A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Eat What You Make

Addie Broyles wrote a good article for yesterday’s Statesman entitled, “Rediscovering the Art of Eating In,” where she highlighted the efforts of author Cathy Erway as she stopped eating out at restaurants for two entire years.  Erways book, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, is a memoir of her experiences of cutting out prepared restaurant foods and instead preparing every meal herself in her own home on her own stove and is packed with recipes and tips on becoming more self-dependent in the kitchen.

While I haven’t read the book, Broyles’ article peaked my curiosity.   I, too, made the decision a few years ago to cut out as much processed and prepared foods as I possibly can.  This was not so much a matter of saving money, as Erways’ subtitle suggests, as it was a matter of eating healthier and becoming more self-reliant.  As Broyles points out, there are entire generations of young people who do not know how to cook a meal for themselves.   They have become dependent upon the agriculture, manufacturing and retail industries to bring them the foods they want with as little effort as possible; however, not only are prepared foods and restaurant fare full of artificial ingredients, trans fats, genetically modified organisms, high-sodium, sugar, and preservatives, they are missing one hugely important and nearly universally ignored ingredient: love.

I believe that, in everything we do or make, we expend energy and that energy is reflected in what we do or make.   That energy is conveyed to others in a very real sense.  In the case of food preparation, that energy goes straight into the food.   If the person preparing the food doesn’t use quality, wholesome ingredients, is slaving away at a hot stove to meet ten orders at one time, and is irritated at the front of the house manager for griping them out for arriving twenty minutes late to work,  that energy is conveyed to your food.  Or if the food is not prepared by human hands, but by machine, where is the love in that?  For the same reason, I opt to make bread by hand instead of using the bread machine.  It simply tastes better.  Likewise, I don’t eat restaurant food prepared by people I’ve never met, which is processed food their manager bought from manufacturing plants states away!

I remember growing up in the Midwest.  My mother gardened, canned and preserved a lot of our food for a number of years when I was younger.  She also cooked most of the meals we consumed.   Only occasionally did we go “out to eat” and just as rarely she would grab something on the way home from work.  Nothing compared to home cooked meals, however.  When I went away to college, I realized how much I missed my mother’s cooking.  The dining commons had a large selection of prepackaged, frozen and reheated (or worse, microwaved) items, and most of it was gross and/or bad for me.

Was she just a great cook?  Did she possess a certain skill that made her food taste better?  I do think she is an awesome cook, but I think the secret ingredient was, you guessed it, love.   She wanted us to have a good, wholesome meal – not the “crap you can get at a restaurant”.  She knew then that restaurant food is, for the most part, less healthy than a home-cooked meal.  The truth of the matter is that the restaurant industry, and the conventional food industry as a whole, has only gotten less healthy as the years have gone by.  She wanted to prepare a meal for us, made with ingredients she grew herself, and whipped together with her hard work, energy and affection.   It showed.  Mom, if you’re reading this, let me tell you that I appreciate all of that hard work.  Now I know that it was a LOT of hard work.

Since going to a 90%+ organic diet a few years ago, we’ve cut back on most processed foods and almost all processed foods that are not organic.  We never eat out.  Fast food?  Absolutely not!  That means that all of our meals have to be prepared by our own hands.  That takes time, energy, planning and a lot of patience and love.   It is difficult, I won’t lie.  We both work downtown and we have to fight traffic to get home in Round Rock.  We generally get home after 6:30.  It would be all to easy to do something quick, but we have found joy in taking the time to prepare nutritious, wholesome, well-rounded meals and sitting down together at the dinner table to talk about our days.   I guess it would also be easy to send our daughter off to school with money to buy the lunch they provide.  Instead, we send her to school everyday with a healthy meal.  That takes time out of our morning to prepare, but at least we know what she’s eating.  The kids take notice, too.  At first, they teased her a little about her bag of carrots and cucumber slices and about eating organic, but now they don’t.   I think she’s educated them a little.

That’s because we’ve educated her.  She knows how important it is to eat healthy and appreciates the meals we prepare for her.  She gets in there and helps us out a little here and there, and I know she’s learning how to cook for herself at the same time.

