Thursday, July 26, 2012

Food... What's It To You?

Brace yourself -- I feel a rant coming on. 

I love food. (A little too much.)

Slap a bag of lime-flavored Tostitos my way, and I'm in heaven. Crunchy pretzels. Sourdough bread. A slice of Rocky Ford melon. (You may not know it in the rest of the country, but Rocky Ford grows the best cantaloupe in the world. And that's coming from a Michigan girl who grew up on wonderful apples, peaches, cherries and such.)

The Brick, on the other hand, goes for the sweet stuff: cookies, candy bars, cake. "Pogeybait," his dad called it.

We're careful about our food. We have a garden. (No pesticides, just soap and good old manure.) Chickens. (Who won't produce for a few weeks yet. C'mon, chickies -- think eggs!)

Inspired in part by Frugal Upstate's menu plans, we eat at least one vegetarian and one fish meal a week...two, if I can sneak an extra vegetarian one in. I bake some of our bread, cookies and nearly all of our cakes. Nearly all the entrees are from scratch: stir-fries, soups and stews predominate.

We eat a lot of dairy -- milk (great for calcium), yogurt (tummy troubles) and cheese. I water the milk down to make it go even further -- 4 cups of water in a gallon of whole milk, and you've got 'skim' without even realizing it. 

We love meat. When possible, I'll buy a pig or cow from ranching friends, and have it butchered. The Brick hunts, so venison, elk, antelope join the menu. Fish and chicken make regular appearances. These are usually coupled with a lot of vegetables, and some carbs.

Our food budget stays pretty consistently at $25-35/week. Not great for two people, but not bad. Certainly much less than many people spend.

I don't buy 'organic' unless it's on sale and/or close to 'regular' prices.

That last statement alone is enough to condemn my food choices.

There is a strong contingent in my church -- otherwise a warm and friendly place -- that loves to focus on 'healthy' food -- 'healthy,' that is, if it follows their strict rules. These women (and I really love them dearly, they're gentle and kind otherwise) often have young children who are raised on the same strict basis. Their income is limited -- but that doesn't stop them from wildly overspending on 'natural' (i.e., purchased in the health foods store -- not from a garden or farmer's market) and 'healthy' (because a corporation told them it was so) items. Even if they can't pay their bills elsewhere, this is excused, because their families' health is so important.
     Allergies are often brought into this subject -- but if I ask specifically about who is allergic to what, the response is often in vague terms -- or focused on one child, when there are several in the family. I get the feeling, in many cases, that in spite of the emphasis on allergies -- there are none!

We've known many of these families for years...some of them for decades.

Are they healthier than we are?
Financially more stable?
Are their children appreciably healthier/smarter/better-balanced than the average kid?


Do they have a set of iron-clad rules that must be followed, whether they can afford it or not?
Do they sometimes keep their kids from making lasting friendships, because they're afraid their children will eat something 'bad' at the other family's house?
Do they hold back from celebrations, for the same reason,.or insist that people bring food that adheres to their specifications...or they won't come?
Could it be possible that some of those 'miracle' foods have otherwise-healthy things sneaked into them? (Processing is processing, after all.)
Is it possible that big corporations who own some of these 'health-based' companies really have their own profit in mind...rather than ours?


And finally -- can their faith, not to mention their focus on what's really important, be affected by all this?

I see the same strong emphasis, with moral lines being drawn, by many bloggers on the Internet circuit, especially places like Blogher. (One of my favorite bloggers, Money Saving Mom, bless her heart, too often focuses on this, even though her other emphasis is frugal living.)
     As one columnist pointed out recently, food choices should not be a moral issue.  There are many other things to deal with right now: health care, finances, helping yourself and your family to be happy, contented, sane and productive people.

Food shouldn't shove all that aside.


Chip E. Nell said...

It seems that a "special" diet is the new trend. Gluten-free (very few people actually need to follow this diet), allergies is the new status symbol. I live on an organic farm we raise a good many of our veggies and that is great. We also live on a limited income so there are certain things I spend my $$ on and some things that I know aren't worth wasting them on. For instance, I always buy organic apples. That is because of the way the chemicals collect in the stem in and that we tend to eat all the apples. Washing won't get it done. I also buy organic potatoes. These are pricey but not prohibitively so and it gives you an excuse to come up with new dishes that don't focus on potatoes. I don't buy canned tomatoes organic or otherwise because of the chemicals in the can lining. I do buy pasta sauce when it is on great sales and use that in lieu of purchased canned tomatoes (if I have run out of home canned ones). I buy organic milk for drinking but regular milk without growth hormones etc. for general purpose use. A half gallon of organic milk last a lot longer and I do use coupons. Bottom line for or not...if it is a processed item I leave it. Why pay $2 for a box of process organic mac and cheese when I can get a box of processed mac and chess for .75? So for me, I try to balance and get certain things organic...if it is processed, why organic chemical is still a chemical.

Cindy Brick said...

Even your comment, my dear, shows how complicated this subject can get. And when the company who's selling the product is telling us what's 'good' and what's not...who can we totally believe?
Don't even bring up the government on this. I am really skeptical that the official findings aren't being heavily influenced by lobbyists and campaign contributions.
Sometimes it comes down to this -- if I can grow it or harvest it myself, then I have a much better chance of it being good for me and my family. If that's what I have to do, that's what I have to do. It certainly was one of the factors in influencing us to have chickens. I realize not everyone can, but we can patronize nearby farmers and farmers' markets more, as well as grow at least a windowbox of greens ourselves.
Thanks so much for writing.

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