the reluctant foodie

You know that old saying, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes? With the growing popularity of food blogging and tweeting, I think we can add one item further – come spring, food bloggers will start rhapsodizing rhapsodically about ramps, rhubarb and asparugus. It’s another sign of spring, like robins and extreme weather events. I have mixed reaction to all this early-spring food bloggage – on the one hand, I love ramps! and asparagus! and rhubarb! but on the other I find it oddly humorous as bloggers who I normally enjoy tremendously look for new ways to prepare the same spring food. Year after year. Until finally morel mushroom time comes along to distract them.

This strikes me, I think, because I am amazed at the level of sustained passion these bloggers and writers are able to commit to the subject of local and seasonal food, year after year after year.  Certainly I care, more than ever, about the food my family eats. I buy organic, hormone-free meat and milk and *mostly* organic produce and our bread and pasta is home-made – not by me but by the local groceria. As a general rule S. and I don’t keep soda or chips or desserts in the house, more because we don’t want Evangeline to  grow up thinking treats are anything but just that – treats- but also because it’s just good common sense.

Generally, I think this is doing pretty well on the whole food front but then I read food bloggers who are doing things like making their own cheese (seriously? making your own cheese????) and food writers for magazines and newspapers who talk about bechamel sauce like it’s no big thing and I yearn for the days before I knew better and could enjoy a Subway sandwich, baked chips and diet coke ( a lunch I had just last week) without knowing that the bread alone probably has five chemicals I can’t pronounce and diet coke should be banned entirely because it probably causes cancer.

I know I am supposed to abhor ingredients I can’t pronounce and worship at the alter urban chicken farming – spurn strawberries until June and order whole hogs from nearby butchers but I am kicking and screaming while doing so. I was raised in the nineteen eighties and nineties during the height of the instant, low-fat food popularity and no matter how hard I try, those years formed many of my preferences.  I prefer instant, already-flavored oatmeal to those steel-cut oats everyone eats now – those make me want to gag. I hate plain yogurt and these days, I always get a chuckle out of how the fridges at work are full of non-fat Greek yogurt brought in by health-conscious brown baggers when a decade ago they were full of different Yoplait flavors. I have managed to replace my beloved fat-free Yoplait Boston Cream Pie yogurt with this Greek nonsense but I confess, once a month, I buy two containers of the Yoplait stuff and am so happy. I think nuts make the worst snack IN THE WORLD and should basically be used on salads or in desserts and never anywhere else, ever and I hate drinking water and would rather drink diet coke which, I’m sorry, is delicious.

Even weight watchers, the plan I follow to work on my weight, has moved toward a more healthful, organic approach and it is so annoying.  Long gone are the days of a lean cuisine pizza and some baked chips considered a healthy lunch – the emphasis is now on fresh fruit and vegetables (which, to be fair to me, I have always loved and eaten plenty of) and plain fat-free yogurt and lots of water.

Ultimately, I know the recent food movement is better for me, better for the environment and, the most motivating factor, better for Evangeline. While at this point she has had some exposure to items like graham crackers and vanilla wafers, those have been solely at daycare. At home she eats a wide and wonderful variety of foods, including grapefruit, polenta, couscous, tofu, black bean soup, broccoli and snap peas (and yes, I know this will end suddenly and she’ll only want to eat orange foods for a year). I realized…if I am willing to give this mug the very best nutrition possible, since I am blessed enough to be able, financially, to do so, I should probably do the same for myself.

I had a similar realization, spending so much time taking care of her skin, making sure I always dry her properly and lotion her up really well – if I’m willing to do that for her, I should make sure to take similar care of my own skin.

So, I’m working on this. A couple of months ago I started by tackling our “white, processed” consumption, more because I think S. and I let it get a little out of control over the winter but also because I know ultimately the processed white stuff offers us nothing in terms of nutrition. I am also trying to get completely rid of diet soda – I’ve never been a huge consumer of it but I do like a diet coke once in a while.  In May I am going to have to turn my attention toward added sugar and eventually I am probably going to have to give S. a hand in the kitchen during dinnertime but, baby steps people, baby steps. For now I’ll leave you with a picture of some snacks I currently have on my desk – a diet coke ( the last of a case – I hope to never purchase it again), an instant oatmeal, white tea, one piece of milk chocolate and one piece of dark chocolate. Baby steps…baby steps.

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7 Responses to the reluctant foodie

  1. shoreacres says:

    I’m not talking about you here, but them. I hate snobbery, I hate holier-than-thou-ness and I hate self-appointed police. The food police are the worst. (Well, except for home-owners-association police who think that outdoor clotheslines are a tool of the devil. But I digress…)

    I was raised on a combination of fried baloney on white bread sandwiches, “that” green bean casserole, tuna hot dish and lime jello with canned pineapple and cottage cheese. Of course we supplemented that kind of stuff with overcooked veggies and meat loaf, but that was only to ensure we got a main course in us before we hit the chocolate cake covered in whipping cream. In our house, pie was a perfectly fine breakfast food – fruit, right?

    Sure, my tastes have changed, and I do eat better than we did back then. I steam my veggies, eat my fruit mostly raw and prefer smoked turkey sandwiches – on whole wheat.

