Monday, April 28, 2008

My Food "Philosophy" - Part 1 ...Growing Up

I enjoy good food. I don’t think you’ll meet many that wouldn’t agree. However, ask anyone about their version of “good food” and the answer will be much different than the next guy. I will attempt to share with you my own view of food from a few angles.

A little background is probably in order…Vegan Footprints…I didn’t start out life as a vegan (pronounced “vee – guhn). But then again I don’t know many that have.

Growing up, my mother cooked and we ate out at least once a week. Now that I think about it, it was probably more than that. If we were away at a mealtime, we’d pick up something somewhere fast food style. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s meant for me that most of the time that included eating packaged food.

Part of my young life, my mother worked nightshift as a nurse, so she used the convenience of packaged food. If we had homemade pizza, it was probably because “Chef Boy R D” helped out. If we were having breakfast, usually it included boxed cereals at our table with plenty of milk to slurp from the bowl afterwards. Birthdays almost always included a professionally decorated cake from our favorite grocery store’s bakery. Thanksgiving time meant there would be cranberry gel from a can that was sliced to serve as the cranberry sauce.

Since my father was a “meat-and-potatoes-kind-of-guy-&-don’t-mix-anything-up-together”, we rarely had any kind of casserole. So the meals were generally main dish meat, side vegetable, bread, maybe potatoes, with likely, something to serve as salad on the side. Dessert was not usual, nor was candy, but my dad loved his ice cream, so that was usually in the house and we would have some a couple times a week. My mother did bake some. I remember when she had time she would make pies (with white shortening) and the occasional homemade birthday cake. Cakes were made with boxed mixes. She never baked bread that I can recall. Rice was rare at our house unless it was in some sort of canned soup or packaged side dish mix. We always had eggs, meat, and dairy around like most other families we knew. And we had a microwave.

We even raised animals for butchering. Through the years I can tell you that at one time or another, we had the following on our small farm: Sheep, rabbits, goats (for milk too), a bull calf (my brother raised), chickens…both layers (for eggs) and broilers (for meat), geese, even a couple of ducks (the last one was mostly for pets). There was even a farmer that rented part of our barn and pasture out to raise heifers (young cows that had not yet had a calf).

We did always have a garden. A very LARGE garden. So our vegetable intake was pretty decent I think. I don’t remember not liking any vegetable. Even now the only ones I don’t prefer are ones I can’t recall us growing at home. And we actually had a small “orchard” around the farm here and there of the following trees: apple, plum, cherry. Also the berry bushes: black raspberry, red raspberry, blueberry. Back at the woods, we had wild blackberry bushes too. It just makes me hungry talking about this part. Yummy.

My dad is a farmer. These days his farm work includes growing soy beans and grains like: wheat, rye, corn. He used to be certified organic in fact. He has also tapped the many maple trees on the place to boil down for maple syrup for years. He’d sell it too.

It really was and is (hey, my folks still live there, minus a few of the above these days) a wonderful place they have, complete with woods and creek on the “back 40” (OK, it wasn’t that big, but you get the idea). I am very grateful to them for the many things they taught me about doing it yourself. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention” and sometimes they had to do with what they had. Money was not in abundance especially in the young married years. My folks moved to that property when my mother was pregnant with me and my older brother was only 1 year old. It’s the only home place I’ve ever known. So as far as “homesteading”, my folks did well I think, for busy people.

Over the years, my mother had many health problems. She was sick much of her own growing up years. She was a nurse by trade. She had to stop working when she was too sick most of the time. Fast forward a few years. My mother was able to find help and relief for her ailments through natural therapies and using herbs and whole foods. Whole grains, brown rice, even sprouts made it to our table. We used real butter and honey. We still had the occasional “treat,” but we saw healthier substitutions of the overly processed stuff more of the time.

Fast forward a little more. She started her own “health food” store which included bulk foods and herbs & other supplements. Eventually she also carried packaged items, alternative cleaning supplies, water filters, and juicers too. She also learned about helping others and did consulting to teach others about how to help their bodies get better and live healthier. She is a great lady. These days she deals with what Parkinson ’s disease sends her way the best she can. She closed her store more than 2 years ago now (I know, we all miss it), after she had double knee replacement surgery.

So as you can see, there are many things in my background that helped to shape my view of food…Everyone responds to food through their own “filter” – this is mine, up to about when I got married.

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