4 Mar 2010

Eating real food

This article, posted by a dear friend on Facebook has me pondering this morning.

It's about a blogger named Jennifer McGruther. You can see her in the pic, see? She looks nice - and normal as well, doesn't she?

Anyhow, Jennifer issued the readers of her blog, Nourished Kitchen, a challenge:

Eat real food for a month.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? When you go on through the article though, I realised that Jennifer's idea of real food and my idea were really quite different.

At the beginning on the article they're describing such amazing American delicacies as potato powders, cheese in a squirt (whatever one of those might be when it's at home!) and microwave meals. Nope, I thought sanctimoniously, I don't use any of those.

As I read on, though, I discovered that on Day One of the challenge, participants were to purge their pantries of processed foods. Not just foods in boxes though, but things like skim and low fat dairy, dried pasta, soy sauce, corn flour, canola oil, sugar, salt and white flour. Hmmm, I'm not doing so well here. All of these products play a part in meal times here in our peaceful home.

On Day Four you start your own sour dough.
On Day Six you mill your own flour.
On Day Seventeen you make your own yoghurt. (Actually, we already do this sometimes. It is easy - and fun - and yummy.)
On Day Eighteen you make your own cheese.
On Day Twenty Three you learn how to render your own lard. Phew!! Apparently lard is one of the most potent sources of vitamin D outside of cod liver oil. Now I did not know that. Personally I'll stick with olive oil.

Now, I'm not being critical of the Real Food Challenge. Actually, I think it is pretty cool. I think I could do it too.

Could, not will, you'll notice. Why? Because I think that we already eat remarkably well. We cook most of our meals the old fashioned way - from scratch. I make my own pasta sauces. Mostly I even make the pasta. I make our biscuits and cakes from ingredients, not a packet mix. We mix salad dressings from oil and vinegar. We make jam from the blackberries we pick and chutney and tomato sauce from our own tomatoes. We make soups and stews and casseroles and Thai curries from curry pastes that we make from scratch. We make pesto from our own homegrown basil. We freeze our own icecream. I could go on, but I'm getting sanctimonious again.

What I also do though, is make use of some of the labour saving tools of the century in which we live. I buy excellent whole grain bread from the bakery. I buy ready ground flour - white and brown. I buy Asian wheat and rice noodles - fresh and dried. I use soy sauce and fish sauce and oyster sauce and lots of other bottles as well - hoisin and kecap manis and mirin and Golden Mountain seasoning. I use these things to make my own teriaki sauce and blackbean sauce, and lots of other sauces, but I use processed products to do so - dried soy beans and bonito flakes and dashi granules. Sometimes I make fresh wasabi, but mostly I use a powder.

I buy water biscuits to eat with my cheese, ready made sundried tomatoes, and already pickled cornichons and olives. I love them all. I buy chocolate too. 70% cocoa is my favourite. Yum. One small piece with my cup of tea after dinner. Oh yeah, I am a caffeine addict as well.

I admire Jennifer for her passion to improve her health and that of her family, but unlike her I believe that real food can come from a box. I also believe that I feed my family a healthy, nourishing, well balanced and tasty diet full of vegetables, fruits and grains. But, you knew it had to come and here it is...we also eat popcorn and doughnuts and icecream and delicious homemade pies and puddings. We eat almost everything in moderation. And you know, I think that's how it should be.

As a busy mum I believe that I have a responsibility to keep all things in control - my time, my budget and my priorities. Some weekends I spend hours cooking 'slow food'. Other nights a quick pasta with a delicious pesto sauce will mean that dinner is on the table in around 10 minutes. Fresh, healthy and attractive. The pasta will be from a packet though. Does it really matter?

Food will always be inportant here in our peaceful home. We love to relax and talk over our meals. We always set a nice table and sit together. We love to practice hospitality and entertain friends. We love to share a meal. But while I have others to care for, while I home school, while I work outside the home, while I travel most weekends to church, I will give to meal time the time that it deserves. And that will never include rendering my own lard.

What about you? What's your food philosophy? What do you eat and what do you avoid? What is important to you?

I'm interested to know. And I promise not to be judgemental or santimonious, whatever you say. Oh, and if you do decide to render your own lard, could you please take pics? I'd love to see how you do it!