Most of my peers look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them how and what we eat, and, more importantly, what we don’t eat.  They invite me out for lunch with the firm and I have to decline because I just don’t eat that crap.  I could do without the MSG, hydrogenated oil, excess salt and God knows what else.   We have all heard the sayings, “you are what you eat” and “your body is your temple” and “garbage in, garbage out.”    That is why we choose to prepare our food ourselves for every meal.  This is also why we started gardening, to grow more of the food we eat so that we are in charge of nurturing it, loving it, preparing it and offering it to one another with love.

Here’s to healthier eating!

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Comments on: "Eat What You Make" (8)

  1. A great post! I confess that cooking more at home resulted from trying to save $ during this recession. But, I discovered that I really do enjoy cooking and making most of our food from scratch. My children love to help me and it is very rare that we go out to eat now. Even when the economy does recover, I do not think we will go back to our old ways.

  2. roundrockgarden said:

    Thanks, Noelle! I was reading the other day that more Americans are becoming first-time gardeners today than at any time since maybe the Great Depression. I think this is happening both as an attempt to save money and to provide for one’s own family. I think this is probably true of the number of Americans eating out these days. It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has been hit hard during this recession. I hope that, like you and your family as well as mine, most Americans are turning to wholesome foods and not to foods in a box when they decide to eat in. The info about new gardeners is encouraging, though! I think many will find that whole foods prepared from scratch taste better and have a better texture than store-bought fare. There is a tremendous satisfaction in eating something you’ve grown yourself and that makes it worthwhile to me.

  3. Hey, Joseph! I’m so glad you liked the article. I’m jealous of your green thumb! We have a backyard garden, but it only provides a small percentage of our food. No matter how small, the produce is so gratifying to incorporate into meals. Hopefully, as I get better at gardening, the more vegetables we’ll be able to eat, but in the meantime, I’m just happy to be more intentional about food in general — from growing it to cooking it.

    Happy gardening this spring!

    All the best,
    addie

    • roundrockgarden said:

      It was a great article and made me remember the reason why I’m gardening, Addie. While we only grow a small percentage of what we eat as well, we would like to do more. We have a small suburban yard AND we rent, so we are very limited in what we can do. That said, our landlady is ok with us doing anything to the yard and garden, which is really nice. If I had my way, I’d be on a few acres of land and devote a huge portion of it to a garden so that I can increase my yields and start putting things back in the pantry like mom used to do! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  4. I enjoyed reading your post. Growing up my mom always had a great breakfast and dinner on the table. Looking back it might not have been the healthiest for us (sometimes fried) , but as you said …love was involved. I think I went to Mcdonalds once or twice growing up. I look back and value the times sitting around the table with my family. Today, I try my best to cook dinner and not eat out. It is hard with 3 boys and lacrosse, school, etc. I admire your ability to resist the out to eat lunches and healthy lifestyle. What amazes me is the amount of food the restaurants put on one plate and the size of the combo meals….no wonder there is a weight issue in our world. I didn’t really mean to write a book, here. I enjoyed your post!

    • roundrockgarden said:

      No worries! Write all you want – speak your mind!

      Just think of it, many kids these days don’t have a sit down meal with their parents. That saddens me. Not only are they most likely eating yucky food, the parents are also losing that important connection time with their kids …

      It sounds like you’ve got your hands full and a loaded schedule, so I am sure that it’s even more difficult for you than it is for my wife and I raising our one daughter to cook meals. How do you find time to blog and take such great pics?! 🙂 It’s good to know that you try to cook as much as you can.

      As you said, all you can do it try your best and also try to instill in your kids the need to resist the instant gratification of grabbing food on the go. All too often the grab-on-the-go mentality causes one to lose touch of the wonderful processes of life that bring that food to them. The farmers who plant the seeds to raise the crop to harvest or feed to the animals which they raise for meat … all of that. A ground-up frozen hockey puck of a burger is so far removed from the cow that gave its life that I fear we’re losing our sensitivity to nature and to our place in the food chain.

  5. This is a great post there are many young people that don’t know how to cook for themselves and so they eat out regularly. I am happy to live in a home where home cooking and gardening are a big part of our every day life. Thanks for this post.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Thank you, Paul. It makes me nervous that we are so dependent upon industry to feed ourselves. I am happy to hear that you cook regularly and garden. That is a positive step in the right direction of self-reliance that I wish more people would take! Now, I’m off to visit your site… Come back again!

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