Archive for the ‘Eating well’ Category
When I started on this path, as it were, I had pretty much one thing on my mind (or a few things, all linked together, sort of). I wanted a farm. I wanted chickens and ducks and sheep and a woodstove and fireplace and a big garden and a small office filled with books that I could write from and a couch on which I could doze off every now and again when the chores were done and I could grab a few minutes to myself.
But as I read yet more about the state of the world, things started to shift. I wanted to be sure that I could take care of myself and the people I loved where I could if I had to. I wanted to make the space I was in suit what we needed now instead of waiting for some future that might or might not come.
In part, these changes are rooted in fear. I think it’s disingenuous to say otherwise. I’m concerned about keeping warm and clean and fed. I worry that someday there won’t be water in the pipes, food in the grocery store, heat in the apartment, or money in the bank.
But I also don’t want my life ruled by fear, and so I try to see the changes that I make as empowering, even if the actions I take and the things I do are rooted at least partially in being afraid. I try to remember that given the situation I’m being as proactive as I can be right now, and that I’m still making choices to act in ways that I think are useful and that will be helpful in the future.
Today, I bought two 8 kilo bags of rice on sale. I noticed the sale yesterday, but didn’t have enough hands (or strength) to carry them along with the other groceries. So today, I went back for two bags. It took about 45 minutes to do, since I needed to take the bus part way home (they were very difficult to carry while walking), and I feel better with them parked in the kitchen.
I can see the rice as being a product of fear, and be reminded of it every time I go into the kitchen, or cook, or (to be honest) every time I trip over it, which I will, given the present state of my kitchen. Or I can see it as something that will help me, and as a way of pushing that fear a little deeper while also using it to make changes for the long run. Some days it’s harder than others, but I’m really working on the latter.
Some weekends, I rest. I appreciate the time to sit, to read, to visit with friends, to simply take it easy and be, which is something so many of us don’t do enough of.
This weekend was productive, though, and even at its end I find myself energized and ready to take on that little bit more.
I’ve taken on a bunch of academic work, and made what will likely be huge strides towards completing my research. I’ve also tackled work for other projects that need completing, and crossed many of them off my to do list.
The biggest gains have been around home, though. I’ve managed to clean the tub, the tile, the ceiling, and the mirror in the bathroom, and to sort through some of the laundry. I’ve done all the dishes, swept the floor, cleaned under the sink, decluttered a bit, cleaned the sink, the counters, and the stove. I’ve baked bread, and now have home fries and a veggie quiche baking in the oven.
As much as I take satisfaction in rest on the weekends, especially after a long or otherwise trying week, there’s also satisfaction in productivity and in actually getting concrete things done (perhaps especially for those of us who spend much of our time living in our heads). Although I imagine I’ll be tired very shortly – especially after the pleasures of dinner – I’m pleased with what’s been done, and feel far more grounded and centered now that work has been done and the results are visible.
As I move further into trying to build a more sustainable life, and further into balancing those actions with my work (which is, as so often the case, the reason for yet more silence around these parts), I’ve recently gotten to thinking about how it was that I found myself where I am today, not just in the practical sense, but also in the sense of how I’d come to my current sets of beliefs, desires, and habits around the ways in which I want to live my life.
I was always a highly sensitive child (I am now simply a highly sensitive adult who is much better able to cope with the constant stimulus of living life). One of the earliest things I remember feeling, and feeling in that deep-down, visceral, almost tangible sense – was a huge sense of dismay at the incredible unfairness of the world, and especially the incredible unfairness that somehow there were people out there who simply never had enough to eat. The mere mention of children starving in Africa or stories of food banks on the radio would leave me with misty eyes and the threat of tears.
A later memory that has always lingered came from some volunteer work. As a girl guide (Canada’s girl scouts), volunteer work was required for certain badges. I was around 11, I believe, and every week for one morning my mother would drive me to the food bank where I would put together bags of food, based on a set criteria, for those who needed them. On the whole, it wasn’t traumatic – unlike the current situation, most people just needed something to tide them over until their next payday in a few days, or had hit a bit of a rough patch. But one day as we were leaving, we saw a man who I had helped sitting on the lawn, eating a prepackaged cup of applesauce. My mother turned to me and, very casually, mentioned that it must be hard to be so hungry that you couldn’t wait to get home. I don’t know that that was the case here. Perhaps he had eaten that morning, and wanted a snack. Perhaps he wanted to enjoy the warm day and the sun on the lawn. But the comment hit me like a fist to the stomach, and it has stayed with me ever since.
I’ve run across many stories and situations since then that have made me feel the same way, and that have stayed with me long term. This is something that is nearly always in the back of my mind, and I still find it unfathomable that we live in a world in which there are people who are always, perpetually, painfully hungry. As a result, this is something that informs the way that I try to live my life – not wasting, eating lower on the food chain, spending less so I can donate more, and generally trying to be responsible when it comes to food, since I have the privilege of having resources, and believe that they should be used as wisely as possible.
