WE ALL EAT, SO WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE for how the earth is used to produce our food. We vote with each food purchase, each mouthful. From our perch atop the food chain, it is sometimes hard to see and understand our interconnectedness with the rest of creation. It is also sometimes hard to recognize what we put into our mouths to nourish us as the same thing that is grown on farms and gardens for that purpose. Before we can even begin to think about caring for the land and other parts of creation involved in our food, we have to begin eating food that we can imagine comes from the soil around us. If what you have been eating comes in packages, read the labels. As soon as something is picked, it begins to lose nutrients. Long distance travel and processing continue the decline. Did you know that the U.S. imports food from other countries that may be treated with chemicals banned in this country? If the ingredients are not recognizable as something you could prepare in your own kitchen if you wanted to, you probably don’t want to eat it.
If you buy “ready for the microwave” meals, you may want to rethink that. Microwaves destroy nutrients in your food, so you don’t really want to be using them anyway. Crock pots are great. Learn to use one and your dinner is ready whenever you are. Cooking for a small household? Toaster ovens are good for that. Learning to prepare food yourself from homegrown and/or local ingredients can be an adventure that leads you to a healthier lifestyle, community with others, and an appreciation for more things than you ever thought of.
Part of the cycle of life many try to ignore is microorganisms. Without them, we would cease to exist. Microbes are necessary for our food to be transformed into nutrients that our body can use. If things are not working well in your gut, your body becomes unbalanced, causing havoc throughout. A way to replenish those beneficial bacteria in your gut is to eat naturally fermented food. Plain yogurt is a good start. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon gives directions for making naturally fermented sauerkraut, pickles, and other foods by the jar. I know people who have cured their acid reflux problems with sauerkraut. Heating these foods kills the microbes, so the canned versions don’t work for this. Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz will lead you on more adventures into ferment. Making Sauerkraut by Klaus Kaufmann and Annelies Schoneck will acquaint you further with the nutritional advantages of fermented foods.
In my studies of nutrition and of the soil, I’ve come to realize that the same thing going on in our gut with the microbes, is going on in the soil. When the right balance of microorganisms is present, plants thrive. Healthy soil produces healthy plants, which feed healthy people. We are what we eat. We are a people of the earth. When we get our nutrients from REAL food, they come with the enzymes and co-nutrients, in proper proportion, necessary for assimilation in our bodies.
Once you learn about all this, you will begin to question your food sources. Your quest for food with fewer miles on it, minimally processed and packaged, and grown in a way that builds, rather than depletes, the soil will inevitably lead you to the local growers themselves. A good place to find them is www.localharvest.org. Become a regular at the farmers markets this year. An interesting thing to do is to take a highway map and draw a circle with a 100 mile radius from where you live, and maybe circles for 75, 50, and 25 miles. How much of your food could you find within that circle? You could even start with just one item for a special dinner. I know it is the winter here, although not for all my readers, but there are more winter and online markets opening all the time. Can you imagine if everything on your table at one meal was homegrown and/or local food? If you are new to all this, move slowly and celebrate each new step, keeping a list of your accomplishments. You will have a new appreciation for your nourishment and where it comes from. Gathering together with others to share a meal will become a fulfilling experience. Coming to the table will take on a whole new dimension.
Of course, it would be great if you could grow as much of your own food as you can. Everyone will be at a different place along these lines. It is important to start somewhere and for many just cooking a meal with food (no matter where they bought it) that looks like it came from a farm, rather than a processing plant, is a big step. For those of you who are already on this path, check out Ira Wallace’s Gardening in the Southeast blog that she does for Mother Earth News. Ira lives at Acorn Community, home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I’ll be doing Homegrown Fridays during Lent again this year. My friends at Acorn are having Homegrown Fridays (eating only what they’ve grown) on all the Fridays from December until the first Friday of spring. You can read about my 2011 Homegrown Fridays at http://homeplaceearth.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/homegrown-fridays/.