In the two weeks between B-Boy’s due date and his actual birth date, I needed something to take my mind off the fact I was still pregnant, so I turned to Hulu. My show obsession quickly became Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Oliver travels to Huntington, West Virginia, which was named America’s fattest city, and attempts to educate the morbidly obese residents (and those who aren’t so morbidly obese) in the principles of healthy eating.
Several things in this show troubled me, but the three most notable were that 1) many of these families only ate brown, fried food, 2) french fries count as a vegetable in public school cafeterias and 3) children could not correctly identify vegetables. Oliver held up a potato and the children identified it as something ridiculous, like a carrot. When he explained that it was a potato, from which french fries come, the children said, “Oh yeah, french fries. I know those.”
An acquaintance of mine works in the food & nutrition industry and has often blogged that children with whom she works in Missouri can’t correctly identify produce. So apparently it’s not just Huntington, WV. Children everywhere are so steeped in chicken nuggets and french fries, they don’t know a tomato from a banana (they do, however, know ketchup). I was– and frankly, still am– shocked that so many youth don’t know food. Real food. Which of course means their parents aren’t teaching them, which begs the question: do the parents know real food? I’d say by the heaping plates of deep fried yuck depicted on shows such as The Biggest Loser (which I’m a huge [ha! no pun intended] fan of, by the way), likely not.
So I’ve been thinking: how well am I feeding my family?
Generally, I shop in the perimeter of the grocery store: lots of time in the produce section, a quick jaunt by the (fresh) meat section, perhaps a visit to the dairy case, and then a few passes up the aisles to gather a few canned goods, dried beans, flour, sugar, etc. Once a month, I travel thirty minutes to a local dairy, Happy Cow Creamery, to purchase four gallons of non-homogenized milk, two pounds of butter, a pound of sour cream, and perhaps a block or two of cheese. The hubs and I have a small garden plot in the backyard, in which we’ve grown snap peas, peppers, tomatoes, okra, corn, squash, zucchini. We grow peppers and herbs in containers on the deck. My father regularly supplies us with produce from his large and prosperous garden plot. And when we visit Aaron’s family, we bring back a cooler full of raw milk and raw milk cheese from the family dairy, and fresh eggs and produce from his aunts’ & uncles’ personal farms.
So we’re doing pretty well, right? Compared to Huntington, WV, yes. We are. I can’t remember ever putting a plate of all brown, fried food on the table. However… I buy chips. I sometimes drink a Coke (well, more than “sometimes” when the B-Boy isn’t sleeping well at night). We may eat fast food a time or so a month (if we include Subway, then, okay, more than a time or two a month). And we definitely eat out at least four times a month. I buy our sandwich bread, our tortillas, our naan, our French bread. I buy ice cream. I buy jarred spaghetti sauce. I buy jarred salsa. I buy jarred yellow curry and Tikka Masala sauce. I buy… Well, you get the point. I buy things I could easily make at home. Things I know how to make. Things I have made.
I recently complained to my husband about store-bought desserts, particularly store-bought cakes. Making a cake takes like, twenty minutes (plus cook time), maybe. You throw some flour, some eggs, some sugar, vanilla, etc, in a bowl, you turn on your mixer, mix for a minute or two, pour the batter in a pan, cook it, and done. Probably in the time it takes to put on your shoes, find your purse, crank up the car, drive to the market, look through the cakes, choose a cake, stand in line, pay, remember where you parked, drive home, you could have at least assembled the batter and put it in the oven to bake. Best of all, you’ll be able to pronounce every ingredient in your cake, unless of course you decided to make some really exotic, foreign recipe, in which case that’s your own problem…
But the thing is, what is so different from a cake and a loaf of bread? Or a jar of spaghetti sauce? I tout the merits of from-scratch baking, claiming that even working mothers can find the time to bake a stinkin’ cake, but here I am, stay-at-home-mom, buying spaghetti sauce and pouring it over boxed noodles.
So I started thinking. Even though clearly most of my time is spent eating bon-bons and watching soap operas, surely I can just turn the volume up and set to work in my kitchen, creating totally scratch-made meals. And I can create those meals without spending 95% of my time in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove. And I can actually cut my grocery budget, right?
So that is the second ingredient of my 2011 project. I will make 365 unique meals, from scratch. The third ingredient is unprocessed foods (which really is very similar to “from scratch,” but I feel deserves its own explanation), which I will discuss in the next post.