Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My life with food

I have always been conscious of food. Not that I have always been the healthiest eater, or am now, but I have maintained an interest in food information, origins, and packaging.

I think that my first experience was in elementary school when we were shown a video of a fish packaging company. The video laid out (in detail) the step by step process from when the fish were caught through their journey to our grocery stores. My family didn’t eat a lot of fish and my mom was not much of a cook, but for some reason she decided to pour her heart into a fish dinner for her family that night. And not an unidentifiable fish (like fish sticks), but an unbreaded, very obvious filet. I still remember my older sister (who was also in elementary school) and me prodding it with our forks and refusing to eat it. I am sure that I had refused food previous to this, but this was the first occasion that it was due to knowing too much about the origin. Looking back, that fish dinner was probably pretty good and something that I would love to eat in present day.

Quite a few years passed before my next encounter with food during high school. I thought that I had found my calling and I was desperate to be a veterinarian (despite being horrible in all science-related subjects and horrified by blood and guts). Realizing my love for animals made me an instant advocate for animal rights. Around my sophomore year, I proclaimed myself a vegetarian. I was faithful, although I don’t think that my father approved for a while. Knowing my beliefs, he would still include a slab of meat on my dinner plate. I did have some guilt, realizing that he came home every night to make his family a good meal, but every time I looked at that meat I only saw a carcass. Not really knowing much about nutrition, eventually I became ill due to my lack of protein and iron and my physician suggested I eat fish. That’s how my love for fish (after about 10 years) was born. And Dad finally consented and would prepare fish for me pretty much every night.

That lasted until my junior year of college when my roommate was cooking a steak and it smelled really good. I do still have some trouble with chicken (especially wings). The meat is too similar to flesh and the wings are a visible shell of what was.

Fortunately, during college I was a dance minor and had numerous classes about nutrition. I did eventually gain the tools to have a proper diet. Unfortunately, it happened at a time in my life where bars and fast food were a constant occurrence. My health was not something that I thought about often (or at all). After college and a few years in the workforce, books and movies like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me were released. I devoured this information. I was fascinated and equally disgusted about what corporations were feeding the public. Around this time I watched a commercial featuring Beatrice Arthur (Golden Girl) discussing animal cruelty associated with KFC. I haven’t eaten there since. The same was true after reading these books. The fast food that I loved and consumed regularly was now something that I couldn’t imagine putting into my body. I succeeded in a total boycott for a few years, but, out of convenience, have eaten fast food in the past couple of years. I still try to avoid it, if possible, and still firmly believe that it should not be a significant part of anyone’s diet.

After joining the workforce and not dancing, my weight increased and I began eating a lot of pre-portioned frozen meals. They were so easy to bring to work and most of them tasted pretty good. After my son was born, it became very important to my husband and me to eat family dinners every night. Although my son is too young to participate now, we want to lay the groundwork for when he is able. My research about food began again as I found myself planning our dinners weeks in advance (to save time and money). This is when I started coming across the information about what is in the food at the grocery store. I had a vague idea, but never really looked into it extensively until now. My findings of animal treatment, pesticides, and other additives amazed and horrified me (yet again). I started looking at our kitchen shelves and our freezer differently and those frozen meals became less appealing.

That’s when I decided that I didn’t want this in my son’s body and I am happy that I can control it. I always viewed organic as an expensive alternative for rich people or hippies trying to make a statement. My opinion drastically changed. Now I am finding any way to purchase organic. I cut coupons, joined a CSA, and make special trips to health food stores. Anything that I can do to provide the purest, healthiest, and tastiest option for my family. Through my life, information regarding food has usually sickened me and led to a change in my (and my family’s) diet. This is no exception. I know some people don’t care about preservatives and what the cow ate before it was a steak, I just happen to be one of the people that do.
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