Food is on the brain lately; not in the sense of, “I’m stressed” and I need to gorge myself for comfort. More like, how can I make better food choices for my family?
I love Goodreads.com. It is an online website that allows you to share what you are reading with friends and the online community. You can write reviews. For myself; journal fiend that I am, I like to keep an online list of what I am reading and how I liked what I read. I am a fan of Michael Pollan and so when I received the email from Goodreads to ask the author a question for the upcoming release of his new book, Cooked I decided to submit one. How can we support and sustain this local, diverse food culture in the current financial climate?
After I read, Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2009 I re-assessed our family’s food choices. Over the years Dave and I have tried numerous food claims and diets. We ate lots of anti-oxidants to boost brain power such as acai & goji berries; bought buckets of protein drinks to enhance muscle performance and we ate Tofurkey and meatless to cleanse our digestive tracts. We were anti-bread/anti-carb; tried diabetic superfoods and The Zone became Dave’s food Bible. The list grows long. In the end the conclusion we arrived at is you can eat anything you want in moderation. It’s really all about portion control and I am a glutton. I have no discipline whatsoever. I eat healthy food but unhealthy portions.
Currently Dave has a rule of trying to create meals from as close to the raw material as possible. Canned goods are only in our pantry in case of an earthquake and he hates that I buy cookies and chips for the boys’ lunches. Everything we eat has CORN; including my fat free half & half; I couldn’t believe it. Even vinegar is derived from CORN; look at the label!The pancake syrup had corn syrup so I changed brands. My boys know to read the labels and it became a game to see what items do NOT have any corn derivative in them. Corn is everywhere!
The middle son recently commented on how we always have sweet things for breakfast (French toast, waffles, pancakes, cereal). He requested to eat something savory. When I asked what he’d like for me to make (like I have a lot of time to cook these things in the morning) he asked for my typical breakfast growing up: rice, eggs and bacon. Sometimes it would be spam and eggs with rice or with Longaniza (a portuguese sweet sausage). He didn’t like my fruit and yogurt parfaits I’d place before him; the toast with Nutella OR the oatmeal that I’d cook with brown sugar. It was all too sweet.
Improvisational cooking is NOT my forte. Fridays I am not rushing kids out the door and so I looked in my refrigerator at 7 AM and poof! When the boys were called to breakfast 13 minutes later they had: a warm slice of the fresh Irish soda bread (pic above) that Dave made last night for dinner, cubed corned beef and potatoes and fried eggs. I added a slice of orange that Dave had used for zest. The boys sat at the table and all they could do was stare. How’s that for a savory breakfast Doug!? (He was too busy eating to comment back). Victory for me. I re-purposed last night’s meal into something else.
When I moved here in 2009 we committed to a local co-op. We tried grass fed beef and various types of grass fed chicken; as well as organic. This was not a cheap expenditure. With the co-op you are bound by the harvest of the season. All is great until you have kale for the third month in a row and have exhausted all recipes of how to use it (although we got an awesome kale soup recipe that the boys and I love). Organic is a joke. You have to even wonder what organic means? And we’d prefer to choose foods from polyculture, sustainable farming farmers who take their jobs as the Earth’s stewards seriously. It is expensive to support our local farmer. I can easily walk into my CostCo or Super Walmart and get these vegetables for half the price. But by choosing the cheaper vegetables at these chains I am condoning the carbon footprint that the gasoline/oil uses to fly/drive these fresh vegetables from other parts of the country or Mexico. I live in the Golden State. I was born in agricultural fields. How can I do this, in good conscience, without breaking my budget?
After all that we decided that growing our own garden is a much more reasonable compromise. This weekend we will be working towards that goal.
Thus, the boys were put to work last evening. They plucked citrus, weeded and hoed, to earn some computer time, and cleared the soil for planting. As a young girl I would sit out in the garden with both of my parents as they toiled with the various vegetables. My mom grew flowers everywhere (I have yet to be able to have her floral thumb) while my dad grew vegetables. My in-laws turn their back half-acre into rows and rows of tomatoes, string beans, cucumbers, zucchini and corn; amidst several different fruit trees. When I drove to my childhood home, last weekend, I saw that the backyard lay barren. But my childhood mind saw the various wildflowers on the side of the house; the dwarf fruit trees that I am trying to re-create in our backyard and trellises full of chayote, string beans, etc. While I snapped photos Dave was on quality control: You missed that big weed in the corner. Don’t pluck my mint; that’s an herb not a weed!
Today Dave helped me celebrate the submission of my 96 page yearbook. Fridays are our date days and after the week we’ve had we needed a drink; he with a Hoegaarden, myself a Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat. We shared the truffle fries. Yum! We had 15 minutes to spare before we picked up the middle- schooler and so we walked, hand-in-hand through our local outdoor mall. We perused a quaint home decor shop; totally girl-i-fied. I have no need for chandeliers but Dave walked us into this store. He surprised me and we walked out with a new item to hang in our kitchen; the heart of our home.
My trip to the central coast makes me appreciate where I live now. It is warm and hilly and I get the best of both worlds. We are a suburb of the city but have green rolling hills with grazing cows and sheep. When I walked, this morning, my dog leash was pulled taught as Snuggles chased after bunnies. I have a further drive to the ocean; though. I guess I can’t have everything. But wait; I do. My family of five. Giving thanks for this ordinary day.