Friday, May 28, 2010

Homemade Summer

Having watched Food Inc. earlier this year, I haven't been able to get many of its images and ideas out of my head. It immediately prompted us to seek out and purchase over 60 lbs. of grass-fed beef from Hedgeapple Farm.  I won't purchase conventional beef ever again to feed my family.  Period.

Historically, Duncan and I have never been every-day-processed-food kind of folks. Sure, we've eaten our fair share of fast food and Doritos. We've also been known to enjoy Oreos and frozen pizzas.  And since we've had kids, animal crackers, pretzels, goldfish and other store-bought snacks have become staples in our home.  However, we've never purchased many pre-packaged mixes nor frozen foods and have had nearly exclusively homemade bread for the majority of our marriage.  So, we've started out this new portion of our food journey with the idea that over processing is BAD and homemade and from-scratch is GOOD. 

An idea from Food Inc. struck me more than any other, I think.  The gist of it is that human diet has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous thousands of years before it.  Seriously?  Yes.  With the invention of mass-produced food, we've traded wholesome and quality with over-processed, nutrient-lacking crap.  Pardon the vulgarity.  But "progress" has poisoned us.  And is poisoning us.  And will continue to poison us.  Think of it--food allergies and intolerances seems more prevalent than when I was kid, as does autism.  Infertility seems rampant.  And obesity?  (Including my own!  And yes, I'm considered "obese" by medical standards in that my BMI is over 30.)  Type 2 diabetes?  I don't have anything to back up these "claims," rather, I think it's interesting stuff worth considering.

All this to say, I've been on a mission to become more aware about from where our food comes.  And while I'm not growing my own wheat to harvest and grind (yet), I do buy an awful lot of flour, both white and whole wheat.  (King Arthur is our choice.)  I'm also not mining my own salt, but buying that as well.  However, with these staples, along with others like sugar, yeast, baking powder, and others, we are able to make a lot of things in our kitchen that we used to buy at the store.  As I've mentioned many times before, Duncan makes 99% of our bread.  In the last six months, he's added crackers and doughnuts to his repertoire.  I've had a recipe for flour tortillas for a couple of years that I've tried several times, but haven't really liked.  I recently made corn torillas and they were yummy!  This inspired the recent purchase of a tortilla press.  Still waiting for its arrival.  Of late, I've made our own hamburger and hot dog buns, as well as pita bread.  I always make my own pancakes, waffles, and muffins in huge batches in order to freeze some to have for future breakfasts.  As I've gotten into cake decorating, so I've also gotten into homemade cakes and, more so, frosting.  Oh, heavens!

But recently, we're stepping it up a notch.  If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my recent status updates including my forays into homemade-ness.  This past week, there's been laundry detergent and pretzels.  And there's much more to come!  So stay tuned for details of the detergent, pretzels, and much, much more!


ChrisandMissy said...

I have wanted a tortilla press since I was four! (Mr. Rogers outing, or Sesame Street maybe?) Either way, I'll be very jealous of your press.
So, when we have a dining room set up at our larger home, where we can accomodate your fam for dinner, would you guys eat purdue chicken? Simple yes or no, please. Do NOT tell me any stories about chicken! =)

Nancy said...

Yes! While I'm a nut with what I buy, I've resolved that not everyone feels the same way that I do. For example, we eat "conventionally" at my parents' home all the time. I shouldn't expect them to buy organic milk and produce for our family. However, the majority of fruit and milk my children consume is what I've purchased.
On another note, I have some excellent chicken stories, when you're up for them=).

Anonymous said...


It's been funny to read your FB updates about homemade cooking. One particular day, I was trying to come up with a legitimate group of errands to run because I FELT like eating out! (We didn't, and I managed to cook something decent.) If I was making as much stuff at home as you are, it would be because we were poverty stricken!-- Right now, I can't afford the time to do all that.

I do think it is neat how God has given us different gifts (I wasn't endowed with the cooking gene, but I think I can create edible, enjoyable meals!) And I encourage you to pursue this with all the gusto you can-- but don't get frustrated, disappointed (or preachy) if others don't follow in your tread. You have three in your household who will be well equipped to feed their household and I'm sure the food is delicious!
There are some wonderful things to say about how food is produced here (as anyone in a third world country can tell you) and, as you said, horrible things to be said about how food is produced here. It will be neat to see in heaven how food is "fixed" and untainted by sin. Until then, I sing the praises of "moderation in all things" for decision making.