  1. I agree with you. Eating real food to me means not eating things with additives and preservatives or processed food. I love my real food in a packet!

    If I made everything from scratch, I'd have no time to do the important things like homeschool, play outside with the kids etc. xo

  2. You said it so well. Can I just add an "AMEN"?!

    I would definitely consider sushi real food. Can you imagine sushi with brown rice? My husband would faint!

    Could I please join you on Thai curry night? You got my mouth watering!

  3. Jeanne, as usual, I love this post. My hat is off to folks like Jennifer; but I also think, wow, does she have time for anything else? 'Cause I'm sort of busy. And I humbly confess that I sometimes take advantage of food in boxes. Honestly, Jeanne, you do better than I do with your family's food choices! But in the end, I think most of us do the best with what we have regarding both time and money. That's all we CAN do.

  4. Food is never going to be important enough at the Knot House to render our own lard ~ or grind our own flour. We used to make our own yoghurt but not any more. I've been known to forget it & given enough time even yoghurt will do strange things. ☺ For someone who is not a foodie I think we do pretty well. Our bread has all the nuts & seeds & grains crammed in that is available ~ with the occasional French stick. We have fruit salad [at least 6 different fruits each morning]with yoghurt & toast for breakfast. In winter semolina or oats. Lunch tends to be hit & miss but with 2 semi~vegetarians in the house we have lots of veggies with our evening meal. We cook from scratch but make use of bottled sauces [time saver] pre~prepared rice & pasta. We bake our own biscuits & cakes using sugar & flour & real butter.

    That being said we live on an island & we travel a lot & our travel times often clash with hungry times so Ditz & I often eat fast food several times a week. We try to make healty choices as a rule but some nights when the wind is howling & the rain is bucketing down in torrents & you know you have another 20 minutes to stand about in the freezing cold before that boat arrives what we want is hot comfort food & I can assure you healthy does NOT come into the picture. ☺

  5. I'm with you too!
    Do you know about www.livingmath.net? It's where I got the inspiration to look for living math books, sort of CM inspired concept.
    The domino book is basic for Jemimah but the other is called Mathemagic, it's also a volume of the Childcraft old encyclopedia but i believe you can purchase separately, and that book is good for your darling's age. It has riddles, stories related to math, and math poems! I LOVE it and recommend it. In livingmath there are lots of suggestions for us moms and for children. It has changed my whole approach on math.

  6. Amen! Amen! and Amen!
    I'm totally with you Jeanne!
    Over here, we try to include lots of fruit and vegies in our diet, and eat things that are wholemeal rather than white (though we do eat Basmati white rice not brown). This may include things out of a packet for sure! I seriously don't have the time to grind my own flour and make my own lard:)
    Everything in moderation is the key for us and we do indulge in a bit of chocolate and doughnuts and other things as long as they don't make up the main part of our diet:)
    Each one has to do what is best for them and I am happy right now with how we are eating.

    p.s. you are doing way better than me though....making your own thai curry pastes and pesto etc wow!

  7. Oh Jeanne,
    I would love to be dining at your place. Yum, yum.
    I think we eat fairly well too, with plenty of fruit and veg. Being CQers we maybe eat a little too much meat. We have treats in moderation and my pantry has lots of packet noodles, pasta etc. Time is a factor, energy, etc. I think you are way ahead on the curries and sauces. I reckon, one day, post home schooling, I need to take an asian cooking course.

    Re rendering lard. When we used to kill our own meat, in my golden childhood :-) Mum kept a dripping container near the stove which all the rendered fat went into. Ugh.. sounds a bit yucky now but that's how she kept it. It was used and reused unless really yucky.

    Glad to be back after my self imposed gagging yesterday!
    If you read my blog today you will see we have had a "Lemony Snickets" moment! (I hope)

    Have a great day and I reckon stick with your current plan of eating, it looks great!(Used my whole Morning Tea break here)

  8. I agree with you 100% and yet I understand where the real food foodies are coming from. Here, in America, people just eat so much rubbish.

    I think the idea behind real food is that people need to engage their food. Learn where it comes from. Learn how it is made. Taste real food so that you recognize when the stuff in the box is a poor substitute.

    I'm not the type to make my own lard or grind my own wheat, but I do enjoy seeing people get back to making some of their own foods such as biscuits, trail mix, etc.

