Bitter sweet

We are sitting down for our last “Subtracting the Additives” meal and a glass of organic red wine…with sulfites…we never said we were purists.  There is an air of melancholy with an undertone of relief.  We have opened our eyes to a “cleaner” way of eating and feel a sense of accomplishment for having gotten through the last 14 days with only a few slip-ups.  Dave is happy that he didn’t take an extremist view on the rules and eat spinach salad for three meals per day everyday (he likes rules, but sometimes interprets them in an extreme manner).

I think the melancholy stems from a true desire to eat healthier always, but knowing that without the challenge we will likely revert back to some of our old ways.  I’m sure we will make more food from scratch more often.  Homemade tortillas and granola bars are definitely the way to go.  We will, unfortunately, be eating McCain Smiles with our gourmet burgers and will, likely, indulge in a little Tim Horton’s along the way.

I haven’t written about it in any previous post, but we both came to terms with some issues we have with bread.  We found ourselves, at the beginning of the challenge, wanting to eliminate it from the diet, but realizing it wasn’t as evil as we were making it out to be.  Why eliminate a nutritious, delicious food without cause?  It turns out we both LOVE bread.  I mean LOOOOVE bread.  We knew this deep down and wanted to break our dependence on it.  The challenge would simply have been too strict.  I guess you may need to stay tuned for Dave and Shawna in bread rehab…it could get messy.


“Always remember to forget

The troubles that passed away.

But never forget to remember

The blessings that come each day.”





He shoots, he scores!

We are nearing the end of the challenge and things have really smoothed out.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks up until now.  Living without processed food is not living a lifestyle of convenience, that’s for sure.  We have been eating meals that we would normally eat, but with fresh, organic ingredients and making it from scratch.  There is no doubt that it tastes better that way.

Just to give you an example of a meal that we would plan on any given day and the difference in the time and preparation required to make it I’ll tell you about last night’s meal.  We made moose burgers.  We had been given some moose meat a while ago and hadn’t used it yet.  It fits into the menu this week perfectly.  

Normally we would pull some pre-made patties from the freezer along with some white (maybe 60% whole wheat buns).  The meal could be done in 15 minutes once the meat was thawed.  We would throw the patties on the BBQ and heat up the buns in the microwave.  Pull together some condiments and voila!  

Yesterday, we baked the hamburger buns and put the patties together ourselves.  Making bread with just whole wheat flour appears to be tricky.  There is all kinds of advice online about how to get it to come out fluffier.  It takes between one to two hours to make the buns as there is a lot of waiting, then kneading, then waiting and kneading involved.  Then you have to wait for them to bake.  The ground moose could be assembled during one of the “waiting” periods.  Not to mention, the time it can take to gather these ingredients.  Wild meat is not readily available in stores.  We were lucky to have it already.  You would have to seek out someone who could provide you with a wild or nice, grass-fed, organic meat and arrange to pick it up from them.  I guess you could kill it yourself, but that would have taken WAY too much time.  

Back to the difficulty with homemade whole wheat bread…it’s hard.  Really, it’s hard, dense, not fluffy.  Dave has enthusiastically taken on the task of baking bread this week.  I was watching the baby when he shouts from the kitchen, “I hope you don’t mind burger pucks for dinner.”  The buns looked like a bunch of hockey pucks sitting on the pan.  We feared another meal of dense bread.  

It turns out the buns were definitely different than what we are used to, but delicious.  The moose was delicious as well and we felt like we were eating some kind of gourmet creation.  Burgers on whole wheat biscuits, anyone?  We added a side of steamed carrots and broccoli, all organic, of course.  We passed on the McCain Smiles that we would normally eat with hamburgers.  The ingredients in the Smiles are not organic, but the list is impressively short and simple.  I think we’ll keep the Smiles for another time, they really do make us very happy. 

Basically, for the last two weeks we feel like we’ve been eating gourmet meals, made from scratch with fresh, organic ingredients every single day.  We’re not complaining…it’s a nice change.

Look how far we’ve come

Let’s talk about what we’ve learned so far.

1.  “Organic” can be a misleading label

2.  Rules are made for breaking (Rule #1 Organic whenever possible)

3.  Sulfites are everywhere (including the organic red wine we’re drinking right now)

4.  Making food from scratch is way more satisfying than buying pre-made stuff

5.  Additives make food taste better…a lot of the time

6.  Eating well feels better

7.  Breaking old habits is very difficult

8.  Food is a huge part of our social life

9.  Access to healthier food is limited in smaller, rural towns

10.  Blogging is harder than we thought it would be

Feed me!

I really want a bag of potato chips.  I’m trying to see the bright side of this today, but I want potato chips.  Not the healthier version with olive oil and black pepper.  I want the ones with the mysterious “spices” on the ingredients list and enough MSG left at the bottom of the bag so that when all the chips are gone you can still spend a few minutes licking your finger and digging into the far corners for extras.  I wish I had never tasted junk food.  It’s horrible.  Nothing really compares to the flavor it offers.  

We just ate the pizza we had left over from last night’s fare.  We made a 100% whole wheat crust and our own pizza sauce and loaded a bunch of organic veggies and cheese on top.  It tasted…well, um…healthy.  Yep, healthy.  Not good, not bad, but healthy.  Dave asked, “What do you think was missing from the pizza?”  My response was salt and sugar.  It’s that simple.

