So food has become a very large part of my life. Food is a large part of most people’s lives, I realize, as we all need it to survive on a day to day basis. I have approached food in many different ways over the course of my life and the majority of that approach has been, “The faster it can be made and the less clean-up afterwards is all I care about.” I hated cooking (still don’t love it), hated being in the kitchen (still don’t love it), hated (still hate) doing the dishes and actually didn’t enjoy eating for the most part. Eating was just a way to make my stomach quiet down for a time until the next rumblings came along.
When I was working at an office I would frequently bring my lunch, which usually consisted of a spring mix salad and some chunks of cheese. Or I would bring a tub of cottage cheese and some pineapple (still an amazing combination, by the way). My most favorite was the spring onion udon bowl from Trader Joe’s; just add hot water and the included flavor packets and oil. Voila! Instant lunch. Though delicious, it was also completely devoid of any real nutrition. If I didn’t take the time to bring my lunch, I would go to the cafeteria in my building and buy a protein smoothie. I didn’t eat enough and I didn’t eat the best variety of foods, either. I got more interested in nutrition as I got older and decided being vegetarian was the way to go. This was just fine until I got pregnant a year and a half into my vegetarian ways. Two months into the pregnancy I just did not feel well. It wasn’t morning sickness or what I would have attributed to a normal symptom of pregnancy. I just knew I was not getting what my body and my baby needed, so I dove back into eating meat and dairy and felt enormously better.
Fast-forward to baby approaching his sixth month outside the womb and me starting to have minor panic attacks about how I am going to nourish this child outside of breastfeeding. I am so grateful for the relationship I have come to establish with my acupuncturist and believe it was serendipitous we met during my pregnancy. I have brought my baby to see her regularly since he was very young (no needles involved!) and we got to talking about starting solids. She suggested I check out a book, Nourishing Traditions, and look up the section on feeding babies. Of course I did this, and was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of information contained in what is essentially a cookbook. What I really appreciate about it is the format. The first part of the book is a fairly comprehensive overview of various topics in regards to food and its effects on our health; things like dairy, fats, carbs, proteins, etc. The rest is a cookbook that offers recipes that are an introduction into prepping, cooking and eating in a more traditional way.
Since I have a tendency to do some research before making decisions, I ended up reading the majority of the introduction of this book and have been slowly picking my way through altering the way I cook, eat and feed my family. It has been a slow process, but many of the changes have been surprisingly simple, for example:
- I make soup stock regularly and freeze most of it. This was the very first change I made, and the only change I made for weeks before I added anything new to my repertoire.
- I soak rice, beans and oatmeal overnight in water with either lemon or liquid whey before I cook it. This doesn’t take much extra time, just a bit of forethought and planning. Sometimes I sprout the rice or beans. It is incredibly easy and takes almost no time.
- I make kombucha. This is very close to being as complicated as making a cup of tea.
- I drink milk raw from cows raised on grassy pasture, not pasteurized milk from cows raised, fed and treated in ways not meant for cows.
- I use butter. A lot. I used to only use olive oil for cooking fat, but I have now entered a world where I actually save bacon fat in jars in my fridge for cooking. I know, I know. It’s wild. (And please don’t tell my Aunt and Uncle…)
- This was a super easy one: I stopped using most vegetable oils, such as canola or sunflower. This was not something I used regularly anyway, but the information on fats convinced me that fats are a good thing, but it is the type of fat that makes all the difference. So butter, coconut oil and lard or bacon fat have become my go-to for cooking fats. Beef tallow is a good option, as well. For any packaged foods I buy, I always read the label to see if any of the undesirable fats are in them. For example, I like toasted seaweed. I have the option to buy it with sunflower and/or soybean oil, or olive oil. I go for the olive oil one. There is only one brand of salad dressing I buy, otherwise I make my own.
- I started buying my eggs from farmers who raised their hens on pasture, or what is also called “free-range.” Cage-free and free-range are not the same thing. And sometimes a free-range claim doesn’t actually mean out wandering free on a range. It means a small outside porch attached to a barn in which all the chickens are kept. NOT even close. .
- I started adding raw egg yolks to my smoothies, but only fresh egg yolks from free-range hens.
- I have experimented with making fermented foods. My favorite, and what I consider the easiest so far, is sauerkraut. It adds beneficial bacteria to aid the body in the process of digestion and tastes delicious!
- We take probiotics. Okay, so I’ve been doing that for years, but it is worth mentioning.
- I don’t buy anything low-fat.
- I don’t buy anything low-fat. (Just thought that was worth repeating)
- I no longer buy refined white sugar, but keep evaporated cane juice sugar on hand, as well as raw honey (not to be given to children under 1 year of age), grade b maple syrup, raw agave, stevia and xylitol. Raw honey and maple syrup are the sweeteners I use the most.
- I don’t eat cereal and don’t feed cereal of any kind to my son.
Some of the more adventurous things I have tried making in the kitchen are:
- Coconut milk straight from real coconuts.
- Coconut cream from young Thai coconuts (this I try to do once a week).
- Crème Fraiche: Possibly the easiest thing I have ever made, and also happens to be one of my favorite things to eat!
- Chicken liver pate (this is another I try to make regularly).
- Almond milk.
- Cashew butter.
- Yoghurt: So easy, tasty and much more bountiful in probiotics than store bought.
- Cream cheese.
- Fermented Ketchup: Absolutely delicious!
- Raw butter. (Actually didn’t like this, and haven’t made it a second time).
At this point, you are probably wondering if I ever leave my kitchen. Well, some days I wonder that myself. Admittedly, I do spend a lot more time in my kitchen than I used to, but I also enjoy food so much more than I used to and feel really good about what we eat.
I will get more into detail on specific foods, recommendations, recipes, tricks and tips in future posts. I wanted to just lay out the ground work so you can get a feel for the mindset behind the details. To sum up, I focus on including healthy fats and proteins into our day, supplemented by fermented foods and drinks, make as much from scratch as possible, avoid processed and packaged foods, and I do not feed my child processed sugar and even try to minimize natural sugars (like juice and fruit) and sweeteners as much as possible. I will admit blueberries are one of my son’s favorite foods, so I certainly will indulge him and do keep them on hand in the freezer. Fruit just happens to be one of those foods my son could eat for every meal, all day long, so I really have to be conscious about how much of it he eats on a given day.
Half of me hesitates to discuss food in such an open forum. I believe food can be put into the category of taboo subjects for discussion, right up there with politics, religion and sex. But I am going to go for it, anyway. Bon appétit!
A lot of the food and methods I have mentioned in this post came from this book: