While more than 20 years of development may seem like enough that I should be plenty of sage technical advice for the fledgling software engineers of the world... as I sit to write this it seems there is already plenty that has already been said on the matter. What more could I have to offer to the vastness of the Internet universe brought to our fingertips by the likes of Google? So I think, after a few requests from students who we've had the pleasure of mentoring in our experiential learning program at Oregon State University, I'll write about food instead. Yes, there is probably more about food on the Internet than there is Internet on the Internet, but it seems to me there is such an infinite array of opportunities with food, that perhaps something useful can come from what I might share.
About 2 years ago we began a journey to improve the way we eat after falling prey to Netflix's plethora of food documentaries (serves me right for spending so much time on the streaming service that I was sucked in). As with many socially charged subjects, it is clear we humans care deeply about what we eat. As I was falling into what seemed like an abyss of myth and fiction amongst these various politically charged monstrosities, feeling hopeless that I might never find any truth in what constitutes a healthy sustainable diet, a ray of hope did emerge. What seemed to be a little known show which aired on public television to apparently little fanfare brought me out of the pit of despair (what movie?) and showed me a path I could actually live with, and more importantly, believe in. Michael Pollan's (a name which I'd never before heard) In Defense of Food rang true with me on many levels with its common-sense approach and simple words to live by. Michael's mantra, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.", with its balanced, realistic, and sustainable simplicity kicked off a journey for our family that has really made a difference.
Now, before you go thinking this is another one of those diet fads which results only in misery and disappointment after a hard journey, just take a breath. He doesn't present, or even discuss, a temporary way of life that targets solely the soul-crushing goal of weight loss which is never achieved. This film advocates a sustainable approach to eating that promotes health in all its body forms. It isn't a diet that is meant to be followed for a period of time, but rather a sustainable, life-long (or life-remaining) approach to eating that has shown to have many benefits for me and my family.
It was a little surreal to be taking the lead on healthy food after my wife spent a couple of years pushing our family to eat better during her time as a health coach for "Take Shape for Life" (please don't fall prey to programs like this, they only do harm for profit!). I think my wife had a conflicted sense of relief and resentment in that she had already been trying and I took the reigns a bit too much like it was my idea. Ultimately she was more relieved luckily, and we were finally both on the same page that whole and minimally processed foods were the best way for us to get healthy and live our lives better.
We met with the kids, told them we were going to focus on whole and minimally processed foods, and explained what that meant. We did take a pretty hard step off the cliff, although with a parachute. Some foods were thrown in the garbage, but frugal as I am, other processed foods were kept until they were used up and then just never replaced. There was a lot of satisfaction in seeing our fridge full of vegetables, fruits, grass-fed dairy and meats, and other whole or minimally processed foods. It just felt good to feel more connected to our food sources. My wife had already had us signed up for a local farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for a couple of years, but it had only made up maybe 10% of our total food budget up to that point. I think our friends at Rainshine Family Farm were encouraged when we asked for a double share that next summer. We are blessed in the Willamette valley with a great selection of local produce and farmers' markets, especially here in Corvallis.
Our food budget shifted dramatically that first year as we began to shop the Saturday market for the majority of the food for our diet. This wasn't an easy transition for the kids, and nor was it without its pitfalls. While we didn't see a significant increase in our total food budget, we did experience quite a shock in that our western way of life was not well suited to keeping fresh fruits and vegetables fresh. We had our fair share of food go to the compost as a result. Have you ever wondered why our refrigerators have only 2 small crisper drawers for fruits and vegetables, yet loads of shelf space for process foods in cans, jars, and bottles? We had to get creative to try and keep our cauliflower, cabbages, and other veggies from wilting on the shelf (a topic for another post).
Food prep time was another transition we hadn't really anticipated. We were used to the convenience of packaged pasta, quick rice, and warm and eat pre-cooked meats. While we were no strangers to the kitchen and hadn't eaten cardboard pizza or tv-dinners for years, we hadn't had the need to spend a lot of time prepping by rinsing, peeling, chopping, cutting and the like. We've come to really enjoy this and it provides a great opportunity to get many hands in the kitchen working together to make a splendid meal the kids now voluntarily go out of their way to thank us for.
Many may see some of these things as significant barriers I grant you, but learning to connect with our food sources, finding out how to use new types of foods that seem strange and still have dirt on them, has been a most wonderful and enriching thing we've done as a family. Food certainly isn't (nor should it) be a religion, but it is a blessing from God that can bring us closer to him when we see it in its fullness and glory before it has been torn apart and reduced to its simple baseless pleasurable parts after processing. In Doctrine and Covenants (a set of revelations from the Lord Jesus Christ received by modern-day prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in Section 59, it describes how God has created this earth and all the plants and animals in it for our benefit and enjoyment to be used without excess. Most importantly, it is a blessing to those who are grateful, humble, and willing to keep his sabbath day holy by fasting and praying (which day we believe to be Sunday). We certainly have begun to better appreciate this promise as we have begun this journey of connecting to his creations in their natural form, and have been blessed for it.
I hope to write more about our journey soon...