Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fermented Veggie Headstart

Preserved foodImage via Wikipedia

I'm getting all my ducks in a row. I am hoping to get started on the GAPS diet after Saturday so I am getting ready as much as I can. I made two quarts of lacto-fermented vegetable mixes on Monday. I can't wait until I can try them. I didn't measure or follow a recipe but they are coming along great. I have been reading about lacto-fermentation enough that I felt comfortable with my process. I just shredded carrots, ginger, garlic, and onion in the food processor and mushed (technical term) it with my hands with added Celtic sea salt. I then packed into my quart mason jar and put the lid on tight. The other jar consists of cabbage, radish, turnip and tiny bit of carrot mixture and salt. It worked out great and is fermenting away in my office covered with a folded sheet.

I knew I would need lacto-fermented veggies for the GAPS diet so I wanted to get those going ahead of time. I think they will make a lot of juice which is what we want in the beginning. I think I will make some other mixes after Saturday. I keep saying Saturday because I will be driving the two hours to Whole Foods (the closest source of organic produce and butter) and also picking up my order of pastured meat and eggs at the farmer's market. (The irony of which you can't possibly appreciate unless you could see how many pastures full of cows and farms I pass in that two hour drive.)

Speaking of irony, I am currently paying for 20 acres of pine trees out in the country. We originally bought this land to have some room out in the country to do whatever we wished. Now that I am pushing to do what I always wanted (raise chickens and goats and cows and vegetables, you know, farm) I find out my husband has no intention of being a farmer (or farmer's husband). I never hid my intentions from him (in fact, I was very excited about it from the very beginning) so I don't know why he never shared his ideas about what we would do with the land. Apparently, he now wants to spend the next 5 - 10 years watching pine trees grow so we will get a "good price" for them when we cut them. We may be approaching an impasse.

His idea is to buy pastured beef, chicken, eggs, and organic veggies from other farms. Forever. My idea is to start small by trying to raise enough to feed our family at first. Once we get the hang of it we can expand our operation to raise enough to sell. I don't know if it will ever make me rich, but I do know that I want to guarantee my family access to quality foods. If you read the news, you can probably see the wisdom of trying to secure these foods for our family. Not to mention that the farm that I want to buy eggs from said that she won't have enough to meet demand. We have wonderful climate here in Alabama and a shortage of family truck farms (especially organic). Alabama farmers bought the whole "better farming through chemicals" method the county agents sold in a big way.

This GAPS diet is going to be more complicated than it looks on paper (and not because of the cooking). The pastured eggs, beef, pork, and organic vegetables are going to become too expensive. I can already feel the pressure, but I don't cave to pressure so well since I became ill. I have two teenagers that I fully intend to get well so that they can start their adult lives without the burden of ill health hanging over them.

Personal Heroes:
  1. Sandor Ellix Katz is a fearless citizen of this earth sharing knowledge about the link between fermented foods and health. His book, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods started me on the path toward GAPS.
  2. Joel Salatin is a farmer for the future of food in this country. He is spreading the word about sustainable organic farming as a profitable business. Check out his book,You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise if you have any inclination toward growing your own food.
  3. Eliot Coleman has inspired me to try my hand at growing food throughout the year. After all, if he can do it in Maine under a blanket of snow, I should be able to manage something in Alabama (it probably won't even freeze but maybe twice all winter here). His book, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long, is very informative even for a backyard gardener. He has a new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses, that I can't wait to read.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Teach a kid to cook and feed him for a lifetime.

"Look Mom, I can cook"Image by ScrapStampSew via Flickr

I cook with my children every day. There are lots of reasons I think it is important but the main one is: Cook for a kid and feed him for one meal. Teach a kid to cook and feed him for a lifetime. You see what I did there? 8^) Yes, the kids also go to the grocery store with me and help me look up recipes and experiment with new spices. They really enjoy it. Really. You can ask them.

If you've read any of this blog you know that we are not healthy. We have been searching for answers for our health problems for many years with no luck. We recently swore off all packaged foods and starting cooking everything from scratch. You wouldn't think that would be controversial, but it sure was. My family is actually angry at me and currently not speaking to me. You may think my family is a bunch of kooks, but they are just normal people. I'm sure you're thinking that I must have been demanding or condemning or nagging about it. I actually went out of my way to make sure our new way of life would not inconvenience them by preparing our food and bringing it with us. I offered it to any who wanted to try it but didn't force it on anyone. Nothing worked.