I’ve been thinking a lot about food recently – sourcing it, growing it, eating it – and this article at Salon couldn’t have come at a better time. An examination not just of how food is accessed in an immigrant community, but the social pressures and even shame that go along with it, it speaks to different elements of the current food system at large, and the expectations of us as consumers within it.
First, it deals with the shame that can surround not food itself, but the processes of raising and getting food that are outside the mainstream. No matter how useful, sustainable, healthy, or financially viable they are, in many areas there are still limits – some formal, but many not – not only on what we eat, but how we get our food. Processed and packaged in a grocery store is fine. Growing on a balcony is not so much. Even if they’re not voiced, there are sometimes social exprectation, and certainly always social norms, around what it is that people eat and why.
At the same time, it also begins to look at the benefits of local foods, and the ways in which families made use of what was available to them in terms of space and resources to access what they needed. Despite what seem to be some less than ideal circumstances, food was obtained in a variety of productive and even creative ways. Sharing meat. Planting vegetables in available lots. Using grass clippings as fertilizer and mulch.
But there’s also an element of community here – bartering, helping others, and working together to provide. Maybe it’s just where I am right now, but I don’t see a lot of this on any level, even with something as fundamental as food. Everyone goes to the grocery store and gets what they need to bring home and cook alone. Even the borrowed egg or cup of sugar from days of yore, as it were, seems to be a thing of the past.
There’s also a loss of identity when people lose their ability to produce and eat food in ways to which they’re accustomed, which is what struck me most here. While the people here lost of way of living to which they were accustomed, I wonder if there’s a fundamental need to produce. I suspect that even with those of us who haven’t known a lifestyle that included raising or producing food in some way, shape, or form have lost something by not being more connected with what we eat and where it comes from.
These are just some of the reasons I want to and am trying to move more into being responsible for my food, either by growing what I can, or making sure that I’m aware and responsible for what I eat. I don’t have all the solutions yet – although there are some great ideas in the article – but I think it’s incredibly important that it’s something that we start getting back to, even if on a small scale, whether or not it’s a life with which we’re already familiar.
…of the somewhat loose variety.
Despite not generally going in for resolutions, this year I sat down and drafted a whole long list of them. A too long list, I think, and probably a list that was just made for failure.
So, I scrapped much of the list, and now I’m keeping it simple with three general resolutions (in no particular order).
One: Take care of me.
I’m kind of lousy at taking care of myself, so this year, I want this to be more of a focus. Less anxiety. More sleep. Less stress. More exercise. Less crap food. More whole food. Less TV. More meditation. Less stuff. More space. Less spending. More saving. All the stuff you’re supposed to do, really, for a healthy mind and body, but not really in any set ways that require tracking. I simply more want to be in tune with what I need and try to work with that.
Two: Take care of work.
Basically, this translates to finishing the dissertation. I want to be done by the end of the year, and I think it’s do-able. That said, I also need to do some job-searching, apply for courses for next year, and generally keep on top of things, but I want work to be a significant but manageable focus this year, with a PhD in hand by the end of it all.
Three: Take care of the world.
I plan to keep up with making my life as sustainable as possible, and adding in a few new things as well. I want to keep cooking, baking, walking, bringing my own bags, reducing my consumption, recycling, using public transit, biking, knitting, growing, turning off lights, taking short showers, and buying used. I’d also like to add in some composting, additional growing, and sewing to the mix.
Now, I know I’m breaking the cardinal rule of goal- making – other than taking caring of work and the culmination of the dissertation, this is all rather not-measurable (therefore making it difficult to tell when, say, I’ve actually accomplished something.) But I want things simple this year. I want to go largely on gut reactions. I want to get a sense of when things are working, change them when they’re not, and have the flexibility to do so. A lot has changed last year, a lot will change this year, and I look forward to seeing what it all brings.
With a bust schedule, I didn’t quite accomplish everything that I wanted, but I did pretty well, all told.
With my little 10×30 project, I got the requisite number of things boxed up and ready to go out for donation. There’s still a lot more to do, but a box of books and many bags of clothes later and the apartment feels a bit better. I’m looking forward to doing more, and am considering having a repeat performance this month.
For The Anyway Project, I had a few successes as well. The kitchen was cleared out further, and some clutter was removed from the apartment. We had the landlords come in and do some weatherproofing, which will hopefully make it less draughty in here.
Financially, I managed to save about 45 percent of my income this month, up from the 20 percent that I was aiming for. This won’t be possible every month, but this was a good start. I cut back even the limited shopping that I already do to accomplish this, and I’m pleased with the results.
Tracking resource consumption has been somewhat more difficult than I thought, so I’m still trying to figure this one out, and considering ways to lower it even when there isn’t an actual measure available to work from. I’m also still a bit stumped on taking on extra work, both in terms of what to do and how to fit that in right now, but I’m looking into some opportunities.
Family and community took a bit of a beating this month as I didn’t get out that much for various reasons. On the up side, though, I have been more focused on spending money locally, which I hope is helpful from a community perspective.
I’ve managed to keep outside commitments to a minimum in order to keep focusing on the most important things right now – dissertation, teaching, and job search. I have started a few of my own projects that mesh well with my values, though, so that’s a nice break at the end of the day sometimes as well.
