As I sit here with my third cup of coffee in all its cream and sugar glory, I feel guilty.
I’m usually healthy—in fact, my goal is to get rid of all processed foods and reduce myself to the lowest common denominator—the freezer foods which I’ve put up myself and a bunch of mason jars. Jars filled with raw ingredients, things I’ve canned, ingredients rescued their plastic bulk jail cells waiting to be chosen for culinary showcasing. In most respects, this is healthy living. But I think I can do more.
For some time, now, I’ve tried without success to grow my own food on my ten-thousand square foot piece of (sub)urban paradise under the watchful eye of the airplanes flying so low overhead that I pick guests up from the airport before they arrive and wave recommendations for beer nuts to the businessman in the third row window. While others mow and chemical their lawns, I reduce the grass space in my yard every time my poor lawn-ranger of a husband dares to go to work.
Every day when he returns, whap, there are three more raised beds full of something, planted haphazardly full of potential veggies (where can I fit that extra carrot??) rather than in nice, home-value-increasing, beautiful rows.
“Don’t you think you’ve got enough?” he says every time.
“Are you eating 100% from the yard?” I reply. “Is there grass taking space where more food could grow? Do I have CHICKENS?….Then…no.” There is never enough for those who are obsessed. I’m a sucker for books by homesteaders, extremist foodies or locavores. Even though most true urban homesteads seem to be in California, where God could dump his garbage on land and food would still grow bountifully, I’m trying this in New England. I loved “The $64 Dollar Tomato” which is pretty much what I’m doing sticking carrots in spare millimeters in my own collection of raised beds fighting Squirrel Qaeda for my food.
If my goal is sustainability, I’m not there yet—more on that later. But if my goal is eating better, I didn’t achieve that either. I might eat fair-trade organic hand-crafted locally sourced stuff, nearly kosher-blessed by three hippies, but the truth is–that still leaves room for a lot of crap. I make my ice cream from scratch—or as “scratch” as going to get the cream and then mixing in the loads of sugar and vanilla can be, but the end result is still a ton of cream in a bowl of locally sourced fat topped off with fair-trade vegan sugar.
I blame Michael Pollan for this. Michael Pollan wrote a great book, “Food Rules,” in which he gave me permission to eat all the garbage I could, as long as I make it myself. Although Pollan seeks to solve America’s crisis by encouraging moderation—he states most people won’t really make that many home-made onion rings, ice cream, or candy from scratch–he hasn’t met me. I’m the one who reads old Cooking Light recipes and adds the fat back in. And doubles it, just in case the food editors were trying to pull a quick one on me. I use the food dehydrator to transform the otherwise healthy vegan-coconut dehydrator cookies into pieces of confection that endanger diabetics as they walk by. But, since I make them myself, they are legal. In mass quantities.
I know this is wrong. The Food Devil on my left shoulder has been whispering Bill-Clintonesque loopholes to the rule for far too long, when I should have been listening to the Alice Waters-Jamie Oliver angels on my right shoulder. I can cook. I can adapt recipes—it’s a vegetarian skill, and I’m used to being the odd-man out in society. Vegetarians are like marines, “Adapt and overcome.” And now, in the midst of my jungle of packaged food eating friends, I have two allies. One came to lunch with a mason jar of iced tea–I knew we were soul mates, and another looked at my collection of lunch foods all picked out of my garden with pride, not fear.
I’ve decided it’s time to do better. I’m going to rededicate myself to healthful eating, at least for a month or so. I will:
- Continue to freakishly make my own food. Nothing out of a box.
- Follow the spirit of Michael Pollan. I’m not going to make all the candy, ice cream, and cookies I want. I’m going to put down Ben & Jerry’s double chocolate recipe for a while.
- Continue to eat the vast amount of unprocessed fruit and veggies that I always do, while shopping locally.
- Cut down on the mayo. Even though I make it myself (see number 2). And the heavy cream.
- And…get rid of the processed sugar. Yes, it’s organic, vegan, fair trade, but if I’m being honest, Jamie Oliver would make me a villain on Food Revolution.
Maybe there’s a diet that will work.
- South Beach? Nope. Too many boxes filled with processed food. And I don’t need to lose weight—I could stand to gain some, actually.
- Vegan? That’s tough. I go back and forth on the amount of dairy I use—Paula Deen is a gift to humanity—but I don’t think I can be completely dairy free.
- Paleo? Paleos hate vegetarians by definition. I need my beans. I could be converted by the recipe for paleo brownies if I could eat them all day, every day. But that would violate the “spirit of Michael Pollan.”
- Raw foodism? I’ll lose about fifty pounds and die. Not a good choice.
- The Engine 2 Diet? It has a lot of veggie choices…There is a killer recipe for vegan mac and cheese though.
- Macrobiotic? Now we’re getting somewhere.
This is way too confusing. I think I’ll just go out in the garden and nibble on kale and swiss chard while I drink this last cup of coffee and start my day.