Health by Heidi
|Posted on July 2, 2015 at 7:25 PM|
Growing up, I remember my mom canning and freezing fresh produce all summer long to prepare for winter. We lived in a very small town in Wyoming (at 7000 feet elevation, with nothing but wind, antelope, and sagebrush as far as the eye could see...a miserable place) and our access to fresh fruits and veggies outside of the two-month long summer season was nearly zero. Each week in the summer we would drive into town and go to the produce truck that drove up from Colorado. Ma would buy cases of tomatoes, peaches, pears, and anything else the man had to sell that she could freeze or can. She didn't do it because it was trendy. She did it because it was cheap and it was basically our only source of produce for the year. We had a modest garden that produced a bit of food, namely shell peas, carrots the size of my little finger, and buckets of kale and chard. I should note that the kale was not in fact grown for us to eat (who on Earth would eat such a tough, bitter green?) but was instead raised for the chickens to eat to supplement their grain. My mom baked fresh bread often and cooked every meal from scratch, because again, in the tiny town where I grew up there were no fast food joints or big fancy grocery stores with pre-packaged, ready to eat meals. I never thought twice about the way we ate because I didn't know any differently.
When I went to college, I first decided to give up red meat. Next came poultry. Then went the fish. I was a full-blown vegetarian. I lived in Southern California at the time, when it seemed like everyone was vegetarian or vegan or something of the sort. Produce was ample and cheap. There were all these fancy, new fangled products in the grocery stores that I had never seen before, and marketed directly to vegans and vegetarians like me, products with names like "soy cheese," "tempeh," "tofu," and even "tofurky." You could buy "bratwurst" made out of soy! You could buy "deli meat" made out of soy! It was like hitting the jackpot! I diligently bought my meat-replacement products each week at the store to make sure that I was getting my daily allotment of protein. My whole reason for becoming vegetarian was that I didn't want to eat meat again unless I knew exactly where it came from. I was learning about the atrocities of feedlots and slaughterhouses, of the horrible and inhumane treatment of animals, and of all the hormones and antibiotics the animals were receiving simply to keep them standing upright. I wanted no part in it. Yet, the longer I continued down the "soy road," the more I felt like something was off. It wasn't physical. I felt fine. It just seemed to me that I was replacing one "problem" food (meat) with a heavily processed meat-like substance.
Then I moved to Montana and married a hunter. The time was at hand. I went antelope hunting with him, holding true to my word that If I were to eat meat again, I had to know exactly where it came from. I wanted to learn about the process from start to finish, from the harvest to the gutting to the processing. I had and have no interest in hunting myself, but I learned about the respect my husband has for the animals that he harvests and his appreciation of them for providing us with food. So I started eating wild game meat; deer, elk, antelope, pheasant, grouse, basically anything that he brought home from the forest. About the same time, a good friend of mine recommended that I read the book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," by Barbara Kingsolver. I had also read a few books by Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin, all regarding food, growing your own food, what's in the food that we eat, etc. We put in a big garden and a year later put in a greenhouse. Now I grow nearly all of the vegetables and about half of the fruit that we eat in a year. Just like my mom, I freeze, can, and dry the produce for use in the winter. What I can't or don't grow myself, I purchase at the farmers market in season. My husband hunts for all of the meat that we eat. Between the two of us, we provide nearly all of our own food with our own two hands.
As I sat down to my delicious lunch today, I started thinking about where everything came from that was on my plate. The tortilla was from the lady at the farmers market. The deer burger was from last hunting season. The cheese was from Lifeline in Victor. The pico de gallo I had just made, and was made from ingredients from my own garden and from West Naturals in Corvallis. The juice I made fresh with Flathead cherries frozen from last year and kale that I had just cut yesterday morning. It was scrumptious, and I felt good about eating it.
I look around at all the chronic illness in our world today and can't help but think that we could cure nearly all of it if we just simply changed the way we eat. Stop buying stuff in packages with ingredients lists. Get back to the way our great-grandmothers cooked. Eat real food. Know where it comes from. Know how it was grown and harvested. I realize that I am very fortunate to have a garden and to have a husband that hunts for our meat. I know not everyone can or will do that. Yet, we all can shop at farmers markets. We all can grow a few pots of tomatoes or lettuce. Small steps lead to great things. I truly believe that it starts with food.