Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The 2010 Lenten "Real Food" Project: An Introduction

The Mission: Spend 40 days eating as close to the earth as possible in an attempt to provide an alternative to the “Western diet” imposed by American culture, media, and industry.

The so-called “Western diet” was brought to our attention by the writing of Michael Pollan and is somewhat complex. The “food-like substances” that constitute this diet can be described as the commercial, profit driven, nutrient deficient, highly processed, environmentally unsound, artificial chemical-filled, and brutally cruel (when it comes to animal treatment). For more information, we highly recommend his books including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.”

Since reading these incredible books, we have both made changes to the way we think about where our food comes from and how it ends up in our bodies. But we wanted to take an extra step… we both love a good meal prepared at home by our own hands, but could we do it every day? We’ll be using the framework of the Christian Lenten season to test our abilities in the kitchen and test our willingness to make an extra effort when to comes to really knowing where our food comes from. This will include omitting all processed foods from our diet, eating only “whole foods”, or foods that remain as close to their natural state as possible, seeking out humanely and healthfully produced meat and dairy products (i.e. no growth hormones, no anti-biotics, animals that were not raised on industrial feed lots), wild-caught fish, and most importantly, cooking from scratch with high-quality ingredients.

Drawing from Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”, we will be avoiding any food that: a) contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
b) contains unpronounceable ingredients
c) does not rot (with some small exceptions for canned items such as canned tomatoes and canned beans)

Eliminating processed foods from our diets will take care of most of these items, but we will be using discretion with each food we bring into our kitchen and into our bodies – the industrial food system is far reaching and has a hand in practically every item you find in the supermarket today.

Not only do we hope to improve our own health and well-being, we hope to improve the health of the environment and dispel the myth that cooking from scratch is difficult and time consuming and expensive – in fact, we believe it will save you money! (And it will certainly save you money down the road in health care costs). If you’re willing to give up just a couple of hours of time per week (and who doesn’t spend a couple of hours a week aimlessly surfing the net or watching television), we think you can change your life by avoiding the “Western diet” and taking control over what goes into your body!

It is not our intention to alienate ourselves from our friends or families, neither is it our intention to deprive ourselves of the basic necessities (and by that we mean coffee and alcohol), and we will allow ourselves one meal out a week (we’re certainly not going to become creepy shut-ins, after all). In addition, we plan to host some fun “cooking parties” at home with friends – which can be just as enjoyable as going out to dinner (and certainly more economical). We plan to explore and share various ways to “get out of the supermarket” and buy quality food from local producers and businesses.

This all being said, we will have some ground rules for the experiment. We are, after all, human beings with jobs and families and friends and lives - busy ones! We will not be making our own dairy products, but we will be seeking out dairy products that are locally produced and do not contain additives (many dairy products that are made to be “low-fat” contain many additives to give them proper consistency, not to mention all those products out there with artificial sweeteners and myriad unpronounceable ingredients – but more on that later).

We will be baking our own bread and making our own stocks. If we want a brownie – we have to bake it ourselves – from scratch. No box mixes, spice packets, canned soups, or pre-made anything. Sound challenging? We know it will be – but we believe that the rewards will be wonderful meals, an enhanced quality of life, a greater sense of our connection to the natural world, and better relationships with our friends and family through meals cooked and enjoyed together.

Why ‘fallible foodies’? We’re going to make mistakes. Who doesn’t? This is about learning how to eat well in a way that will both benefit our bodies and have a more sustainable impact on the environment; creating a positive relationship with food beyond the American "fast food" culture; it’s not about becoming holier than thou perfectionists in the kitchen. So we’ll see what happens…. Let the games begin!


Laura S said...

This is amazing. Braviiiiii!

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