Friday, June 15, 2007

Joining the Slow Food Revolution

It's been a little while since I've posted something to my blog, and I know all 7 of you who read it have been disappointed as the days have gone by without something new to sink your teeth into. I'm not sure why I dropped out of site (get it? site?!) for a while. Maybe I was tired? Too busy? Didn't have anything very interesting to say? A good episode of Friends was on? Or maybe I was too busy making dinner!

When I talk of joining the slow food revolution, I use the word "joining" loosely. It's more like I'm reluctantly trailing along, occasionally taking a skip or a sprint to try to catch up before falling flat on my face. "So what is this slow food revolution, of which you speak," you may be asking. Well my friends, slow food is not just about avoiding McDonalds and Taco Bell--although I'm happy to say that I've broken the fast food joint habit completely and now do not even crave a Wendy's hamburger from time to time like I used to. (Although I'll admit to still getting a hankering for some hot greasy french fries).

No, the slow food movement goes way beyond shunning "fast food." It's about developing a relationship with our food, which means understanding how we get our food and what impact that process has on others in the world. And it's about making food the old fashioned way, in our homes. It's about using the stove--not the microwave! (Has anyone out there ever tried to bake a potato in the oven? Talk about slow food!) And if you really want to get crazy, which of course I do, then it's also about having a lot more knowledge about the food you eat. Where did it come from? What chemicals are on it or in it? What vitamins are in it? What did the animal that this food came from eat? When you get right down to it, there's a heck of a lot that we Americans don't know about our food, and when you start to investigate what we're really eating, it's a little scary.

My journey into a slow-food lifestyle has been a gradual one. I have slowly started giving up processed foods, buying more fresh veggies and organic meats and eating out less. I won't say the journey has been a smooth and happy one, though. There are plenty of adjustments, and I get cranky sometimes trying to figure this stuff out.

When we commit to a slow-food lifestyle we are giving up some things and gaining some others. We definitely lose the luxury of food on demand. Unfortunately, the thing about joining the slow food revolution is that the food you eat takes a while to prepare--hence the catchy name. So, instead of just swinging by to pick up some carry out and wolf it down in half an hour, I often spend an hour or more preparing dinner each night. That's time that I could otherwise be using to blog! Or do any number of other things. And reading that "boil for 50 minutes" instruction on the brown rice bag makes me cringe. Who waits 50 minutes for a dang pot of rice? Apparently, now I do.

Another thing about slow food is that it requires planning ahead, something I don't do so well with. Several times now I have started and gotten 3/4 of the way through a delicious-sounding recipe I was hoping to eat in 15 minutes for dinner that night, only to read the final instructions which go something like this: "place sauce in refrigerator overnight" or "dehydrate crust for 6 to 8 hours at 145 degrees and serve." I think they should give a warning about those long-term recipes. They should also give a warning about trying to make a pizza from scratch with a rice-flower crust because apparently I did something very very wrong when I attempted this one shown below:

My foray into slow food that night also involved a slow cleaning of the oven (and some cursing of brown rice pizza crusts).

Another interesting thing about going slow with your food is that you are required to know a lot more about cooking and ingredients, especially if you want to try to cut out some of the really bad stuff like white sugar, flour and salt. Who knows what Arrow Root is? How about Jicama? Or Stevia? Where do you buy sprouted barley seeds? Or almond milk? Some of these recipe books throw this stuff around like it's common kitchen knowledge, but I've had to spend a lot of time searching the internet to figure out what the heck this stuff is, and then decide if it's worth the gas to drive wherever it is I have to go to buy the stuff, which is usually also pretty expensive. And then when I finally eat it, the tastes are all new and require a certain committment from me if I'm truly going to learn to like them.

So far I've identified slow food as inconvenient, time consuming, difficult, expensive and somewhat hard on the old pallet. And all of that is true. But in spite of that, I still think that slow food offers a lot of things that fast food can't.

1) Health. Obviously, eating less processed foods is more healthy. And we get less calories from fat and sugar. I've already lost 12 lbs, and I'm not really on a diet. I'm just changing my whole eating lifestyle, little by little. Not eating out as much, incidentally, also helps me to reduce my portion sizes because I can control what goes on my plate to begin with. I no longer have to hear my mother's voice saying "Waste Not Want Not!" and encouraging me to finish my gargantuan restaurant portion.

