Tag Archives: fast food

My food journey, part 3: Life changes and bumps in the road

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?

Me: Yeah.

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.

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My food journey, part 2: Teens and young-adulthood

My vegetarianism stints throughout junior high and high school never really lasted long and when they did I often cheated. The thing is that despite growing up around food and to a certain extent, farming, I really knew very little about preparing food well.

My sister, Andrea, recently said to me that she never could understand why anyone would want to be a vegetarian until she started learning how to prepare good food. When you grow up eating vegetables that are frozen or canned and then microwaved, it’s pretty easy to see why.

Processed food was a huge staple of my family’s diet. I don’t blame my parents for this at all. I know that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had and the resources they had to work with. If you’ve seen Food Inc., you know all about how basically junk food is subsidised by our government. Hamburger Helper is cheap and easy to prepare. So please don’t judge my parents for “ruining” what was mainly grass-fed beef with these meals in a box.

When my parents split up, maintaining the ranch became pretty much impossible. So we moved and my dad got a Costco membership. Enter in even more processed food. We still consumed large amounts of meat that we bought in bulk there, but this was accompanied by the same staples. He also started getting a lot of pre-prepared meals there like the skillet meal in a bag types, frozen lasagna, pasta to be topped with sauces from a jar, chicken pot pies, Hot Pockets, and other things that he knew would be easy for my sisters and I to prepare on our own.

Cable television had always been seen as somewhat of a necessity in our home growing up. I don’t even really remember a time when we didn’t have it. In some ways though, I say thank God for cable television because that is how and where I learned to cook. Watching Emeril started out as a fun thing to do with my dad. For the first time I realized, “Whoa, cooking can be so much fun and so interesting. It doesn’t have to be this awful hard chore.” When they added the Food Network to our channel lineup I was so excited. I quickly had several favorites shows.

Soon after that something just snapped in me and I knew that I could not stand to eat another pot pie or Hot Pocket ever again (OK, well lets be honest here I did when I was desperate and there was nothing else to eat in the house, but still). I remember one day I just got online and started printing off recipe after recipe that I wanted to try on little notecards to fill the little recipe box I purchased at  the drugstore that was around the corner (which sits to this day in my kitchen). Some of my recipes were total flops. For instance, the first time I tried to make alfredo sauce I burned the rue three times (darn old electric stove!) before giving up and making a box of Pasta Roni instead. Other things were really good though, like after one of my dad’s annual fishing trips when I made a seared tuna steak topped with a mixture of tomatoes, garlic and olives in a white wine sauce.  

Processed food didn’t just go away though. Even though I knew freshly prepared food was fairly easy to make and tasted better, I still ate fast food and convenience food when I got too busy or when I was just tired and didn’t feel like cooking. Plus, my sisters were often very critical of my food or because of being guinea pigs were afraid to try new things I would make in case it was a flop.

Then, I married Stephen who basically grew up the same way I did eating lots of processed food and veggies prepared the same microwaved way. It took me a long time to convince him that veggies could be good because of this. In our first apartment, we had the pot pies and Hot Pockets right there in the freezer to be had when I was too busy with school to cook or nights when we had church activities immediately after work/school and no time to cook. We ate a lot of fast food too. Some of it was better than others, but a lot of it was the really cheap gross stuff like McDonalds and Taco Bell.

However, it was a “fast food” trip to Jamba Juice on my way to school one morning that would completely change my life with regards to food. In addition to their smoothies, Jamba usually has a shelf or two of other items available including biking apparel, juicers (of course), blenders, cookbooks and other literature that fit with the Jamba lifestyle. While waiting in line to place my order for a smoothie in the late fall of 2003, I decided to pick up a couple books, they were Consumer Joe (very funny, but not the life changing one) and Fast Food Nation.

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Fast food

This is sick, but this is usually how pregnancy goes for me. I could probably survive the rest of the pregnancy on these things:

1) Baja Fresh Nachos. No meat. Black beans. Easy on the pico.

2) Chipotle Burrito Bol. No meat. Rice. Black Beans. Tiny bit of pico. Sour Cream. Cheese. Lettuce. Guac.

3) McDonalds 6 piece chicken nugget happy meal with sweet and sour sauce, apple dippers and a milk.

4) In N Out Double Double with grilled onions, fries and a root beer.

That pretty much sums up the entirety of what I want to eat these days. I know it isn’t super healthy. I know fast food is expensive. Those are the only things that sound good right now though. Everything else makes me want to gag.

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Filed under Pregnancy and Birth