We kicked off our Vacation Bible School last night with a
Big Heart Farms theme. It centers around
the fruits of the spirit. Afterwards,
our storyteller for the evening came to me and said, “What do you talk to your
kids about at home?”
I took the sharp intake of breath that I usually take when
someone approaches me with a comment like that—and, yes, it happens often—and
said, “What do you mean?”
“Well, in Isaac’s almanac, he wrote: NO FACTORY FARMING. ONLY FREE RANGE CHICKENS!”
I laughed, partly because I have NO idea what the heck that
has to do with love, joy and peace (except for maybe the chickens) but also
because I have been on a bit of a kick lately.
I just read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and so the subject of what we eat and
where it comes from has been the topic of many conversations.
I’ve had it on my shelf for a while, and I skimmed it when I
first purchased it, but I didn’t actually sit down to read it until I was
hopped up on Prednisone for a sinus infection one night and couldn’t
sleep. And I’m so glad I did.
Kingsolver and her family spent a year eating only what they
could grow or raise themselves or buy locally.
This meant a lot of seasonal eating (strawberries ONLY in May for
instance) and a lot of really hard work.
While I admire her efforts tremendously, I don’t have a desire to go
quite that far, but I have to tell you, reading the book really made me think
about what I’m buying and what each of those purchases entails.
I won’t bore you with too many details (though I have bored
my children to tears), but let’s just say that big business, and I mean BIG
business—the kind that is doing some pretty questionable, and I think
unethical, stuff to our food—is controlling what goes into our bodies. That freaks me out. Ever wonder why so many folks are gluten
intolerant now? Why girls are going
through puberty earlier and earlier? Why
cancer rates are sky-rocketing? Why the
fruits and vegetables you buy in the store bear little resemblance to the
fruits and vegetables your grandpa grew in his garden in terms of color,
texture and flavor? If so, you should
read this book. And it’s not just fruits
and vegetables—animal based food production is even scarier.
Recently, my doctor gave some sound advice: “If God made it, you can eat it.” I agree with that philosophy
whole-heartedly. She went on to say that
if it can sit on your shelf for more than two or three days, then you should
probably not eat it. Makes sense. And it’s advice I plan to follow. The problem is it’s getting harder to tell
what God made and didn’t make exactly.
I’ve never been a fan of processed foods, and I’ve always advocated
eating whole, fresh foods that come in packaging made from nature, not plastic,
but with genetic modifications and overuse of antibiotics, the line is becoming
much less clear. It’s enough to worry
someone to death if they let it.
One of the most compelling arguments that Kingsolver makes
is that Americans lack what she refers to as a “food culture.” Everyone talks about how the French eat
bread, cheese and wine and still manage to stay thin. Well, part of that dynamic is that the bread,
cheese and wine are probably better quality (no Cheese-Whiz or Velveeta for
them), and when they eat, they do so at a table, surrounded by family and
friends and enjoying good conversation.
For them, eating is an experience, not something you do in the car
between scheduled events. Other
cultures, like the Greeks or Italians, have rich foods too, but, again, there
is an art to the food. Unlike a Big Mac.
It really got me thinking about our food culture—as a
family. I grew up with a very strong
food culture. It was not a Mediterranean
diet, by any means, but it was whole and fresh and, almost exclusively,
God-made. We raised our own meat, our
own vegetables, and we hunted. During
the summer, I ate food right off the tree or vine while it was still warm from
the sun. Nothing from a grocery store
could touch that kind of flavor and goodness.
We took the time to cook, and meals were enjoyed together.
That’s what I want to take the time to create for my
children. I don’t plan to eat quite the
same as my grandparents. For instance, I
don’t fry a lot of fatback, but then, we don’t work in a tobacco field for ten
hours a day either, so some things are different. But I can make sure that the food I prepare
is as close as I can get to local, fresh and God-made as possible.
For that reason, I grow and can and freeze a lot of my own
stuff. I also try to buy from local
produce markets, paying special attention to where the food came
from—Wilkesboro, NC versus California. And
I’ve reduced the amount of meat we consume, unless I know where it came
from. I know that I can’t police every
little thing, and I’m not saying that I will never show my face in a McDonald’s
again, but I am making much more conscious choices about what I put on the
plate at each meal.
You can drive yourself crazy if you worry about all the
toxins and poisons that are labeled “food” on our shelves, and in many
ways, some of it is really hard to avoid, but making educated decisions and
learning as much as you can about WHY making better choices is good for not
only your family but for the world in general is very important.
I, for one, have never liked having other people make choices
for me. Knowing what’s really going on
with our food and making informed decisions about what I buy at the store is
one place I want control. Check the
book out and find out more about eating REAL at Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
I’ll be posting links to recipes and whole food ideas on my
Facebook page and here at the blog. And
I encourage you to share yours as well.
As Isaac might say, “No factory farming—only free range