Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Unprocessed Life

As you may know, I'm a big fan of homemade living. Which doesn't mean I actually practice a made-from-scratch lifestyle. I just really like the idea of it. I'm a notional kinda gal.

But for my Lenten discipline, I've given up processed foods. This turns out to be easier said than done. Most bread at the grocery store--from bagels to pita to sliced bread to baguettes--is made with all sort of additives, even the in-house bakery stuff. So if you want additive-free bread, you have to make bread. This Lent I have made oat bread, wheat bread, white bread, pita bread and foccacia. All of it has been pretty simple, but if I don't plan ahead, I'm toast (a little bread humor there). And while it's simple, it can also be time-consuming, particularly the clean-up part, since I can't seem to bake without using at least three sets of measuring spoons and a wide variety of measuring cups (why don't they make a three-quarters cup, by the way?).

Making bread is only the beginning of my baking chores. Each week sees me rustling up blueberry muffins, zucchini bread and a wide range of cookies (okay, a narrow range of cookies--oatmeal, chocolate chip and ginger snaps). Not so much for me as for the boys, as I'm trying to keep my sugar intake to really good dark chocolate these days. Again, it's all easy, but it takes time. We've also been doing homemade pizza lately, to cut down on food bills, so there's more dough for you.

I've been reading a lot of books about food and nutrition, and one thing everyone emphasizes is cutting out the processed junk and sticking to whole foods. The good news is, eggs seem to be back in vogue. When you're not eating processed stuff, an egg can be your best friend. And since I finally learned how to scramble an egg from reading Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking, I'm addicted to them (the trick is not to overcook--who knew?).

I picked up a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon after reading about it on Tracy's blog, and Fallon, like Nina Planck, author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why, believes that red meat is not the bogeyman (bogeyfood?) we've been led to believe it is, at least not when it's been raised on grain (as opposed to corn) and not charred to a crisp. Nourishing Traditions is a fascinating read and will also convince you to stay away from processed foods.

It will also, if you're like me, make you feel somewhat anxious. Banish white sugar? Banish the thought! White flour will also remain in my pantry, right next to the whole wheat. I can cut a lot of sugar out of my diet (and should), but I'm not cutting it all out. Same goes for white flour. A whole wheat chocolate chip cookie's just not the same. Still, after reading Nourishing Traditions, you'll never look at refined flours and sugars the same way again.

Here's the one thing that's true for sure: All the homemade, unprocessed stuff tastes better. And the more I do it, the more efficient I get at it. Still, I get the feeling to live a truly homemade, one hundred percent unprocessed life takes more time that I have at the moment. I'll do what I can and try not to beat myself up when I end up running out to the store for frozen waffles.


Tracy said...

You should invest in the most wondrous of all kitchen gadgets: the breadmaker. I make bread almost every day in it. To make it by hand would be nigh on impossible with the number of hours in a day that I am not in the house.

Tupperware make a 3/4 cup. At least in Australia they do. They're the only one I've come across though.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I've been meaning to invest in a breadmaker since last summer, particularly because then I think I could sell Jack on the idea of being the family bread maker.

Oh, you Australians--only you would be fabulous enough to have a 3/4s cup!

Tracy said...

We're are an inventive lot! After all, thanks to us you can now acquire a lawn mower and a rotary clothes line.

There's some addition to your off-the-grid requirements LOL