Thinking about eating

One thing that I’ve realized about myself is that I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Not just what to buy at the store or what to cook for dinner, but why I eat the way that I do.

A little bit of background is in order for this stream of consciousness to make any sense. For most of my life, I never thought about how I ate. As long as there was food, I was fine. That mindset began to change towards the end of college. One reason is because a group of my good friends got involved in gardening. They had always been my social justice oriented pals, and they began to focus their energies on food security and equal access to healthy foods. (As an aside, three of these friends have built this college project into their graduate coursework and, in one instance, a career.) I find it impossible to be surrounded by enthusiastic and well-read people and not be persuaded to think. At the same time, Greg started teaching me how to cook. I knew some of the basics, but he took the time to really teach me how flavors can work together. These lessons also coincided with our quest to try “intimidating” vegetables and fruits–like parsnips, winter squashes and persimmons–and cooking techniques–like canning. The final piece that pushed me to really THINK about food was when a friend gave me a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I love Kingsolver’s writing, and this book about eating locally and seasonally resonated with me in a way that I did not fully expect. She makes such a passionate plea to her readers to think about what they do when they eat and to decide if their decisions are really in line with their ethics.

You know what? Mine weren’t.

That started us–Greg and I–on a process to change the way that we eat. We are completely dedicated omnivores who are quite fond of the adage “everything in moderation.” We eat meat, just not as much as we used to. We eat a lot more beans and fish than when we first started sharing home cooked meals. We eat all kinds of vegetables, but we eat them in their proper growing season. Mostly. Blackberries taste perfect in summer and wrong in December. Asparagus are one of the finest vegetables that spring has to offer, but they are not the same in October. That means that we eat a ton of leafy greens in the winter and squash in the summer. We gorge ourselves on strawberries in May and content ourselves with strawberry jam during the winter.

Our relationship with food is constantly evolving. We are forever adding to the list of things we make ourselves. I bake our bread; Greg makes our chicken stock. I want to learn how to make yogurt; Greg has mentioned wanting to try brewing beer with our church’s What Would Jesus Brew? group.

We do these things and eat this way because it tastes good. It challenges us to be better, more creative cooks. It has led us to have a healthier diet since we have a couple meat-free meals every week, eat more vegetables, and try not to keep processed food around. The only label that we have chosen to give ourselves is omnivores. We are not so strict with our diet that we never eat Flaming Hot Cheetos. We will never be vegetarians. We do not get all of our food locally, but we try to buy as close to home as we can when we are able to. Basically, we have spent the last four years slowly changing our diet and thinking about the fact that we are doing so in order to be kinder to our bodies and to the planet.

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