As I sat on a plane on Monday, on my way to Toronto to spend a day in the Kraft kitchens, I felt the need to spell out for all of you my own food philosophy, if you will. It's been a whirlwind few days, and I must admit-it would be very easy to be caught up in the excitement of it all. However, now that I'm in a quiet space for self-reflection, tonight as I sat here in my hotel room sipping coffee, I realized something.
My philosophy didn't change at all-in fact, I've been inspired in ways that I hadn't really expected and need a little time to mull over in my mind where I'm going to take this. (I have come back and edited this as I was so tired that there were a few links missing and writing errors)
The more I have written about food, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that I have needed to mull over my own food philosophy and share it with my readers. People seem to equate my blog with healthy food, which is good in lots of ways; I like to be known as someone who writes about healthy food, but with that label seems to come all sorts of assumptions about what I eat, write, and cook.
Months ago I read a tweet saying that every family has their own food culture, which resonated with me. Yes, I thought. What my family holds valuable and needs or wants is completely different from your family. My resources are different from yours, as is my income, and what may or may not be available. My food values, or rather, what I hold as important in the decision making process of selecting what we eat, will be different from yours and I think this in itself is a good thing-wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?
There is a whole spectrum of healthy eating. You have vegans, people who believe in fermented foods, those who don’t touch a grain of refined sugar, some who forgo wheat and dairy, the occasional vegetarian, and then you have some who believe moderation is key, and incorporate processed food products with some more ‘natural’ ones. What works for some doesn’t work for others, and honestly, I don’t think that there is a set ‘way’ to do things. I think that it’s important to recognize that everyone eats what they feel is best for them, and respect each other’s choices. However, I do find that as a food blogger, especially one that writes a great deal about healthy food choices, sometimes I’m held to a standard that is higher than I’m entirely comfortable with.
In a perfect world, all the food we consume would be sustainable, ethically produced, organic, affordable, and healthy. Sadly, the reality is that’s not the case. Most of the time I’m left standing the in grocery aisle, mulling over healthy vs. cost, and then choosing the item that matches my budget and our health needs as close as I possibly can. Organic, sustainable, and ethical are a bonus, and if I can find something for a reasonable price with one of those three qualities, I’m thrilled! More often than not, I’m left to compromise, do the best I can, and here’s the point; what I may be willing to compromise on, you may not. This, my friends hits right to the heart of the healthy eating argument-what is important to you, and what are you willing to compromise? I really can’t have it all, and I admit, this makes me sad because the truth is, I want it all. I really do. However, I’m also painfully aware that there are so many people that are less fortunate than I. It feels wrong and incredibly self indulgent (not to mention elitist) to be promoting $6 cans of tuna solely because they fit the criteria for sustainable, ethical, and locally produced, when one can buy a can of tuna from another company for $1.50 that may not fit all the criteria, but is close enough.
As a food blogger, I do my best to highlight what products and companies are, in my opinion, the best for my family. My reasoning is that if we like them, then passing the information on to you is entirely logical. I’m acutely aware that my choices will be held up to scrutiny, and at times, readers may need clarification. The bottom line in my choices and what I will promote here is this; if I won’t buy it, my family won’t eat it, I won’t promote it. The irony is that many food companies who create processed food also sell real food that we know, love, and buy on a regular basis. Do I refuse to talk to them because they produce some products I won’t touch, or is that a little like throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Not just that but how are companies supposed to know what Moms want from them if I set myself on a pedestal and refuse to talk with them? That looks very oh I am so very important and pure, I have no time for you, and that’s so not me. You deserve salad dressing without MSG, items with less sodium or sugar, and if I’m going to be the person to go to Kraft and tell them how my 15 year old refuses to eat their salad dressings and how we pitched a container of BBQ sauce when we saw the sodium, so be it. Why not?
I promise to be honest with you, as well as the companies.
Notes From the Cookie Jar and Chasing Tomatoes are, above all else, about real food, not necessarily just healthy food. If you ask me about making a batch of brownies, I’m not going to come up with a recipe with whole wheat flour, flax mixed with water, carob, and prunes, because you know what? I’d never eat it. Nor would my family. The very idea, if I’m going to be completely honest with you, kind of grosses me out. While it may work for some people, that sort of cooking doesn’t work for me. I’d try one of those brownies, but they aren’t really brownies, and then I’d still be craving the kind that I really like; made with real butter, eggs, sugar, and chocolate. No, they aren’t healthy, but you know what? I know exactly what’s in them. I created them, right from stirring the batter to cracking the eggs. I chose the ingredients, and I can pronounce every single ingredient. That can’t be said about any packaged item I buy, even those with the best intentions. This is why I believe so strongly in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and threw my support behind it; kids, I believe, should be eating real food, not food like substances, as Michael Pollan calls them. What they eat now sets them up for life; don’t we owe it to them to give them the best shot possible? Don’t they deserve to have the highest quality, most delicious food in their growing little bodies? I believe so.
I do not, by any stretch, want this to be a judgmental space. Food is universal; we all need it, and if anything, I hope that you can come here to gain some knowledge, inspiration, and be empowered to wrestle control of your kitchen back from the big corporations. However, some posts do evoke strong reactions, and be aware that stating your opinion respectfully is fine but if bashing begins, I do reserve the right to step in and even delete comments if I need to.
Ultimately, my goal is to show that real food CAN be as fast, easy, and far more delicious than the packaged versions. I want you to feel the joy of finding the perfect tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce, the sense of accomplishment when your kids dig into dinner and declare it the best ever, and feel the amazing health benefits of eating less salt, sugar, and fat. I want you to taste real macaroni and cheese, not just the packaged version. Taste your food, connect over it with your family, and enjoy it. Don’t settle for some mediocre packaged item that is just barely okay, or some mountain of salt laden, artery clogging restaurant fare. Demand better! You deserve it. Your family deserves it. After all, what you do is really up to you.
Eat and enjoy, unapologetically.