I was completely revulsed by what I read about the food industry in Fast Food Nation. I was also overwhelmed. Back in 2003, you couldn’t just walk into any store and find free-range, grass-fed, organic, rBST-free, etc. type stuff. There were only a couple places you could find it in Bakersfield and it was expensive. My husband’s income from his first post-college job was not huge. But I knew I just couldn’t put regular meat from the grocery store or from fast food restaurants into my body knowing what I knew about the meat industry in particular. Despite reading several passages aloud from the book, Stephen was not really convinced or impacted. So I retreated back to vegetarianism and continued to prepare meat for him and nearly gag every time I did.
But as with any shock to the system, we humans get over it and tend to go back to our old ways with time. And that is what I did. Stephen and I were busy with work, church, and life. Sometimes it was just impossible to find the time and energy to cook decent food and actually sit down together and eat it instead of shoveling crap food into our faces as we rushed down the road to the next activity.
We need reminders and wakeup calls from time to time to get back on track and do what we know is right. For me that next wakeup call was watching the movie, Supersize Me. Stephen and I were both really grossed out after watching that movie and basically didn’t eat any McDonald’s level fast food for over a year.
The next bump in the road for us was when I got promoted to editor at my job (um yeah, I used to be an editor and I know my grammar around here often sucks. Self editing is hard. Don’t judge.) because this meant longer hours for me, particular on production days, work that left me even more drained, and taking work home with me (I would often print off proofs and take them home to edit). We were also really, really involved at church during this time with Stephen leading a worship service on Wednesdays, teaching music theory to upcoming musicians at the church, worship team practices, filling in at other services from time to time, other church events that were held a lot, and Sunday mornings as well.
I was drained much of the time and I didn’t really think it was fair that in addition to working just as many hours at a “real” job, that I was then supposed to cook dinner for both of us and clean up the kitchen and other parts of the house, too. Stephen only really knew how to make a couple dishes though, so the only other choice in the matter was once again fast food and convenience food. Ugh.
Then I got pregnant and I was so sick that I just really couldn’t cook. So we continued eating more fast food and convenience food. At one point in the pregnancy, Stephen’s mom organized people from the church to bring us meals, but we mainly ate out. Just when I was recovering and getting a good system down of cooking us good food, baking my own bread, getting veggies from a CSA after we moved here, and rarely eating out I got pregnant and felt really sick and tired again. So the fast food and convenience food items returned once more. This time we tried to have more “quality” versions from Trader Joe’s and restaurants like Chipotle, but it was still not the best stuff we could be having.
Since having Sprout I have been cooking more and more. I try to go to the Farmer’s Market at least once a week for our veggies. I plan out our menu around what is in season and I try to only buy meats from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, though I know this isn’t even completely the best stuff that we should be eating.
Prior to watching Food Inc., though, I often felt like the grocery store was a battleground with Stephen. We have been grocery shopping together since sometime after I became pregnant with Sprout and while I enjoyed the extra help out when it came to heavy lifting, I hated trying to justify every purchase such as the more expensive organic milk versus the regular milk that is just rBST free. The last few times I’ve gone grocery shopping by myself with both kids during the day (which, let me tell you is asking for a meltdown and leaves me feeling half-crazy) just so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
I think this is a thing of the past though when you consider the following conversation at dinner the night after watching Food Inc. with him..
Stephen: So, you know a couple weeks ago when you had me pick up some chicken for dinner?
Stephen: Is Foster Farms an OK brand to buy?
Me: Um, no, I don’t think so. I usually just like to get our meat at Trader Joe’s and I get the organic stuff.
Stephen: Well, they are always the ones advertising that they are more natural or whatever.
Me: Yeah, just because they market themselves that way doesn’t mean it is necessarily true.
The fact that he’s probably thinking, “Oh crap, what did I put in my body two weeks ago?” is a very good sign.
I know I still have a lot to learn about food and can be better, but this is a journey, afterall. Some days are just filled with crying babies that leave me physically and emotionally exhausted. So we do eat out still from time to time. When we do have to eat out, we try to pick places where they say they are serving organic food. We don’t eat at McDonald’s or Taco Bell or Carl’s or places at that level, period.
Looking back I realize that I had a great opportunity during my childhood that I often took for granted. As it stands, I would honestly be willing to give a whole lot to be able to live on a similar ranch again so I could raise my own animals the way I want and plant my own garden too. It may have been a lot of work, but I think the benefits reaped are so, so worth it.