I just came out of the bedroom with a face drawn on my belly.  The belly button was the mouth.  I told Dave that I knew someone who had something to tell him.  I pulled up my shirt and used my hand to make it look like my belly was talking…it said, “I want potato chips…feed me!”  It was a desperate attempt to get him to run to the store and get some chips.  I knew that if he went he would indulge too, but if I went to get them there would be a higher likelihood of him refusing to participate in the diet sabotage.  I didn’t want to be the loser, but I would have gladly taken him down with me.  In any case, it didn’t work.  He’s having a “500 push-ups day” and refused to get involved with my unhealthy desires.  He got down and did 20 more push-ups.  Booooo!

I heard a piece on CBC radio today about organic foodie culture.  I’m feeling more like a junk foodie.  Really just wishing I could have a little additive binge today and get back on the straight and narrow tomorrow.  Must stay focussed.

For better or for worse?

“Sutracting the Additives” has been a very interesting experiment so far, but I’m a little confused.  It’s brought up more questions and the more I look into it the more confused I get.  I have a B.Sc. in Agriculture.  It was many years ago and I have forgotten more than I would like to admit.  A few things haunt me from a couple of courses I took back then.  A lot of the material focussed on sustainable agriculture and food security.  I remember a few classes about organic farming and we even visited some organic farms.  I also remember a professor making a statement about how organic fertilizers and pesticides being different from conventional ones, but that different didn’t always mean safer or better.  He explained how pesticides, even if organic ones, could be dangerous and I vaguely remember some of their danger relating to what they killed and how that affected the balance of the environment.  He explained how upsetting the balance of the environment could be more harmful than just considering the chemicals that are involved.  I also remember there being talk of how organic fertilizers are chemicals too, just different chemicals, you could still be exposed to too much of those chemicals.  

Having trusted that I received a quality education I have used these arguments in many conversations over the years.  I have received many blank stares and have heard this over and over again,”…but they aren’t allowed to use pesticides in organic products!”  It is possible that I’m not explaining myself correctly or clearly…is organic really better for us?  Do we really understand what “organic” means?

The other thing that is bugging me is that I thought that eating organic and trying to remove additives from my life would be complimentary actions.  Not necessarily.  I’m lactose intolerant and choose soy products over dairy most of the time.  I went shopping for organic soy milk last night and was disappointed in what I discovered.  The ingredients lists were long and confusing.  I don’t see any deal breakers, most look like added vitamins and minerals, but I still don’t like what I’m looking at.  So much so that I decided to leave the store without soy milk and drink smaller amounts of the organic cow’s milk that we already have in the fridge.  

New research raises more questions about the benefits of eating organic.  And recent research reported by the CBC supports what I was taught about organic pesticides several years ago in university.

Would I benefit more from an additive-free lifestyle or an organic one?  How could you sustain both?

Where has the time gone?

I haven’t done much today and I’m not sure where the time has gone. It feels as though we spend our days planning and preparing our food. I picked up some groceries and Dave baked a loaf of organic whole wheat bread today. I’m currently waiting for a modified version of my granola bars to come out of the oven. We’re not used to spending this much time on food, it’s somewhat exhausting. We are loving the effects that the food is having on us. We feel great and we have both noticed positive changes to our bodies. Interestingly, the baby has started sleeping through the night and her baby eczema has cleared. Coincidence? In any case, very positive things.

We have reached the half way point and look forward to the days ahead. This week I’m on a mission to find some delicious organic wine. Tomorrow we’re baking our own pizza dough and making our own pizza sauce…it’s really the only way to know what’s really in there.

I’ll leave you with this adorable picture of our daughter while at the park today. Who needs more motivation than this to start living well?

Live long and prosper

We went on a day trip today to a city nearby where we planned on doing some shopping.  We planned in advance to bring all our snacks and measl with us so that we could avoid temptation.  We hopped in the car with our cooler full of food and a smug look on our faces.  

We did a little shopping and then decided to visit a health food store to see if maybe we could find a special treat.  We both went immediately to the junk food aisle.  This probably says a lot about how we’re handling the challenge so far.  We picked up a dozen different bars and put them back down again as we read through the crap in their ingredients.  The labels all said “natural” and/or  “organic,” but I wasn’t sure the words sulphate, proprionate and phosphate belonged on a “natural” or  “organic” product.  Our mouths were watering with the prospect of “natural” junkfood.  It turns out that junk food is junk food, whether it’s organic, natural or just plain old junk food.  We squeezed a couple of chocolate-flavored bars into our rules, picked up some organic lemons and a bottle of agave nectar and hit the road for some more shopping.  The bars were hardly worth the cost or the trouble.  Odd textures and even odder flavors made them unpalatable…unless you like eating chalk, which some people with a condition called pica do.  Maybe they would like these treats.  We were sad.  

We had been snacking on our own stash of food all day, but it certainly wasn’t filling the void like Tim Horton’s or The Keg or that fancy restaurant on the corner would.  We started to talk about the restaurants and how we could eat in one of them and still follow the rules.  We were close to convincing ourselves that it would be ok, just this one day, to eat out.  Dave, that’s right, Mr. Makin’-Up-My-Own-Rules (see previous post) stopped us.  He injected an enthusiastic pep talk and pulled our wilted organic spinach salads from the cooler.  Arrrgh…I hate wilted, organic spinach.  

We’re home now.  Safe from the temptation of the outside world with our smugness from earlier today intact.  We’re watching the Star Trek movie and munching on some delicious organic dark chocolate (junk food?).  So we’re not trying to master time travel or fight beings from another galaxy, but we are fighting the nasties in our food and it’s a lot harder than we thought it would be.