Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

That's the title of a book I'm reading, and it's really making me rethink even more how I feed my family. It also is making me not want to eat meat. Ever again. 

At the very least, we will only eat meat that is free-range and grass-fed. Same for the poultry, only cage free. This limits how much meat we can eat, as this is all about triple the price of what I used to get at the grocery store. I made chicken thighs tonight, and Addie didn't want any, and neither did I. But we all had rice and organic swiss chard sauteed with caramelized onions. The kids split an apple, and each had a slice of homemade bread with (real) butter. I'm having a cara cara orange for dessert. 

I have really found my great motivator for my diet. And it's got nothing to do with vanity any more. It is making so much easier to eat well, because eating crap, even keeping it in the house, is 100% out of the motherfucking question. My kids still have desserts and treats, but it's stuff I make, from scratch. No more oreos or trans-fat and high-fructose corn syrup laden bakery sweets, it's baked goods your grandma or great grandma might have made. 

When I used to leave the grocery store, my cart would be filled with a variety of processed foods cleverly disguised as being a 'healthy alternative'. Crackers, cookies, cereals, frozen waffles, chips, all with labels like 'whole wheat' or 'whole grain' or 'all-natural goodness'. These are deceptively misleading. Processed is processed- they ALL contain preservatives, as well as some derivative of corn: calcium citrate, calcium lactate, caramel and caramel color, dextrose and fructose, lactate and lactic acid, lysine and maltodextrin... and that's just a few. Where our ancestors were used to eating over 400 different kinds of food, our generation eats about 20. 

 "Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets.Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister." (review of Michael Pollan's book by Publisher's Weekly)

I feel like I am better armed when I enter that grocery store now. My rule of thumb is this: if the label has more than about 5 ingredients, and if I have trouble pronouncing any of them, then it's not something any of us need to eat. Bread? Cookies? Crackers? I make them all. The last vestige to fall is the lunch meat factor - even the 'nitrate free' from Whole Foods is full of sodium and processed to some degree. I have a good friend with a smoker, and I plan on getting a couple of smoked turkey breasts to use for sandwiches. And really, the less meat I can feed my kids, I think the better off they'll be. While I agree that we are omnivores - that's obvious- we were not meant to eat it every day, three times a day. When my mom was a little girl, her family had it about 2-3 times a week. They ate lots of vegetables from her Sicilian grandfather's garden (fresh in the summer, canned in the winter) pasta or rice, salads and breads and fruit. Food was very basic, before the advent of Jello and Tang.

If we are what we eat, don't we want to eat the freshest and purest food possible? Do we want to be human-shaped corn and chemicals? It seems like a shitty way to spend our lives, if you ask me. 

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