Food Extremists Who Are Worse Than Me

This is me. Entirely. I never made out with anyone in the produce aisle, but I feel strongly about food. I want to grow and raise what I eat. I want to eat healthy, to avoid packages. I do lots of things that are considered weird. I bake bread–it goes on the counter to rise at night so it’s ready to make in the morning. I make two types of yogurt–Greek yogurt, and filmjolk, both of which can easily be made into cheese, which I then mix with herbs from my own garden and spread on home-made bruschetta. If I could be perfect, in my own mind, I’d produce or trade for the bulk of my food. I have the land to do that now, and it’s going to get ugly–things planted everywhere–a landscaper’s nightmare, but my idea of heaven. My husband has advised me to “Stay the #$%%^ away from the front yard.” So far I have.

“People don’t like militants,” said my new friend with whom I was discussing food. Am I that bad? I don’t eat meat, I don’t like packaging, I try to avoid processed sugar, erring on the side of local honey and local maple syrup. I denounce pre-cut fruits in bags in the store and I think that the person who invented the Lunchable, is a marketing genius but the devil incarnate.

I never eat fast food–I told my son Chuck E. Cheese was the evil mouse. I haven’t taken him yet. There are much better foods to eat. Like the ones I grow myself.

I just ate my first salad from the garden. I made my own mayo for the dressing from eggs I got down the road–kidnapped right from the chicken at my request, the farmer put them  in the carton I brought from home–never even saw a fridge before they were converted into culinary greatness.

Maybe my friend is right. Perhaps I am a bit extreme. But not militant. I don’t spray-paint people’s leather shoes or threaten their eternal salvation if they eat shellfish or drink beer. I’ll even cook you a steak if you’re a carnivore guest, as long as it’s grass-fed beef.

I just think we’ve lost touch with our food and I think it’s time to find it. But I’m feeling a bit paranoid–am I really all that extreme? It’s time to engage in the great American past time of looking at other people to make myself feel better.  After all, I’m just a vegetarian–there are plenty of extremists out there worse than me.

Many  cultures don’t understand vegetarians. When I was in Russia, people would offer me meat. I’d politely decline. They’d say “Oh, just have one.” I said, “I’m a vegetarian, like Tolstoy.” Tolstoy was also a political extremist. That never helped, but it got me out of the beef stroganoff even if I had to starve that night.

Many of my students are Hispanic. Vegetarians are even less common in that space. More than one student or parent has, out of great concern, tried to send me to the doctors. “Vegetarian? You need to see someone about that.”

But am I really all that weird? I researched other diets. There are people out there who are far more particular than me. There are some really extreme foodies out there.

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 6.18.03 AMI feed paleos all the time. Their food lists are like mine, if you cross off the meat. A list of restrictions that makes an Iron Chef competition look easy. Then there are celiacs, raw foodists, vegans, and locavores, each with their own lists of prohibitions, rules, and food prep nightmares. Muslims and Jews are easy–even though I technically need a second kitchen and a rabbi to convert me to really cook properly for my Jewish friends, there’s a tacit agreement that vegetarians are understanding enough not to use bacon grease in the home-grown French cut beans, and we’re good with that. It’s the culinary secret handshake. If only solving peace in the Middle East were so easy.

So, I do my best to eat my raw carrots for breakfast unobtrusively, while I greet my next-door colleague who’s busy avoiding wheat, apples, and lactose. We drink home-juiced liquids out of mason jars and shot glasses, and the leaves in my desk aren’t inappropriate for a school setting, they’re just a blend of black and fruit teas, some of which I grew and dried myself.

Am I that far outside the mainstream? Maybe so. We planned a work outing. “You two will not be bringing the food.”

“Your loss.” I thought, as I downed another shot of my friend’s juice–two beets, a banana, pear, and just one sprig of kale–and ate my home-made sauerkraut from a mason jar. It was pretty good. And it was all mine.

[Image:–today this is a link because there are some awesome recipes here!!]


16 thoughts on “Food Extremists Who Are Worse Than Me

    • Most people wouldn’t come close to eating the way I do, but I did notice it ruined going out forever. I am constantly thinking about how I could make things myself. I do appreciate real chefs though–the ones that make me think about what I’ve experienced and make me want to learn even more about food.

      • I really love to wife brought that out in me…I’m nowhere near her skill level but I cn hold my own. I’ve always loved chefs though…

      • My skill level came from necessity… I started recreating things because I was avoiding restaurants during the Great Recession. Eventually, studying techniques, simple ingredients, and specific chefs I liked, I got better. It became a quest to make just one more thing from scratch without a jar or package–fresh pastas, breads, cheeses, salad dressings–so many of these things are simple, preserve well, and can go right into the daily routine. A package of hummus costs a million dollars at the store. I can make it nearly for free. Learning a few things at a time really helped my culinary creativity.

  1. I am leaning more and more your way, as I find out more about the ways foods are grown/packaged/made. I like the idea of being able to grow some of my own things, but between my “black thumb” and a restrictive homeowners’ association, and landscapers who spray pesticides, we haven’t grown anything edible yet. I thought about growing some small things on the screened porch ike large pots, but then the cat would eat the leaves. Perhaps when we move I’ll find the way. I’m interested in learning more about making healthier choices, so thanks for sharing this post!

    • There’s an article I have about a lady who got cited and arrested for planting her front yard. Amazing. “What’re ya in for?” “Broccoli.”

      Check out some of these resources. I had great fun making this board. I’m not in the city this year–just moved, but I still use vertical gardening, and a ton of other strategies. Send a photo of your space. Bet we could come up w something!!

      • Thanks for the help! We are about to move into a rental home until we find what/where we want to buy in our new town. Tough heat of south Florida, though!

      • The heat is doable–was just talking to a friend about hot peppers and other apartment crops. How about containers of herbs to start out–you’ll feel like you’re doing fresh cooking and not worry that you only produced one cucumber.

  2. We are really trying to move away from processed foods and go to the source as much as possible — I admit, sometimes schedules and convenience win out. But, we signed up for weekly CSA deliveries/pickups this year (if spring/summer ever arrive — may be the single pickup at this rate!) and look forward to that weekly box of farm-fresh goodness!

  3. Your food sounds delicious! I feel strongly about food and also spend a lot of time thinking and preparing food. I tend to be an enabler and not confrontational, however, not taking a strong stand. Thus two types of pasta get made for “easy” weeknight dinners and we are not a meatless household; I just don’t eat much of it. And I confess to buying pre-cut-up stuff because it saves time. I go out less and less also. Not sure how you do it all. Teach, write, garden, cook, parent, launch an entrepreneurial idea. Awesome!

    • A lot of this is about organization–it’s often as easy to cook for a week as it is to cook for a day, so I’ll put a bunch of chicken on the grill, or pre cut things for a few recipes or days. I use the foodsaver a lot, too.

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