2) Creative Satisfaction. Even though preparing a slow-food meal might take a while, I must say that it is very satisfying to prepare a beautiful, healthy and delicious meal. I feel like I am learning a craft, and as with any craft, there is definitely a learning curve. It takes time to get it right. As I step away from fast food, I realize that fast food only gives me the illusion of having control over my food. But a true cook learns to master food through time and practice, not through over-processing. I haven't quite gotten there yet. There have been times recently on this journey where I felt like the food was controlling me. And when my pizza exploded and my sauces got inexplicably lumpy even though I did everything the recipe said, and my tortes came out a watery mushy mess, I felt like the food was perhaps even mocking me. Like anything in life that's worth doing however, making meals is worth doing well. And if you linger over the preparation, you may be more likely to linger over the consumption, enjoying conversation with your family and friends.

3) A Spiritual Lesson? Not that everything in life has to have a spiritual lesson behind it (although wouldn't it be just like God to set things up that way?) but I have learned some great things about spiritual hunger from all this messing around in the kitchen. Our pastor talked last week about communion, the theme this summer at our church. He disucssed the idea that the communion table is a place where we can fill our deepest hungers with good food from God instead of stuffing our faces with all the things the world has to offer that do not satisfy. As you might have guessed, I see a parallel. Just as God wants us to feed spiritually on only the best "foods" for our own health and nourishment, I believe he also desires this for our bodies, which he loves along with our souls. And so I have a choice. When I get hungry I can pick the quick fix answer and grab a hamburger along the way. Or I can listen to that hunger and let it remind me that I am hungry for a reason: because my body needs nourishment. And nourishment only truly comes from eating good, healthy food. And good, healthy food requires time. And that means I might not get my hunger satisfied right away, but when I do it will be more satisfying than the quick taco would be. And then I realize that the same is true in my spiritual life as well—my spiritual hungers might need to go on a bit longer than I'd like before they are satisfied, but when they are, they will be satisfied by God himself, and for good.

I think there is more to say on this topic, but as my ideas are still unformed and void, I shall shutteth uppeth and let you all talk amongst yourselves. More to come perhaps?


Christianne said...

I'm so glad you're back! And I haven't even been visiting very long. In fact, my first visit came right after you posted on your new haircut . . . which was the post previous to this one. But still, I'm glad to have found something new from you here. :)

Wow, I have to say that your new slow food lifestyle takes A LOT of commitment. I love the tongue-in-cheek way you told about all this, and also how you moved to serious benefits toward the end. I have to confess that I don't do much of ANYTHING in the kitchen. I barely know how to follow a recipe. Creativity in the kitchen? Way outside my ballgame. But maybe I could learn. It just seems so exhausting! Especially after a long day at work. But maybe that will change, especially since I won't be working a regular job much longer.

Anyway, I'm excited for all these new changes for you because it seems you are really invested in it and enjoying the trial-and-error process. There's something inspiring to me about that, hearing you talk about it this way.

I really enjoy reading the way you tell stories, by the way. You make me laugh and smile in recognition! :)

Jack said...

Amy and I just watched the movie "Fast Food Nation" -- I was tempted to become a vegan. Then the urge passed as quickly as it came on.

Seriously, I do admire your commitment. A friend of mine, a restaurateur in Kansas City, is totally into this and swears by it.

Good stuff...

David A. Zimmerman said...

I see Jesus in your pizza. Hope you kept it.

I often think about microwave popcorn (at least once a week), and I wonder how much time it actually saves from popping it on the stove like the old folks do.

Becky said...

Thanks for the encouragement Christianne. I think I've just learned that this is all about "little by little," and as you say, it does become a bit exhausting and overwhelming at first. But like anything you do for a while, it does get easier! And knowing that my writing is inspiring to another writer means a lot!

Jack--please don't assume that because we're into health food, we don't enjoy a good meal out now and again. I love really well prepared food of any sort, healthy or not! I let myself splurge every once in a while and have treats and enjoy the good things in life. So I enjoy your food reviews as well! Thanks for keeping us up to speed on the good grub out there. Jeff and I want to go to the Earl now!

Dave--Actually, I've started going back to making popcorn on the stove and I'd say it probably takes a minute longer than the microwave and involves significantly more arm motion. But boy, the popcorn tastes awesome--especially when you drizzle it with butter and sprinkle it with salt. Nothing better! Hmm. I better stop now. I'm starting to drool. . .

Stacey said...

Oh, you inspiring woman you! Your pizza picture just make me want to laugh and cry with you.

Perhaps you can pray for me that my soon approaching lesser commute helps me enter into some healthier life style forays along with you.

Bon Apetite.