Three Things I’ve Learned by Eating Real Food

by Elizabeth on June 20, 2012

I swear, folks, this isn’t a food blog. Despite all evidence to the contrary.

However, after sitting up and taking notice of the craziness that *is* our industrialized food system, the single biggest life change I’ve made (other than giving up everything that wasn’t nourishing me in the brainmeats) is in how we look at the grocery store and restaurants.

Better still, I’m finding a few things to be true:

1. It’s not nearly as hard as I thought it’d be to start shifting from prepackaged, cello-wrapped not-food to actual, real, grown-in-the-dirt (sometimes by me) food-food.

It’s definitely not as convenient. And it flies in the face of modern society just a little bit — removing you from the big food machine and putting you into a place where it seems a little big and scary. After all, someone’s been doing the thinking FOR you for a while, and you’ve trusted that they know best. Taking back the responsibility for and the power over what you’re putting into your body is a huge, huge thing.

The thing is: growing food? Not all that hard. (Ask me about the Bok Choy Incident sometime.) It requires some planning, and if you’re anything like me, there will be days you’ll make mistakes and days when you throw it all out the windows and play drive-through roulette. But most days, you learn something new that adds to your power, and before you know it, you’re a freakin’ farming superhero without really trying.

Alternately, visiting farmers markets and local suppliers is rewarding, too. Go into just about any supermarket, and you can buy just about anything, sure. But can you buy something that you can actually trace back to the person who grew/made/raised it? Do you know for certain that that bunch of carrots hasn’t been on a truck for a week or ten days, and hasn’t been genetically modified or sprayed with some kind of chemical to keep it orange? You can, if you buy from the person who grew it. (Plus, for you financial people, you’re keeping your money local, which helps your entire community.)

2. It’s harder than I ever thought it’d be to get big-agriculture out of my kitchen.

At first glance, this might seem contradictory to item #1, but it’s not, really.

The more I learn about where our food comes from, the more I realize that the entire industry has survived on a kind of wink-wink and a handshake agreement to keep things they don’t want people to know out of the public eye. (Think about pink slime in burger, for instance. No matter how you feel about the health effects, you have to admit it’s kind of…well….gross. And it’s only by keeping that gross pink goo out of the public eye that they were able to sell it to you for years, simply for the gross-out factor alone.)

Once I started reading about who scratches who’s backs, and who is actually behind some of the supposed activist groups out there (hint: Monsanto), everything got very murky. I do not want my dollars going into big companies’ wallets, given all they’ve done and plan to do. And researching it all made it very hard to figure out what I could buy at all.

See, that’s the paradox here: the more you know, the more choices you have. And choice isn’t always easy to make. Before, if I got busy, it was no big deal to run to McDonald’s and grab dinner. Now, I have to weigh whether or not the guilt is worth the convenience. (And, frankly, sometimes it is.)

When you know better, you do better, they say. And I know in our case, at least, knowing more and making informed choices may be more difficult, and we’re not always perfect, but we’re doing better every day, and that’s all I can really ask for on this journey.

3. There is a TON of information out there to sift through.

I’m still a rank newbie at most of this stuff. I took a kohlrabi out of the garden the other day, for instance. A perfect, beautiful, amazingly magical purple kohlrabi. I brought it home, cleaned it up, and set it on the counter to admire its perfect I Grew This-ness.

And then I realized that I had precisely no idea what to do with it.

I mean, here I am, dead set and determined to grow as much of our food myself as I can. I dove into this with the fervor of the reformed, and have gone just a wee bit overboard. (No, really. 18 tomato plants-worth of overboard.) I’m very committed to dong whatever I can to make this house healthier and more sustainable, both for the planet and for those of us living in this house.

But that kohlrabi? Stumped me. I don’t think I’d ever knowingly consumed one before, actually.

So I took to the internet, like any 21st Century Digital Chick does. I read a lot about how to grow kohlrabi. How to harvest kohlrabi. How to clean it, even. What parts of it were edible. I even found recipes — some sounding better than others.

Total time invested: probably two hours, just to figure out what this pretty purple vegetable in my kitchen could do. Nobody has EVER spent two hours online figuring out what to do with a box of Lean Cuisine, most likely.

I’m compiling everything I’m learning into my garden/life journals. It’ll get easier, as time goes by, and I figure out what in the heck a kohlrabi does. But for now, I can safely tell you that this food journey of mine is taking a fair bit of information-sifting and experimentation. It’s not for the faint-of-heart, but can help everyone who adopts it.

Paradox, that.

For those of you who are eating more real these days, you’re probably running up against some of these same issues. How are you dealing with them? What are you learning about? What has you most excited and what do you find frustrating?

I’d love to hear your voice on this. Me and my purple kohlrabi are all ears. :)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

gemmy1 June 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm

1. 18 tomato plants is not crazy. You will can those tomatoes so you don’t have to use store bought canned tomatoes this winter when you want spaghetti. Store bought canned tomatoes have BPA lining the cans and the acidity of the tomatoes can leach the BPA into the food. bleah. Sadly, I ran out of last summer’s canned tomatoes last week. 18 plants is not crazy. I have…20 regular, 1 cherry, 3 grape. Not crazy at all! Also, pressure canning is not necessary for canned diced tomatoes. The hot water bath takes a long time, but it’s worth it.

2. Exciting is when suddenly I realize that I cook better than any local restaurant, so it makes it even more worth my while to continue. And even using organic ingredients is cheaper! The time gets … tedious sometimes. However, with that delightful man on the road most of the week, I don’t necessarily have to cook that way every day. I am trying to get better at treating myself as well as I treat that man.

3. A good site I found – http://onceamonthmom.com/ Most of the once-a-month cooking sites have recipes full of CRAP – cream o’ soups and hamburger out the wazoo. This site has those, but also offers a vegetarian and a whole foods menu option. I’ve tried a couple of the recipes and found them to be rather good. I’d been looking for this for a long time.

4. The man tells me kohlrabi is sliced thin and cooked. I grew a few last year but never quite figured them out. This year it’s tomatoes (fried green – omg!!! Finally tried that last year and oh, what took me so long???), zucchini, peas, Swiss Chard, potatoes, carrots, herbs, lettuces. I’m not going to try the stranger critters that I’m not sure of. I’m growing what I use a lot of – namely tomatoes and bell peppers.

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adminnie June 26, 2012 at 3:43 am

i had fried green tomatoes for the first time since i was a small child, and they were AMAZING! organic cornmeal, flour, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, fried in olive oil = OMG.

also, i’m growing butternut squash, zucchini, basil, dill, okra (we love it fried around here, so i’ll slice and iqf it, and fry it as needed), and 5 tomato plants that are shoulder high on me at this point! oh, and cucumbers :) garden is looking GOOOOOOOOD this year.

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