Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Real Food Journey (Part Two)

If you haven't read it yet, please read Part One of this series here.

One way or another, I jumped in to eating Nourishing Traditions style. I was overwhelmed by the book, because it seemed like every recipe I turned to had an ingredient that was the product of a different recipe! Holy cow, this "from scratch" thing was a BIG job! But...I was still fascinated by the nutrition angle of it, and so I kept digging. Book by book, working my way across Amazon, I added to my collection. And meanwhile, I kept the kitchen hopping, trying out new skills, trying to master this entirely new world of cooking.

Because this wasn't about just cooking from scratch. This was literally learning new skills from the ground up. How to make whole wheat bread that we liked. Soaking flour recipes. Begging my husband for a grain mill and starting to grind our own grain. (Nutrients in flour die at room temps incredibly quickly.) Experimenting with dehydration. Learning to make bone broth. Learning to make raw cultured buttermilk instead of store-bought pasteurized. Trying to make sauerkraut (yuck). Experimenting with coconut oil as our primary fat. (Also yuck. It no longer lives in my kitchen; butter reigns supreme.) Experimenting with honey as our only source of sugar. (Didn't last.) Making mozzarella. (Epic failure.)

I switched to buying ingredients instead of products, and attempted to make absolutely everything I could think of from scratch. Ranch succeeded. Mayonnaise failed. Enchilada sauce was great. Cottage cheese needs some work. Beef jerky went over well. Cheeses- in the amounts we go through- will have to wait until we can get a cow. I learned to ferment things, but not how to like them. I learned to make yogurt but quit because we never ate it, either before or after making it at home.

We started buying organic, although not across the board. Rob grew up with an alternative health mindset, so he didn't object to the higher food bill since he agreed with the premise, but he did ask that we not buy organic simply for the label's sake. So I researched. And researched. I looked at each purchase I made and tried to assess- is this any better quality for being organic? Obviously a lot of big corporations will cut every corner they can. So then...we have to buy local where we can, and know exactly what the farmer has done to produce his product. Things we can't find locally, yes, it's worth it to buy organic. I spent months on that question and finally concluded that organic was a better option, even if by buying organic you weren't necessarily buying as good of quality as you'd prefer. Organic means non-GMO. (At this point. Industry lobbyists are working to change that.) It might not mean no pesticides, but it does mean less. And that will affect the dirt they grow in, which means however minimal, the products will have more nutrients. And if you pay attention to labels, organic almost ALWAYS means less additives. But the best choice for buying products that were the quality I wanted, was buying local. So unless it couldn't be found...

...I started looking into local options. I found local ranchers, who provided us with grassfed beef. We bought it by the quarter, ensuring prices per pound that you couldn't meet buying the same cuts at a grocery store, even if factory farmed and cheap. I found local chickens raised on pasture, which were higher quality and half the price per pound of store bought organic (not pastured). I met local farmers, and was introduced to food networks that have grown and provided me with more options as the years pass. I went to u-pick operations so I could pay less for things I was still learning to grow, but still put them up myself. I learned to can. Then pressure can. And dehydrate and freeze. We got chickens so we could provide eggs that we knew everything about.

I worked at getting us onto a more seasonal diet. For me this applies only to veggies and fruit (since wheat and meat can be frozen or stored long term) and means eating them fresh while in season (better flavor, nutrition, and price) and putting them up to eat in preserved forms for the winter when they're out of season and store bought versions taste poor and sell high. This is an on-going project, dependent on my gardening skills (growing, but still very amateur) and my day-to-day commitment level. Periodically I feel bad that we're not eating more veggies, so I order a Bountiful Basket to cover the void and we eat what appeals and run the rest through the juicer just to get it down. We are FAR from perfect.

And in the midst of all this, my food philosophy was being slowly formed. I was committed to the Nourishing Traditions mentality- and still am- as the basis of all things nutrition. I was open to and do read other things, but I tend to compare it all to NT. If it fits in with it, I may incorporate it. If not, I'm usually over it. NT just "clicks" with me and it made sense to do things in truly old ways. In light of this, I found books on biblical nutrition, learning that all of those food rules were not just for the sake of rules; they had natural benefits. Pigs tend to have a lot of toxins and parasites in them that are best not to eat. Shellfish are nature's garbage disposals, and they carry a lot of toxins. NT actually advocates shellfish and lard quite strongly (if from quality sources), and as I understand it, it's because the very traits that make them dangerous are also the same traits that help them to accumulate beneficial nutrients in them, as well.

That might sound contradictory, but I do trust the bible more than even NT.  :-) I in no way believe that the Old Testament dietary laws have any effect on salvation or sin, but I do think it's a wise person who lives by them, simply because they had natural benefits. So while I don't tend to add things to the NT food guidelines, within those parameters we subtracted out pork and seafood. We lived for a year without bacon, can you imagine?!

That is no longer the case, and the reason for it is primarily breakfast. We were really struggling to find foods that sounded good in the morning and provided nutrients. (Does anybody else feel nauseous at the thought of eating in the morning?) Rob needed protein and fat in large amounts, working physically like he does, so classics like oatmeal weren't going to cut it. No bread products, because while bread products are great vehicles, they don't offer much that we really need nutritionally, and they take up stomach space. Just about any breakfast meat you can find is a pork product. Eggs, always a good protein option, were a problem for me because they always made me nauseous- although I'm slowly discovering ways to make them that don't present that problem.

