Wow. It’s been a while, huh? Sorry about that folks. I don’t really have an excuse other than life. This blog is intended to be a hobby, and I just haven’t had a lot of time for it lately. So what have I been up to? Well, lots.
I’ve been knitting and sewing like a crazy lady, because a friend of mine is pregnant with her first child, a little girl, due July 4, so I’ve been working on little gifties. Of course, since I haven’t given her the gifts yet, I can’t post them yet, but I will eventually, I promise!
I’ve been working on my overall health and fitness. This is something that I always struggle with, and I have a hard time having a balanced approach. It’s usually all or nothing, which can lead to less time for fun blog type activities.
I’ve been reading, researching and thinking a lot about using more natural, organic products. About becoming more self-sufficient and making things that people in this day and age usually buy. About a sort of “back to basics” approach to life. Let’s face it: I’m becoming a hippie. For real. I’m talking growing my own veggies, composting, raising chickens for eggs, beekeeping, canning, pickling, baking and cooking. Making my own soap, lotion, lip balm, deodorant and shampoo. Yeah. We’re off the deep end and into hippie land now.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think it’s that crazy. I think it’s necessary. I had a long conversation about this stuff with my friend Erin of Wicked Vegan, and talked about about it with my BF today. My personal belief is that a lot of the behavioral issues and food allergies that have developed in children in recent years is due to the exponential increase in exposure to chemicals in our everyday products and processed foods. I believe that the current obesity epidemic is because home-cooked meals are going the way of the dinosaur. These concerns weren’t as present when we were kids, or when our parents were kids. So what’s the difference?
We’re not cooking for ourselves anymore. Our food comes from boxes and cans. It comes out of the freezer. It’s grown in Mexico or Chile and sprayed with chemicals and shipped clear across the globe to get to us. It’s made in huge factories with oodles of sugar and sodium. It’s packed with unrecognizeable and unreadable ingredients. It’s made with things that are potentially harmful. The ingredients that we are putting on or in our body are not things we’d normally choose to eat, but because they’re masked with big scary words, or hidden in an ingredient list a mile long. Moms and Dads are tricked with words like “natural” or “whole grain” into thinking that processed foods are good for their children. Children are being raised in a world where moms and dads don’t cook anymore, so they aren’t learning basic nutrition and culinary skills. We’re raising generations of people who are completely disconnected from their food and unable to make healthy, nutritious meals.
I myself am a perfect example of this. In my house, Dad did all the cooking. And Dad is a meat and potatoes man. He’s also the least adventurous eater I’ve ever met, aside from myself and my older sister. The only “vegetable” he will eat is corn, and only if it’s dripping with butter and salt. So as a child, my basic meals consisted of a meat and a starch, or even a meat and two starches (potatoes and corn, or rice and corn, or pasta and corn). As a result, I never tasted most vegetables or fruits and never really developed a taste for them. The only vegetable I could stomach until I was about 15 years old was carrot. And I would only eat them raw. My best friend’s family used to keep a bag of baby carrots in the fridge at all times in case I came over for dinner, because the rule in their house was that there was a vegetable with every meal.
The result is that I grew up thinking that grilled cheese with rice was a perfectly acceptable dinner. I didn’t eat any vegetables other than carrots. I didn’t eat any fruits other than apples and bananas. Cheese was a major food group. When I went away to college, I gained 20 pounds in one semester because all I ate was pizza and burritos. If I ate a salad, it was drenched in ranch dressing. I have struggled in my adult life to develop a taste for vegetables, and to retrain my brain regarding food and nutrition. I had to teach myself to cook healthy, well-balanced meals. Even now, when I’ve come so far and learned so much, most nights I still prepare a meat and a starch for dinner because I don’t like a lot of veggies, or don’t know how to prepare them. Because it’s my normal pattern. I’m still fighting the habits I learned in my childhood.
And that’s not even touching the environmental impacts… I could go on and on about this topic, and I’m sure it will continue to come up, but for now, suffice to say that I’m going to try to break this pattern, at least in my own life, with my own family and future children. I want to decrease our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. I want to be more self-sufficient. I want to be better about recycling. About buying responsibly raised and gently butchered meat. As items in my pantry run out, I plan to replace them with all natural, organic alternatives. And I want to make as much of my own stuff as I possibly can. As I continue on this journey, I plan to share all of my useful recipes, tutorials, tips and tricks, because I think other people feel the same way I do, and I want to encourage others to live a healthier, more whole life.
If you’re looking for some resources for where to start, these are the books I’ve been using myself:
The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. Their argument is that you don’t need a house and several acres of land in order to be more self-sufficient and less consumeristic. They live in the middle of LA and keep chickens and bees, have apple trees and a veggie garden and a compost bin. This book is more of the philosophy behind the whole thing. Less a practical guide and more of a reason to start. Their second book, Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World is the follow up. This book will tell you how to do everything from building a hen house to making beer. They break it out into sections for daily, monthly and seasonal projects. You can do as much or as little as you want. I think composting my own poop is a bit extreme, but nobody’s saying I have to do it, they’re just saying I can.
Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty and Style by Kim Barnouin. Kim of Skinny Bitch fame breaks down everything in your house that could possibly be killing you, and makes you feel like you need to replace everything in your house from your couch to your soap. Take everything with a grain of salt. She’s a bit extreme at times, but she does an amazing job of laying out the major bad-for-you chemicals in different household and beauty products so that you can be more educated when shopping. My only beef with the book is that she’s vegan, and I’m not, so she tells me that wool, leather and other animal based products are terrible and evil and I’m a bad person for using them. If you’re vegan, you’ll probably love it. Non-vegans can just ignore that stuff and take advantage of the huge amount of research that she’s done.
***I’d just like to state for the record: I LOVE Cheez Doodles. I eat pre-packaged food and canned soups. I’m human. I’m not perfect, and I can only do so much at once. This will be a slow transition. I don’t want to shock my system or get overwhelmed. It’s going to be interesting. But I can do it, and so can you.