You know who Jamie Oliver is, right?
Of course you do.
He started this thing, recently – well, not so recently I guess. It started with a television show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he came into American schools and attempted to get them to feed our kids better stuff. Now it’s at a new level – today, May 19, is Food Revolution Day.
I’m going to admit that I was excited to see that this was a “thing.” I’ve been trying to eat more fresh foods and more organic and more locally grown for awhile, but just didn’t have much of a grasp on it. Often times I found that those sorts of things were “too expensive” compared to “normal stuff.” It’s cheaper to buy ramen than it is to make your own pasta. That sort of thing.
So here’s something you may not know about me: I love documentaries. Love them. I like to watch them while I work, and over the past few months I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every single food-related documentary that Netflix can throw at me. And all of them said the same thing:
What we are eating is not food.
Let’s flash back a little bit. When I lived on the island, I ate a lot of Local and Fresh. I remember going to the local vegetable stand with my mom as a kid to get the veggies we would need for the week, I remember going to pick fresh strawberries. I’ve killed my own meal, pulling the fish out of the ocean and then watching my dad cook it up within hours. I worked at a restaurant that grew lots of it’s own vegetables and herbs out back. I ate fresh.
I was also slender, fit, and healthy.
Since moving up north, a lot of that has changed. I no longer need to ride my bicycle everywhere, so I drive. We have fast food restaurants and fresh fish is too hard to find and we certainly don’t have room for a garden. And I’m feeling it. I’ve gained weight, I’m sick more often, and climbing on my bicyle feels more like a chore than a reward. That isn’t how it should be.
So after watching documentary after documentary and feeling sicker and sicker all the time, knowing something had to change, I made two pledges: one, now that I’m working full time as a freelancer, I’m going to spend more time cooking. Cooking real food. No more frozen pizzas, I’m going to make my own pizza. No more hamburger helper, I’m going to cook up my own stuff.
Two, I am going to try buying more “real” food. Fresh food. Local food.
A few weeks ago, the Janesville Farmer’s Market had it’s first day of the season. And I went.
I bought asparagus first – it was big and looked so delicious, unlike the shriveled stalks at the grocery store. I bought mushrooms, fat and bright and white and they looked so good that I ate one right out of the box without cooking it. Then two more. They were amazing. A bag of spinach that I did the same thing with – ate it straight out of the bag. Like candy. I found freshly made donuts made with all local ingredients. The best donuts I’ve ever eaten.
And then I found beef.
It was by accident, a woman near me was asking for steak while I was looking at honey at the same booth. I didn’t realize they’d had ground beef, but I wanted to try it. The man sold me a pound for $6.00 – twice what we pay at Walmart – and suggested we throw a little olive oil in the pan while we cook it.
It sat in our freezer for about a week. We had other things to make, had fast food, other frozen meats from the grocery store, we just didn’t get around to it. A few days ago, we thawed it out and cooked it up.
Before we put seasoning in it to make tacos, Nick and I each tried a bite. Unseasoned, no-additives, just a half a teaspoon of olive oil to help it cook up. We both had the same reaction:
“When did I forget what beef tasted like?”
That was the eye-opening moment for me. You hear all these stories of “pink slime” in beef and watch the documentaries of all the awful things that go on at factory farms, but you don’t really think it could happen to you. You don’t really think about it. You just go to the store, you buy your meat, and you come home and cook it under a heavy helping of salt and pepper, and that’s life. You don’t need to know anything different.
I love couponing. I love saving money. But I also love being healthy, and I miss what it felt like to wake up early in the morning and ride my bike for an hour then go for a swim. I don’t want to do that anymore, and it hurts. I don’t eat fresh food. It’s taking a toll.
I’m still going to be a couponer. You can’t coupon for fresh fruits and vegetables anyway, but you can use them to get things like pasta, condiments, seasoning, whatever. Sure, some of those things might not be completely 100% super organic, but you know what? I can eat comfortably knowing that at the core of my meal is real food.
I bought three pounds of beef at the same stall at the farmer’s market today. Next week, I’ll probably buy more. Hear me now – I will never buy beef at the grocery store again. Sure, it cost me near about $20 for three things of beef – but that beef was some of the greatest I’ve ever tasted, and maybe, just maybe, if we stop buying the crap and start buying the real stuff, the grocery stores will wake up again.
I’m happy to back Food Revolution Day. I want real food on my table, and I don’t care who knows it.