The Grocery Thing or Kitchen as Playground

How do we feed ourselves and by extension our families?

There are deep underlying questions and approaches to this fundamental daily practice, but today I am going to keep it to the nuts and bolts as I am experiencing them.

I am lately aware of the sheer quantity of mental space and physical energy I devote to our nourishment. It is a nearly constant background hum to my thoughts when home. There is something about doubling the children in our family that has shifted our family dynamic substantially (and our grocery bill as well).

There is an obviousness in this list if you are currently, or have in your life been the prime food provider, but for me it is still a bit of a revelation: weekly meal planning, grocery shopping, daily dinner item double checking, three meals, two snacks, lots of wiping up, chopping, dishwashing and sweeping. Though, I want to very much, I need to save the practice of growing our own food in quantity for another day.

Fortunately, I love food and I can embrace that. For these days, at least, my hands and heart get to play creatively when I am in the kitchen working for our family. It’s an easy merge with my needs to imagine and implement fun ideas and to see myself as an artist, as a provider.

Bearing in mind that I fashion myself as a bit of a nutritionist; I have been devouring (ha!), for many years, the thoughts and research of others about food, foodways and food production. Indulge me while I attempt to list some of the more influential ones I have read…The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Salt, Cod, Food Inc., Supersize Me, Feeding the Whole Family, A Homemade Life and, most recently, Nourishing Traditions and Full Moon Feast. (There are countless more, but I tend to forget the titles I have read if I don’t write them down, hence the goodreads list you might see on the side of my page.) I eagerly seek out the current edition of Edible Such and Such when visiting new towns and I will listen to radio broadcasts and read blogs about food for both the deeper marrow of the issue, as well as new recipe ideas.

We are not unique in this, but the challenge I find in this is working within a budget that is stretched too far in every direction these days. We are a family of four attempting to do way too much on one salary, one of which is paying for food that is fresh, local, organic and tasty. We (or I) choose these purchases again and again and yet I keep thinking there must be a less expensive way.

Shopping from farmers directly, cooking from whole foods, touring the world at the behest of my tongue  are all things I esteem, they are in line both with my values and what I have learned from study and practice. Food (and drink) are two of the places where I exercise my power in the world (where I put my money down) and at home (when and what and how I present our nourishment) and in my body (being playful, open and creative in the kitchen and garden).

I do aim to grow more food and find affordable, cooperative shares and I know every time we move and reestablish our community, natural and human, that it cuts those plans back down to the ground.

Many of you know that the question of where is home pulses steadily in the heartbeat of my marriage. If we stay here in the high dry desert for the long term, there is a way to move into sustainable food habits.  I visit the homes and gardens of people who have lived here long enough to establish good soil, appropriate irrigation, loveliness to behold and baskets full of nourishment. There is a lovely kitchen garden tour each summer, which I attended as one of my first acts of arrival two summers ago and will tour around again to see new homes later this month. So, there is inspiration all around in case we stay, if we choose stay.

At any rate, this is home right now. In the meantime, help me think this through: we could move somewhere with better food growing conditions and put our shoulders into that work (appealing), I can give up the game and shop in bulk from low wage paying, pesticide spraying corporations (which I do in moderation already), we could find another family or two to either cohouse with or at least co-eat with (we would embrace it if the conditions felt right). Am I missing something easy here?

I believe strongly that I am paying forward our health costs by feeding us in this way with love, attention, cooperation and commitment to the joy and health of eating. For the short term though (while I am not drawing a salary, nor successfully producing much food from the earth), it feels hard to stomach the grocery bill each week.

We are taking a baby step cleanse here: ten days without consuming any added sugar in our diet, as per the Fed Up challenge. I miss my mid day chocolate, but other than that I am pleased with my discovery: each time I crave sweetness it is simply a time to make a conscious choice. I am looking forward to seeing the film when it comes out, though I am sure it will appall me.

Wondering… if anyone wants to watch it with me or play with co-nourishing this year? And, what’s on your dinner table and in your snack basket that makes your heart and tongue sing while not breaking the bank?

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