Hi! Remember me? Anyway...lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the whole 'real food' movement that seems to be sweeping the nation. Or I guess it's sweeping the nation...it seems to be all over the place from where I'm sitting. People blog about it, they put articles on Facebook about it, it's in the media. Either way, it is being brought to my attention from various sources quite a bit lately. My two favorite sources for real food information are from The Catholic Foodie and 100 Days of Real Food. My first foray into learning about real foods, and why they are important came from The Catholic Foodie. I first started reading Jeff's blog and listening to his podcast for 3 main reasons: I like to eat, I'm Catholic, and his wife is a fellow homeschooling Mom in my community. So, when I listened to one of his podcasts about real food (I think it was the one he did on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution show that was going to be aired at the time), it really kind of opened my eyes to the dangers of highly processed foods. But, only a little bit...like a tiny slit in one of my eyes...probably the right one, since it is weaker. I agreed with what he was saying, but not ready to take the plunge. "You mean I have to give up cream of mushroom soup!!! and, Velveeta?!?! What planet are you from? Don't you know I was taught that the secret to half of my Mom's favorite recipes I ate growing up contain at least one, if not both, of those ingredients?!", I thought to myself.
Now, fast forward 6 months or so and enter the 100 Days of Real Food blog. She pretty much confirmed my fears...no, absolutely no Velveeta products, or cream of anything! The funny thing is, despite my initial hesitancy to give up those kinds of things, every time I go to the store now, I just can't make myself buy some of that stuff anymore (although, I do still use it on rare occasions, but not regularly like I used to). I mean, I still use processed foods, but less than I used to. And, I have a feeling that the conversion is slowly and continually still taking place - I'm no St. Paul, you know ;). At the 100 Days of Real Food site, she pretty much went cold turkey with her family for 100 days...that was their mission, and after the 100 days they never went back. I really like her site, because she doesn't have all kinds of weird recipes with things you can't even pronounce, let alone find in your grocery store. She actually has recipes for homemade mac'n'cheese, goldfish, and ice cream for crying out loud! And other recipes, too ;) Her recipes are regular recipes that I am familiar with, but are made with fresh ingredients, and without all the extra junk that comes from processed foods.
I think the problem with getting on the real food bandwagon for me is fear...fear of losing what I consider to be normal, safe, and comfortable....and, of course, easy! Real food preparation takes a little more work. But, in my effort to ease onto the wagon gently (don't want to go toppling over now, do we?!), I've discovered that it's more fun to cook real food! I have always loved to cook, and there's a real sense of accomplishment when I serve a meal that was prepared with good, healthy ingredients from scratch...and it tastes WAY better! Plus, it kind of feels like cheating when I use the already prepared meals (although it has been a LONG time since I've used one of those, even though I only recently discovered the term 'real food'). It's kind of like the difference between using a paint by number, and creating your very own work of art. The paint by number is okay, but to create a real masterpiece is infinitely more beautiful. It also takes practice. I've burnt and ruined many a meal in my quest as a married woman to create tasteful, wholesome meals for my family.
What I love about The Catholic Foodie site is that Jeff is local to New Orleans, so his recipes are all about Cajun/Creole goodness, which totally speaks my language! He has other stuff, too, but those are the one I like the most. I LOVE good Cajun cooking, and I'm learning that it can be done in a nourishing way, which is great, because I'm all about learning how to switch over to real foods where I can, but I am definitely NOT willing to give up my Cajun foods! Take away my gumbo, and I won't be a happy woman.
I should clarify...don't be fooled into thinking I have completely switched over, because I haven't. While I agree with the concept, and would like to start implementing more real foods into my daily routine, there are just some things that I struggle with. First of all is the whole 'organic vs. non-organic' debate. As a general rule, organic is better, but I pick my battles there. I know many people would LOVE to have a completely organic diet from locally grown sources (meat,eggs, butter, vegetables, fruit, milk, any and all of those), but for some it's not that readily available, or it's not affordable, or both. I tend buy a mix of both, depending on the price of the item in question. I should probably start going to the Farmer's Market, too, but with 4 young kids, it is really difficult (and exhausting!) to have to go to several different stores to purchase the foods we need to eat in a 2-week period....any suggestions there would be welcomed =). Then there's the white vs. wheat issue. If I'm buying breads, I buy 100% whole wheat with no high-fructose corn syrup. If I'm making bread, I use white flour. Although, lately I have been wanting to try incorporating some stone ground whole wheat into my white bread recipes, even if it is just a little at a time, so that eventually we can have more wheat than white in our diet. Dinner rolls, french breads, hamburger buns, pistolettes, cinnamon rolls, etc...those are breads I make on a regular basis...I buy sandwich bread.
I also still allow some junk (it's hard to say no to Zapp's and oreo cookies!), but slowly we are getting there. Living in the country helps. We raise our own beef (but still buy store bought from time to time), and will hopefully get a milk cow in the not too distant future. We are planning on adding chickens in the spring (hopefully both for eggs and meat!). We raise our own pork, but they aren't pastured...hopefully that will come with time, as we are able to fence in a good area of our land to keep them in. Our garden is growing, too. Last summer, Phil built me four raised garden beds....
...which produced quite a nice harvest this year!:
And this summer he expanded my garden to include a much larger, more traditional garden with rows:
although, the kids prefer to use it as a playground....
Rachel just preferred to watch:
We actually just planted our fall garden last weekend. We planted broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, lettuce, turnips, beets, carrots, spinach, snow peas, and various kinds of squash. Hopefully it makes something!
I think she was mumbling about child labor laws or something....
here is the real muscle behind all our garden work...
working hard, or hardly working??
So, there you have it...my thoughts on the whole 'real food' thing. Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you eat only real foods, could you care less, or are you somewhere in between, like we are? I guess to sum it up in one sentence is that I strive for balance and moderation, but opt for real when I can....except when I am craving a Coke and a Big Mac ;)