Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Evolving out of the mainstream

They poison the land that we grow our food on, the air we breath, and the water that we drink. They tell us they have the ability to make flavors in a lab, and we eat them and forget the taste of real watermelon. They find ways to make food last longer. And longer. They give us food that our bodies do not recognize, and our bodies respond in anger. They offer pills to cure one symptom, while causing ten new ones. They have pills for many of those new symptoms, too. Because ‘they' have always been there, I didn't think to question the cycle for many years.

Then one day I began to awaken. I swam a few strokes towards shore, then a few more, and I began to step out of the mainstream. I looked back over the course that I had been carried down, and I did not recognize the choices I had made. How could I consume and waste, without thought for where these things came from, or where they went when I was done with them? How could I not wonder at the foods of vibrant, unnatural hue? How did I never think of what I used on my body, in my home, and in my kitchen?

A sense of unreality gripped me, and my shame choked me. Then I realized that I could do nothing about my previous choices, but I could change my path from here forward. I could never forget what I had done, for that was to risk returning to that way of being, but I could forgive my lack of knowledge. I could offer penance, mend what damage was within my grasp, and chart a new course.

This is an edited version of a journal entry that I wrote in April 2010. I summed up my feelings about my choices fairly well, but that was before I also began to contend with a growing frustration over the difficulties involved in ‘stepping out of the mainstream'. Sometimes it amazes me how hard we have to fight for simple, healthy food. I catch myself feeling guilty at times, when my food decisions affect someone else, particularly family and guests in our home.

Recently the subject of meat came up, and the idea of buying steaks to grill. I dearly love steak, but I haven't had one in quite a while, because the grass-fed steaks that we could buy would run between $15-17 a pound. Our food budget just doesn't have room for that kind of splurge right now.  Our guests mentioned that the grocery store has sales, and you can get meat for much less than that. That was one of those times when I was at a loss as to what to say.

We have talked about pink slime, meat glue, and the horrors of CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, see link below), but I am beginning to suspect that they tuned us out. I'm not saying that with any resentment, because I understand that it isn't done out of malice. I am also beginning to realize that many people just think that we live an extreme lifestyle, one that they cannot (or would not want to) duplicate because of the expense and effort involved.

Each change that we have made has been the result of research, discussion and deep reflection. We haven't made our decisions lightly. At one of the worst times in our economy, we are spending more on food, rather than less. At a time when pre-packaged, convenience food has become the norm, we are choosing to eat simple, homemade food made from scratch in our own kitchen. I try to plan ahead when we have company to minimize conflict, but conflict seems inevitable. My biggest issue is that I cannot un-know the information that I have learned. Hubby and I cannot in good conscience support CAFO meat, knowing that the animal had no quality of life whatsoever, and that the meat is of inferior nutritional value to boot. For me, the end simply doesn't justify the means. I cannot forget that vegetables that are not grown organically add numerous toxins to the environment, the toll that those chemicals take on the health of field workers (see link below), and that the chemicals often remain in the food (or diminish the nutritional value). I try to support fair trade as much as possible, knowing that too often, in this economy, people bring their product to market with very little profit. Lastly, I try to be mindful of packaging, seeking ways to reduce what we send to the landfill, and when possible buying items packaged in truly recyclable material (glass, paper, cloth and metal- plastic can really only be down-cycled because of contaminants).

I am ever hopeful that I remain respectful of alternate viewpoints, but I also strive to live up to the ideals that we have set. As with any way of life, there are challenges and rewards, costs and gains. One of the marvels of the internet is how it allows those of us that live similarly to support one another, it has certainly made this journey easier when I read the stories of others that are on a similar path. It also opens up a wealth of information and a wide spectrum of opinions. In the end, we all have to follow our gut instincts, and our hearts, to choose what we will do, respect what other people choose to do (or not do as the case may be), and realize that our paths will probably continue to evolve as new details come to light. 

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