And finally, in terms of time and happiness, I’ve been working on eating a bit better, exercising more – I walk to campus a few times a week now – and taking more time just to rest and relax.
Up next? Planning out what I want to work on for the next month. While December’s usually interrupted by holidays and a visit home, I’m considering ways that I can keep up with working through this life that I lead a bit more.
Given our relatively tight financials,we like to find ways to save a bit of money here and there. Now, with the recently tight financials of some of out close friends, they’re been looking to save money too.
So, in an effort to still spend time together without breaking the bank, rather than going out for sushi (a perpetual favourite) we’ve been cooking together and then having our usual hang-out time.
Usually, we go out to grab some groceries together – whatever we need to cook – and then one or two of us cook while we all visit and chat. We eat together, then hang out and visit.
Tonight’s dinner? Rather than Chinese takeout, we decided to make our own. I made fried rice and chicken with broccoli (shrimp with broccoli for me), and we had cookies as a treat for dessert. I had most of the ingredients here already, and other than mushrooms, broccoli, and some extra eggs, there wasn’t much to pick up.
Even with a few snack or treats thrown in, the cost is significantly (!) less than going out for dinner – I think it comes in at well under 1/4 of the cost with everything included, and usually there are leftovers for whoever wants them. We still get time together, we still get to visit, but we get to do so in a way that’s a bit more manageable for us right now.
Okay, okay – I know no one really wants to think about this yet (sorry!), especially since fall is barely upon us. But by planning now for what needs to be done to have a relatively comfortable winter, it’s possible to save a bunch of time and headaches.
Depending on situations, there are a lot of ways to prep for winter. My list isn’t actually that long right now, and some items are more necessities than others, but I want to get a clear idea now of what I want to do and need to do as the days keep getting shorter and cooler in this neck of the woods.
The biggest things for us right now is planning to keep comfortable. It gets cold here, and this apartment is neither well heater nor well insulated. This year, we want to start prepping for the cold early by caulking and insulating the windows and doors, and looking into low-cost, energy efficient heating solutions that we can try.
The next big thing is cash flow. I’ve got some savings, and although I’ll still be making enough to cover basic expenses, my income is about to drop off a bit more. While we haven’t exactly been spending the big bucks, some further belt tightening will be in order to ensure that we stay in a relatively comfortable financial position. I haven’t been as tight about spending as perhaps I could be, and a few tweaks will make some difference in our cash flow, so that’s in the works right now.
Also this year I’d like to get a plan in place for growing some more food. In the past, I’ve missed deadlines for planting seeds, and wound up buying a few starter plants here and there. This year, I’d like to know what needs to be started when, and come up with a better plan for how to fit things in better outside, and make the most of the available space for a bit of food production. There are limits, of course, but getting the planning startednow should help to really get some good use out of what we’ve got.
Finally, this year I’d like to keep a better eye on what I eat. From a health standpoint this makes sense, but also from a financial one. I have a lot of food stored here, and given the relatively high likelihood of moving sometie in the near-ish future, I’d like to start working through what I’ve got here. I’d also like to set up some easy to follow menus. I get sidetracked a lot during the week, which wastes time and, in a lot of cases, food. Knowing what I can make with what I have on hand seems like a good way to use up food I’ve already bought and improve our diet.
These are the big ones for now, although I’m sure there are other projects that will come up, and other things that need to be done. For now, I’m going to sit down with a seed catalogue and start planning out when to start planting some seeds, and where they’ll wind up down the road.
Yesterday, I bought my food from local farmers. I asked how they were doing, said hi to their kids. I used my reuseable bags to hail hom leeks four feet tall, brussel sprouts still on the stalk, sausage from happy and hormone free pigs, and peppers picked just the day before.
Today, I walked into the grocery store and looked for “Product of Ontario” listed amongst all the other products stamped as being of the USA, Peru, and Mexico. Beyond the produce section I faced down aisle after aisle of heavily processed, over salted, corn based, not-quite food.
This has, admittedly, been the pattern through the summer. I buy a lot at the market – as much as I can, really – and then get things that aren’t available there like rice and beans and spices (okay, and chocolate) at the grocery store.
But yesterday was the last day of the market for the season. And, as I stepped in the store today, the reality of the store really sunk in. I realised that for the forseeable future almost all of my food will be coming from the grocery store, and not directly from the farmers. I am, of course, looking into other options. The food co-op isn’t so far. There’s a boxed fruit and veggie delivery service that I may make use of. There are , as there usually are, options. But today was a harsh realization of how much better the market feels, and how important it’s become for me.
In addition to spending more time in my research site than I have in awhile, today I also made food progress (can one make progress with food? I dunno, but whatever…)
First, there were refrigerator sour dill pickles.
Then, there was gooseberry and red currant jelly, made with fruit from a good friend’s mom’s garden (and a whole lot of kiitchen counter stuff tucked in behind – oops, and apparently tomorrow should be kitchen tidy-up day).
It was a good day. Satisfying, but tiring as well. And now I’m looking forward to reading on the couch for a bit before bed while enjoying the sound and lights of the thunderstorm that’s just blowing in.