    I think you did a great job of finding the balance in all of it.

  9. We have a fruit and vegetable stand near our home here in Japan. It is quite cool and feels so old-fashioned. I buy Fuji apples there because they are low calorie, plus recently I have been buying strawberries to satsify our sweet tooth. (In Japan it is now beginning to be strawberry season.) I also tend to buy basics like carrots and potatoes.

    One day ds said he wanted to make soup, so we went there and I let him pick out what he wanted in it. I need to do that again!

  10. Hi Jeanne, what a great post. Well, I think most people are fairly educated about healthy eating habits these days - it's just whether we have the self discipline and the motivation to stick to them! I could never go as far as making my own cheese though! I just haven't got the time, nor the inclination. Still, she (Jennifer) is very inspirational. I try to keep our diet healthy here with lots of whole foods. My kids love to bake though, so we often have homemade goodies like choc chip cookies - but we do use wholemeal flour and brown sugar when we can (really truly!) I always ask myself 'did my grandma eat this?' If she didn't then it's probably not that good for us!

  11. Hah Mel! Love the grandma rule of thumb. It's a goodie!!

  12. Hi Jeanne,
    I can see where you are coming from! I do think, from reading American blogs, that they use a lot more packaged cake mixes and things like that - I mean if we want to make a cake, we make the cake, not add some liquids to a packet mix!!
    However, I have had to try and almost totally rethink our eating habits due to severe eczema and other allergies in my children. It has really rocked my world! We have found a source of raw milk, which I'm thankful for, as so many of the nutrients are stripped by milk processing. But we have egg & gelatine allergies - very difficult. No more quiches or eggy bakes, no more baking with egg - we are finding some nice egg-free ones, but I do miss my muffins! Gelatine is very awkward - practically all sweets (they are junkfood anyway, but grandparents love to treat the kids, as well as store-bought yoghurt and sour cream, and citrus & tomatoes seem to make them itch too. I am supposed to be avoiding dairy, but I am persevering with the raw milk.
    We make our own bread now, which doesn't need to be difficult - just check out www.artisanbreadinfive.com. I have their books - the idea is that you mix up the dough in about 5 mins, let it rise on the bench for 2 hours and it's ready to shape & bake. No kneading required and they have some delicious bread recipes!
    The other thing I am trying to cut out is MSG and all its flavour-enhancing mates. This means no store-bought sausages, meat pies or corned beef. I need to find a source of organic meat next, but these things are so expensive!
    I better stop there, but if you're wondering why my blog's not being updated much lately this is partly to blame!

  13. Hi Jeanne,
    We cook all of our meals from fresh ingredients, and best of all, we even grow our own meat, chicken, milk and eggs.

    In our home, with three asthmatics and one suffering with arthritis, fresh is best. :)

    We also make our own bread, but I wouldn't go so far as to mill our own flour. :P

    In our home, everybody is present at meals, whether we have them around the dining room table or in the loungeroom over stable tables, watching the news.

    Our tomatoes and sweetcorn are home-grown, but the sparrows pulled all of our broccoli and cauliflower seedlings out. :P

    We make our own ice-cream, too, using goat's milk and goat's cream, and it's delicious.

    We do buy Saladas as a savoury biscuit, but that is about the limit of our prepared foods.

    Have a wonderful week,
    Jillian ♥

  14. Wow. She is amazing, but so are you. Guess I have a lot to learn. I am making healthier choices all the time, but I have to admit - my first thoughts were - (not harshly, but realistically)

    1. How many children does she have?
    2. How much money does she have to buy the supplies/tools/organics she needs?
    3. Does she homeschool?
    4. Does she minister in any way? Bible study, volunteering, etc.

    We moms MANY things to be concerned about and I would love to learn from her, but I have to be realistic about my own life...my priorities would be #3 and #4 on my list!

    Thanks for the great challenge. I know we're all thinking of ways we can improve our health.

  15. Yes. Yes. Yes! There's so much to be said on this subject, but I'll just say "thanks" for this balanced perspective.

  16. Thanks for the nice compliment AND, I totally agree with you.This week has been bizarre--I have ended up cooking NOTHING. That happens maybe one or two weeks a year. We eat very healthy--especially for where we live! Keep on doing it your way!


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