Now, something you must realize is that our health has greatly improved since implementing this new way of life. We have lost over 30 pounds each in 6 months and my daughter and I no longer have asthma. It is glaringly obvious to anyone who sees us that our health has improved. So why does it bother my family so much? I don't think they want us to stay unhealthy. I'm pretty sure they love us, so I am stumped.

My family is not alone in thinking this way. Every time the subject comes up people look at us with horror. I have actually had someone say to my kid, "Poor thing, you don't get to eat ice cream?" First of all, what kind of moron thinks no one ever ate ice cream until it showed up in the freezer section of the grocery store?! AND, do people really think propylene glycol is a necessary ingredient in real ice cream, therefore we can't possibly make it? We have ice cream in the freezer all the time. OK, so sometimes we get lazy and go two or three days before making another batch.

For some reason, it is assumed that we don't eat tasty or fun food because we don't buy it already made. Or, they think I don't just deprive my kids but starve them as well. We eat macaroni and cheese (my son makes a killer bechamel sauce) , ice cream, waffles, hamburgers, french fries, burritos and tacos (my daughter is merciless with the chipotle but it is oh-so-good), pizza, pasta, bacon, etc. as much as we want. I don't restrict the amount of food that we eat at all. I guess I do deprive them though because they don't get to eat velveeta, fruit roll-ups, twizzlers, nabs, Cheetos or bubble gum. Of course, those items are marvels of modern science and not actually food so we don't miss them.

All in all, it has helped our health tremendously. We actually enjoy each other's company and learn something new every day. Cooking is so complicated when you think about it since it involves proper food handling and safety, selection of ingredients, differences of cooking methods, proper utensil selection, timing, selecting the right seasonings, and storage options for leftovers. It seems to me that cooking logically requires an apprenticeship rather than simple lessons. I feel like I am giving them the gift of a lifetime by teaching them to feed themselves well. Really, it is just a touch above child abuse to send your kids out their own unarmed with the most basic skills. What skill could be more fundamental than cooking?

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GAPS in knowledge

Farmers' MarketImage by NatalieMaynor via Flickr

My children and I are starting the GAPS Diet soon. We are already starting to get everything together that we will need. I am anxiously awaiting the book that I ordered and I will order the supplements (probiotics, cod liver oil, butter oil) tomorrow. If you haven't heard of the GAPS diet then you most likely don't have serious digestive problems. We do.

I've read many articles and books and expert opinions about nutrition and digestive health. So many people are so sure that they know what constitutes the best diet for everyone. I have learned a lot in the last two years but I still have so many questions. I have decided to do this: Use the ideas that seem the most logical to me and trust what our bodies tell us as we proceed. We have already eliminated all foods that we seem to have trouble tolerating. I feel that we are no longer harming our bodies (by eating foods we can't tolerate), but we aren't actively healing either. The GAPS diet is designed to help us heal us do that.

I have assimilated a lot of information in a short period and have formed the following opinions:
  • Americans are killing ourselves with food additives and we don't even understand the depth of the problem yet.
  • Traditional foods and healthy fats are very important for longterm health.
  • I'm not even sure we should be eating wheat at all, much less in the worthless refined and enriched form that we gulp down in America.
  • GMO corn, soy, and canola are dangerous and should have been studied over generations before being allowed into our food supply.
  • We shouldn't be eating vegetables that insects are too smart to eat. (example: GMOs that produce their own insecticide.)
  • Meat is only bad for the environment when it is raised on feed lots in huge numbers. There are smaller farms all over this country that manage to raise pastured beef without harm to the environment.
  • If you cook everything from scratch there is no need to restrict calories from sugar. Dessert is so labor intensive that there is no way you are going to "have something sweet" at every meal.
  • Purified Water Enhanced with Minerals for Taste is the next big scheme by those gems that run the food industry. The "minerals" in this case just happen to be a desiccant, baking soda and a laxative. Can you conceive of a reason to add those three things to bottled water if you sell bottled water?
  • The same family and friends that rant about how the government is screwing the "little guy" in this country won't even entertain the idea that food companies are putting harmful additives in our food for profit while the FDA sits by and does nothing.
  • The new food safety "crackdown" is only going to make it harder for small farms to compete with the huge agribusinesses. When have you ever heard of pastured beef, eggs, or organic vegetables causing food-borne illness? Is it a coincidence that Tom Vilsack is the Secretary of Agriculture?
Remember, I said these are my opinions, not documented facts. Most of these ideas will never be proven simply because it would profit no big company to have them proven. I have been accused of being extreme in my views on diet and nutrition but I just use logic to try to regain health. By cutting out all prepared foods, I am hoping to "first do no harm". By taking in nutrients in the form of bone broth and cod liver oil I aim to increase the amount of nutrition I am able to absorb from my food. And finally, by ingesting high quality probiotics I hope to heal my gut flora so that I can properly digest food. It makes perfect sense to me.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It may sound corny,