    But, honestly? I’ve no desire to end like some J. Alfred Prufrock, measuring out my life with coffee spoons and my food on a digital metric scale. Food is a blessing, not a curse, and no one ever will convince me otherwise – even when it comes to my beloved chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes with cream gravy!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I am struggling with this whole issue right now. I don’t feed my kids the best food I can and it’s partly because I was raised the same way you were. Also, I come from a big Italian family so my mom did cook a lot, but we ate all the kinds of things we shouldn’t eat, too. And I’ve carried that into my adulthood. I’m trying to incorporate more fresh and organic stuff into our diet and know that if I do that, my kids will follow suit. Last year, I wanted to join a CSA for the summer so we’d have a varierty of fresh fruits and veggies in the house and could try new things – but I inquired about it too late and never signed up. I also was afraid I’d be wasting a lot. I do like trying new things and think I am an adventerous eater, but I don’t consider myself a foodie. And I don’t have the time to make my own bread and cheese (I saw a recipe for homemade ricotta that I wanted to try and then snapped out of it and realized I had NO time to do that!!) yet I do feel the pressure to be this foodie who only buys the best of this and that. It’s just not realistic for my life.

  3. litlove says:

    My old grandfather used to have a plate of bacon and eggs with a sausage if possible every morning of his life, and he lived into his 80s. And frankly, who wants to live longer than that? Sure, healthy eating is sensible and great as a good, basic plan. But I just know I’ll kill myself quicker WORRYING about it all, than I will with the odd packet of crisps or pack of chips from the chip shop. Being happy and okay in your own skin is one of the most important things. After all, what’s the most effective way to boost your immune system? Be happy. Yup, cheerfulness keeps you free from the common cold, mourning the loss of a loved one puts more people in hospital than anything else, processed food included. But you have to be genuinely happy, not the manufactured facade sort of happy, for it to work.

  4. musingsfromthesofa says:

    Ugh, I hate worrying about food. I’m vegetarian and I have to remind myself to eat vegetables because I grew up on processed everything. By and large I ignore all the latest food advice and just try to eat what I want in moderation. Granted, it helps that I tend naturally towards low-fat and whole wheat, and these days I mostly don’t buy snacks either (because I have no will power). But then, if I want to eat an entire packet of Jaffa Cakes, I’ll do it and enjoy them!

  5. Courtney says:

    Shoreacres – Exactly! Measuring out our lives in coffee spoons is the exact opposite of how I want to go out, too! I find it interesting (in a troubling way) that it is only now that we have seen such a rise in childhood obesity! It wasn’t caused by fried bologne sandwiches and whipping cream, that’s for sure! No, so many factors are contributing to childhood obesity and the diseases associated with it and I think some of those factors can be attributed to the rise in overall sugar consumption, not fat! But I will say that whole fat-free craze really did a number on me – I didn’t have any weight issues until my parents tried out a very low-fat diet and, at the same time, it really defined the kind of food I prefer (as I mentioned already).

  6. Courtney says:

    Jen, I’m pretty “meh” regarding CSAs…I have one friend who LOVES her CSA and gets stuff practically year round but I know a lot of other people who end up with, like, one radish and seventeen cucumbers – I prefer going to the farmers market to get a better distribution of produce. And I agree – it’s so weird to feel the pressure to be a foodie when it’s not how I’m naturally inclined, at all.

    Litlove – I agree – being happy and comfortable in your own skin – and finding the foods that work for YOU and what you *should* be eating – will lead to a great deal more happiness than worrying about every little thing!

    Musings – I agree, worrying about food is the worst! I think the moderation approach, ultimately, is the only approach. I just don’t understand people who are embracing things like the Paleo diet…do never eat a piece of toast again? EVER? I might as well just die right now. Limiting food groups from your diet I think is ultimately pretty damaging!

  7. Anne Camille says:

    Hi Courtney. I disagree with several things that you write here — but I LOVE this post! 🙂 I think people take food way too seriously these days and it drives me crazy. That said, I was so happy when our farmers’ market opened for the season on Saturday. I love fresh produce and I like buying my meat from farmers whose pigs, cows and sheep only have one bad day in their life. I joke that I know the names of the chickens who produce my eggs. I don’t really, but I know their owner’s name and I like that I support a small, local farm and that the chickens are part of the entire production cycle on that farm. I purchased store bought eggs for the first time in over a year when we were on vacation last January and I was disgusted by everything about them — from the uniform size and color to the lasered brand stamped on them. Not only did they look differently, they tasted differently. I love that as we head into Spring the eggs change in size and color — it makes me more aware of the life cycle. But, if I never could buy a fresh free-range egg again would I stop eating them? Not likely. I’m sure I’d soon forget the wonders of my eggs from that small farm downstate. But, since they are easily available to me and I like them, paying 50 cents more per dozen is worthwhile to me.

    I’ll love the strawberries too when they are available in June. I’ll likely by a quart one Saturday morning and eat them all before sundown. But, I will still buy those uniform in color and size Chilean strawberries outside of the growing season. I participated in a CSA for the last 4 years, but will not this year. I often ended up with the one radish and 17 cucumbers and it was disappointing, but I did try many things that I don’t think I would have even known about (hello, kohlrabi!). Have decided that the better approach for us is to budget a certain amount for the farmers’ market and will buy what we want and will use. I’ve actually been flirting with the idea of trying to can produce this summer, but I don’t know how many Saturdays I really want to devote to that. If you can’t can it the day you buy it, there isn’t much point. But, the thing is I have the capacity to do that now. I can’t imagine even thinking about it if working full-time and raising children. Sort of like making babyfood. Yeah, you could control the ingredients and make things as healthy as possible, but what does one give up to do that? Other than mashing overripe bananas, I quickly gave up on that idea. My kid would have starved waiting for me to prep his meals and my energy was already way too depleted to expend it on that. Like everything else, it’s a choice and I’m thankful we have them.

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