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!