As I have moved through my 20s and tipped my toe into my 30s, I have learned ever more about the ways to feed myself — and now my family. You may have traveled a similar path: figuring out grocery shopping for one, BBQing for a party, feeding the flu, feeding a hangover, eating for studying, eating for sadness and — my favorite — feasting for happiness.
You learn why your mom cooked the way she did (or didn’t) and why you will (or won’t) follow in those footsteps. You learn from the new people you meet about some awesome things to eat you never even knew you could eat and wonder why the heck you haven’t eaten them before. Along this path, you firm up a pattern in thinking about eating, food and your whole relationship with feeding yourself and then your loved ones. As I journeyed along, I realized that I had a rather common but unhealthy pattern in the way I evaluated a cooking and eating task. I care way, way too much about if my meals are fast or not.
I will be the first to say that we working women are busy. I’m busy, damn it, and I don’t know a girl worth her salt who isn’t. I have a lot to do every day, and most days I don’t get it all accomplished. Most of us are pressed by external pressures, internal forces, bad luck and good weather to get stuff done. This pervasive pressure has caused us to squeeze something — anything, please! — out of our day, and for many of us, that’s cooking.
Am I the only one who associates the idea of being a “foodie” or a “gourmet” with being wealthy? If I didn’t have to work, and if my husband didn’t have to work, I could spend all day long making pizza dough from scratch and shredding mozzarella that I made by hand from farm-fresh milk from the ethically sourced organic market shelf at the überfancy grocery store. I could cook it in my imaginary outdoor kitchen as my children laugh pleasantly with one another over completed homework while enjoying an expensive libation — you can insert the rest of your personal fantasy here. For most of us, that is not reality.
We buy and feed our loved ones prepackaged, fully cooked, entirely imitation, somewhat artificial and otherwise inferior food because we feel like it will be faster. We settle for all the negative consequences we are seeing more clearly as time goes on. All this faster food is more expensive, is full of calories that aren’t also full of nourishment and causes innumerable illnesses and ailments. It creates plastic waste that can’t be recycled that we have to pay to get rid of and time to handle and who knows how much to pay to handle in the future when we run out of places to put it.
We need to realize that “fast food” isn’t all that much faster. We have to spend time driving, parking, standing in line, paying and then disposing of the garbage. We won’t know for a long time, I bet, exactly the time a poor diet really takes from our life in terms of doctor visits and literal years off our lives.
We also have to readjust our idea of what a quick meal really should be. If it is ready to eat in one minute, it probably should be a slice of watermelon or a glass of water. I am terribly guilty of this mindset; I stand impatiently waiting for a pot of water to boil, or I measure the merit of a recipe by its length, number of ingredients and prep time. Why don’t I start by considering how delicious it would be or how much I would enjoy making it? I should be thinking about how good I’d feel after eating it and including some of the people I’m feeding in the process of making the meal.
The one-time consuming cooking task I really love is canning. Save the granny jokes — I feel like it has made my supper time, snack time and every other meal time faster and better. When I can crack open a can of tomato sauce that I canned, I know that it could still be considered a vegetable. I am feeding my small children a vegetable when I do this, but I’m not always sure I could say that when I opened a jar of store-bought sauce. I’d have to do an extensive google search to figure out what most of the ingredients were and have a science degree to really comprehend whether or not it was a wise thing to eat or not. That is something I do not have time for, and neither should you.
Canning, fermenting and making kombucha, baking homemade bread, making cheese and more are ways of making more at home. If you want to learn how to can your own wholesome preserves, head to www.startcanning.com and educate yourself on one of many ways to change your way of eating and thinking.