And then we ran into lunch problems. Working in the summer heat like Rob does, your stomach literally rebels at the thought of food (I've been on the roof with him; I know this from experience), but the problem is that you're working so hard you desperately need it. Sandwiches weren't a great option because again, bread takes up valuable stomach space, and what was really needed was meat and fat, for energy and muscle support. We finally found the solution to this in ham and cream cheese rollups, which he lived on all summer long. When winter came, this turned into ham and cheese quesadillas, which are always a gooey, cheesy hit. (Tortillas seem to be less of an issue than sandwich bread since they're proportionately smaller for how much meat/cheese you eat with them.)

So yes, we eat pork again now. It's limited almost exclusively to bacon and ham (we found a deli meat option that has no preservatives, antibiotics, or other things added in and made our peace with it) and our prior stance that we believe no pork is best has not changed. Since we don't believe that it's a sin to eat pork, merely unwise, we accept that there's a possibility it might come back to bite us at some point, but we try to mitigate that likelihood by buying as quality as we can find.

So where does our kitchen stand now?

Well, it needs some work. Sugar has sneaked back in, the wily little devil, and I need to crack down on that again. Veggies are a constant battle to eat, and I'm guilty of that more often than not. I have switched to sprouting wheat as opposed to soaking the flour or making sourdough, simply because it's easier to have the wheat instantly ready in a quality form, and it works in any flavor of dish, unlike sourdough. I have currently given up on fermented foods but feel that it's crucial I keep plugging away at that angle of things. I'd still like to conquer the world of cheese making but have a psychological block about it because I have to buy milk to experiment with (as opposed to having a cow and more milk than we can use), and that feels like a waste of money.

My fascination with nutrition still stands, and I continue to read more and more info on progressively more detailed issues. At this point my general dietary philosophies are in place and haven't changed much for quite some time, but I find that if I'm going to keep pushing forward and trying to inspire myself to keep improving bit by bit (like the struggles mentioned above), then I have to keep learning. Learning more motivates me afresh to crack down again (and again, and again) on what is a constantly moving target of success. I was interested to find that this blog actually pulled me out of a learning funk; I was feeling very much "what's the point" of learning more, because it wasn't going to change my philosophy (much), so why bother? But as I slowly add to my archive of nutritional posts, I'm finding more motivation. This isn't about lecturing you, any of you, our readers. I've been so nervous all along that that's exactly how it's coming across. But you know what? It's not the case.

If there's one thing I've learned about real foodies, it's that they want to help. This fascinates me, really. Because foodies...well, they can be weird. They can be zealots. They might dress a little weird, or be obsessive about never eating things that don't fit their food doctrine. They might freak you out a little with their food obsession. And you know what, they freak me out a little bit, too. To some folks, food is religion, and they will do anything to uphold it and maintain the integrity of it. (By the way, if you think I'm one of these zealots, you've never met a real one!) And I appreciate their efforts even though I'm not comfortable becoming that much of a zealot, because honestly, their efforts are what make it possible for me to even find the food we prefer to eat.

But the number one thing I have noticed about real foodies, no matter how normal or how weird, is they want to help. It kills them to see people in pain, spending money on drugs and doctoring, their body falling apart, their lives falling apart due to health, and know that so much of that could be changed just by revamping their kitchen pantry. It kills them to see people eating low-fat, no-flavor food and struggling to stay on a diet to lose weight when it's entirely unnecessary. It's all they can do not to scream "Eat some butter! It won't make you fat! You'll feel better! You'll enjoy food again! You'll lose weight! Life will be awesome!"

And I know this , not just from watching and talking to other foodies. I know this because I am this.

Check in tomorrow to read part three and enter a giveaway!


  1. I'm pressing the "like" button here. I've learned so much from your blog already, and someday I want to buy NT. It's in my Amazon shopping cart, which is basically just a virtual wish list for me. :)

  2. You're sweet. :-) And by the way, NT is featuring in a giveaway tomorrow, so make sure to enter. :-)

  3. Giveaway on Amazon? I didn't know the title of the book until now, but have been intrigued by the research of the dentist since you first shared it with me. After reading these 2 blogs, I am more interested! Love reading your story!

    1. Well, giveaway on the blog, not on Amazon...the book we're giving away (NT) is written based on the premise of that dentist's findings, but I don't know that it even mentions him, come to think of it. He's found in other literature, including a book he wrote himself. You can scan through his book (it's massive and not a light read) at

  4. I just found your blog, and have really been enjoying it. I was so happy to realize I was not the only person who wants to eat in a Nourished Traditions way who can't stand pickles, sourkrout and yogurt. I've tried them all and they are all... just horrible. I can't eat them as a regular staple. Sprouts and sourdough are as close as I've come but now that I'm moving away from bread -The Gluten Summit finally convinced me- it's really hard to eat those healthy foods. What do you do instead to get your probiotics?

    1. I'm so delighted you found us! Yes, we struggle with fermented foods, no two ways about it. We actually buy a probiotic supplement to fill the gaps for the time being. I'd like to change that someday since I prefer to get what we need from food, but sometimes you know you just aren't getting it. I hope determination and time might help us a bit, but mostly I think I'll have to be content with fresh veggies and a pro-biotic pill. On the flip side, when we have kids I will be starting them on these foods so they don't have to struggle with it like I do. :-)

      By the way, you found us just in time to enter a little giveaway for our favorite kitchen is at the top of the home page. :-)

    2. Hi,
      I just wanted to let you know that I did find a real food alternative to store bough pro-biotics. On Wellness Mamas blog she has a recipe for pro-biotic lemonade, that is easy and yummy enough to drink every day. Hope that helps.