It fills me with much pride to say that Wednesday is my blogger-versary!! That is right. I have been clacking away at the computer for almost a year now. And since the whole point of this blog was to get off processed foods in a year, let’s ask the most important question of them all, are we off of processed foods?
The answer is yes, and no.
What a cop out, huh?
Let me try to explain. First I will give you a small recap. At this time last year I was a passionate CSA member whose heart thumped loudly when I came too close to a carrot. But behind my veggie fervor, many of our calories came from frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, potato chips, paninis, crackers and cookies, packaged cereals, ice cream….well you get the idea. For as much devotion to vegetables as I spouted, I fell into every food trap there was. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was eating and I was buying separate food for the kids thinking that was all they would eat, I didn’t want to deprive them…insert your best excuse here.
My desire to eliminate processed foods came from the rationale that if I made it myself, that I would make food 10 times more healthy and of better quality than the ‘chefs’ in the food industry were doing for me. Plus I could see to it that no icky chemical preservatives, dyes or other non-food ingredients were allowed to come to the party. Through cooking at home I could better nourish myself and my family. My mission was both nutritional and emotional. I was looking not only for a few good recipes, but really how do I regain control of my kitchen from the money-grabbing executives who had convinced me to fill my shelves with overly pasteurized sugar laden adulterated food!
I made a To-Do list of everything in the house that I wanted to examine. I said I would eliminate foods altogether, or attempt to regularly make them myself in my own kitchen or…learn to make peace with them as is. The worst offenders in the kitchen, the ones that had to be completely eliminated: American cheese, Nutella and ice cream, fishy crackers. These are not simple foods to make. They are complicated and require a lot of work to make them. And they contain a lot of yucky ingredients. Out they went. Though I have found a local ice cream that we like, but with it being so high in sugar, it only makes an appearance every 3-4 months instead of every week like the good ole’ days.
Next was another small group: hot dogs and crackers. Both these items I had originally thought I would just eliminate. But I have since found an excellent grass fed hot dog from Hawthorne Valley Farm, whom I have blogged about before. I have started buying them. But instead of having them twice a week, we have them once every other week or so. I feel good about these hot dogs and the people I am buying them from. Same goes with crackers. I didn’t buy crackers for months until I found Ak-Mak crackers. They taste good, they are organic and they are completely whole wheat. So, they are back in the game.
And then there is pasta. I have made pasta several times. It is easy. Well…relatively. I have the best of intentions but I don’t always get to it. I like my homemade version because it is far higher in protein than store bought. But I do keep a box of store bought around for those nights when my train runs late. Sometimes the best laid plans fail and you have to cook a 5 minute dinner.
There is one item that has stuck around in spite of itself, pretzels. The pretzels I buy are the Utz Organic variety. I believe they are 50% whole wheat and 50% regular white flour (oh for shame). But the kids really love them. And I buy one bag a month. I have no intention of making homemade pretzels (yet). And I am happy with them. I can put it into perspective. I am not trying to win any awards in food perfection, so the pretzels stay. We do not eat enough of them for me to consider them a problem food.
However when I wrote that post I never imagined all the things in my cabinet that were highly processed and potentially problematic that I ended up adding to that list: conventional mayonnaise, soybean and other vegetable oils, bouillon. This year has been about discovery for me. And finding alternatives to some of these foods, especially making my own broths at home, has been a deeply enriching experience.