Grocery Store AisleImage by Jeff Keen via Flickr

but you really are what you eat. I have been allergic to corn for a long time. I didn't know this for many years and still don't know if it is a "true allergy" or just a "sensitivity". I put those terms in quotes because I think it is ridiculous to differentiate. One means that upon ingestion of said substance you will die immediately and the other means you will die a slow painful death. What difference does it make what you call it if either results in death? I think people like to differentiate so they can minimize an intolerance for certain foods since death is not immediate. Why? Because someone with a limited diet is inconvenient but you can't bully someone to "just make an exception this one time" if it will kill them instantly. It does seem to be somehow socially acceptable to do so if the offending substance will only cause extreme distress.

This sounds crazy, I know. When I first realized this phenomenon I was completely flabbergasted. If you don't believe me just think about this: Haven't you ever heard someone say to a dieter at a family gathering, "Come on and have some dessert, one bite won't kill you!"? What about the current controversy over whether someone has a gluten intolerance or true celiac disease? Who cares? Call it whatever you want, the people with this condition suffer when they ingest wheat or other gluten containing grains. Do they really have to die instantly to make the condition serious?

I am pressured all the time to eat things that I can't tolerate because it will make someone else's life easier. I have a long list of things that I can't eat but the most restricting item on the list is corn. The reason it is so restricting is the same reason that it took me years to figure out I couldn't tolerate it. When I thought I was avoiding corn by reading the label, I was ignorant of some essential information. It is in almost everything in a can, box or bag in the grocery store. Corn can be listed under names like lactic acid or sodium lactate(try finding deli meat without this), citric acid (try buying a canned vegetable without this ingredient), maltodextrin, polysorbate, stearic acid, alcohol (try finding vanilla extract without corn), and iodized salt. Most people I talk to think they eat very little corn when they in fact eat corn every day at every meal.

Did you know corn is in white rice, table salt, canned tomatoes, white vinegar, sour cream, tuna, frozen vegetables, breads, and even fresh fruit or veggies that are coated with wax? Are you wondering what you could eat if you were allergic to corn? The answer is horrifying to most people. I can only safely eat fresh meat, brown rice and other grains, fresh vegetables or fruit (that are not waxed), dried legumes, sea salt and single ingredient spices. My family cooks all our meals from scratch now from staples that we drive two hours to buy or order online. There are three grocery stores in my area (40 mile radius) and one of them is a Walmart. None of the three carry any flour, pasta, canned tomatoes, beans or tuna, bread, cream or shampoo that is corn-free. I am able to buy beef and chicken from the small stores without corn added in the form of "broth" but all of the meat in Walmart contains corn now. I am trying to find the money in my budget to buy pasture-finished meat since I worry about all the corn that is forced into the conventional beef at the feed lots. (You do realize that the cows are force fed corn to fatten them up for slaughter, don't you?)

In case you are thinking that I am an oddball or freak and you don't have to worry about such nonsense, consider this: My daughter was diagnosed with asthma two years ago and used an inhaler quite often. My health was deteriorating rapidly in the last two years and in my search for answers I discovered a list of corn aliases. We were able to cut corn completely out of our diet for the first time in January 2009. Since January she has not needed her inhaler even once. It's a good thing she didn't need her inhaler since it also contains corn! Ethanol is the propellant of choice for Albuterol and low and behold, ethanol is made from corn.

Can corn be the cause of the asthma epidemic in America? I don't have the answer to that but I do have an idea how we can find out. Every kid that has been diagnosed with asthma could be put on a corn-free diet for two weeks to see if there is any improvement. As you have probably figured out by now, it wouldn't be easy but....what could it hurt?
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