I haven't justified the cost of organic foods for our family of six. I do justify the cost of fresh fruit in season, but I don't mind buying it at the store or if it has a waxy residue to protect it from worms, dents, etc. We actually gave away some organic salsa to a friend (another organic eater); my hubby is the only salsa eater in the family and this was a big jar. he couldn't stomach the thought of whatever pathogens might grow in there because there's nothing to preserve it for the month that it will live in our fridge... (Though some organic foods are heavily salted for a preservative). We typically choose fresh fruits, frozen veggies (unless in season), and keep 2 weeks worth of wheat bread in the freezer. (We go through a loaf a day!) We buy lean ground beef, frozen chicken breasts, and pork chops sometimes.

I do make fresh sourdough bread biweekly; the kids have fresh fruit (or dehydrated, like raisins) each day 2 or 3 times so that's pretty good. We also stock pile a months worth of food on shelves in the garage Just In Case. We ex-girl scouts are always prepared! These are mostly beans, rice, pasta and sauces which have a good shelf life. I have a few canned fruits (pineapple, oranges) and dried fruits stockpiled as well.

I guess I've realized we're a "homemade" education family. That's what gets us excited and the extra work we are willing to do for the family because we think it's worth it. And I'm trying to let go of the Perfect Mother, Perfect Household idol but it's got a big hold on me. Somedays it means that the house goes a week without being cleaned, the food we eat is junky, but the school work was GREAT. Sometimes the school work is short-cutted, the house looks great, and the food is fantastic. I want to get all three-- food, house, and school-- to be amazing all the time but so far, no cigar. :-)

I hope you didn't mind my long tirade from the other side of the fence. :-)

Blessings to you, Nancy. I wish you happy hands in your baking!
--chris f

Annie said...

Love it, love it, love it.
Amen and Amen.
We've been in a slow, gradual transition to "green" and "organic" over the past year or two - and I just keep adding here and there where and when I can.
I'm drooling over the thought of homemade donuts and pretzels and crackers.
In most other things you mentioned, I think we have already made the same transitions as you all have. (Milk, meat, fruit and veggies) although I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be - because often we are having a family of 6 or 8 over for dinner and I just can't afford to buy organic for that kind of meal. So we're in and out - but everyday I am looking for new ways to eat and live I look forward to more blog posts like this where you can teach us how to make/do these things!

Again, I just LOVED this blog post because its so nice to read about someone with the same values as your family - who is trying and learning how to make these things happen....instead of giving up or shrugging in bewilderment.

It's really too bad we live so far away from each other. The more I find we have in common (in terms of things we have or do or eat in our houses -- cloth diapering, breadbaking,...and now more!) the more I wish we lived in closer proximity to each other.
But I'll learn what i can from your blog! :)


Sweet November said...

Hey Nancy,

I'll have to check out that movie. How did you find that farm? Is there a listing somewhere of grass fed cattle farms?

I've thought a lot about this and I think something that's helpful is that if it all sounds overwhelmeing - start where you are and make small changes until they are part of your lifestyle and then make some more small changes. We didn't get this way overnight. For us, I know we've regressed some though since our second child was born. So recently I've starting listing the processed stuff we use regularly and thought about what I can make myself. Potato side dishes, make myself. Frozen pizza - make myself. Pizza crust - store bought. Mac and cheese - sticking with the processed for now. Etc... Everyone can start where they are and make little changes (or bigger ones if they are so motivated). And we probably all need to watch things like Food Inc to get motivated. Or see others to it and see how it can be done. My parents were just at my house and shocked that I was making soup and pizza from "stratch." It was not from stratch (used store bought chicken broth, store bought can of pizza sause and store bought pizza crust) but to them it was. Seeing me do and seeing it didn't take that much longer gave them some motivation.

One other random thought on this - remember reading Little House on the Prairie and other such books and how much fat and and such that they consumed. But yet people back then were healthier. One they were exercizing more and outside more but I think it was also the lack of processing as you were pointing out. I think a lot of people (esp. our our parents age and older) grew up eating really fatty foods and think that it's okay to do now too but don't realize all the processing that makes it different now.