but now that the weather is nice, I definitely need to make time to take our family out to a local farm. I'm asking all my experienced friends about the tricks and trades of drying herbs, dehydrating fruits, freezing and canning vegetables in preparation for my own harvest and my expected bulk purchases from the farmers' markets. My goal is to buy or grow food - and as much of it as possible! - when it's in season and store it. Which makes for an expensive summer - but hopefully a very cheap winter!

Our financial limitations have taught me to stretch what we have in-stock. At least a few times every month, we run out of cash for groceries and have to create meals with only what is in the cupboards. But I'm learning to keep a regular stock of eggs, grains, legumes, and beans, any combination of which makes quite the satisfying meal!

Money is definitely an issue in all of this. It is discouraging that enjoying a more local, organic, fresh meal costs more than the packaged and processed options. We are on a very tight budget and I do have to make compromises regularly in order to stick to it (this is partly why I'm only halfway to my simple food goal). 

But the difference - the benefits - are tangible to me.

First of all, my conscience is clear with regard to the treatment of all the animal products I consume. I tried to remain ignorant about inhumane animal practices but now it is unavoidable. As a Christian who believes in a Creator, a Master Designer who delights in all his created works, I am so thankful to have the ability to purchase food that was treated well before it got to my table.

I am also super excited about supporting the local economy. It is humbling and inspiring, as I try my immature hand at gardening, to meet the literal hands that feed me and to speak with local farmers who have years of experience and insight. This is a small slice of nostalgia, when neighbors plowed their fields together and you only ate what your community could produce. An added bonus of supporting local farms is reducing the carbon footprint of trucks (trains and planes) that haul food across the country or world. It's depressing to think about how much energy was spent sustaining a bunch of bananas on its trip from Colombia to Minnesota. We talk about people going hungry around the world and yet we in the United States easily enjoy the privilege of abnormally acquiring non-native foods without considering the economic and environmental cost of such demands. One (sustainable) way to feed hungry people is to teach them how to feed themselves - locally. Yet we ourselves cannot practice what we teach.

And on top of these (BIG) benefits, I have found by experience that fresh, seasonal, and (mostly) organic food tastes better. It really does. When I only ate organic food sporadically, I barely noticed a difference. But now that I've had four months of consistency, I can taste the difference in an instant, especially in dairy products. MMMMMMMM, locally produced, non-hormonal, organic cheese.....

Ok, so 6 months into the year, I've definitely become a food snob. Yet, I have a LONG way to go in terms of providing more homegrown, homemade, well-stocked cupboards. My husband isn't totally sold on all my hippie ideas but he's been a great support and sense of humor along the way. So I can safely say that this is one "New Year's Resolution" that is well on its way to success.

What about you? Any revolutionary food decisions this year? or other updates on your new year's resolutions?

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