Monday, December 11, 2006

Baby steps

When I hit Publish on Saturday, I was a bit embarrassed about sharing part of my existential crisis. But between the supportive comments I got and a few deep breaths, I'm starting to figure out what I need to do to get a handle on that particular source of angst--and I won't get into the other stuff now.

Not that any of this is novel or particularly earth-shattering, but here are some of the thoughts that are helping me move forward.

1) I can't do it all. I simply cannot solve all problems on my own. But it is also not my burden to take care of everything.

2) The most important thing is that I do something. It will not be the solution, but every little action makes a difference.

3) I should pick those things that speak most clearly to me on a personal level. Because I am truly passionate about environmental and animal issues, those are the ones that I should pursue the most; I will find it easiest to keep up what I start. It does not mean that I don't care about homelessness or HIV/AIDS or that I won't take action, but see #1.

That said, I've decided to start with a few small, but concrete, actions that are inspired by some of my greater concerns. The following list focuses on the tie between food and the environment. It was Andrea's post that made me really think again about the relationships between different levels of the food chain. And then I went back to my copy of Diet for a Small Planet and found one of the statistics I'd vaguely remembered: to get 1 pound of beef, it takes about 16 pounds of grain and soybeans. That's 15 additional pounds of food, much of it a good source of protein, that could be feeding so many more. On top of that, producing beef requires huge additional amounts of water and fossil fuels beyond what crops take.

When I became a vegetarian at 18 (long story short--I had wanted to become one for many years. My parents wouldn't allow me to quit eating meat while I lived at home; I, and I'm not kidding here, was the kind of kid who didn't even think about just refusing to eat it), there was not just one reason for my decision. I have always loved animals and had cried the first time I fully realized that lamb really was a lamb (and started to put together all the food names with their counterparts). As a young child, I came up with the dream of living on forested land where I would keep all sorts of animals, with the provision that I would teach the predators not to eat other animals. I came to understand that this was an unrealistic expectation, but I then wondered why people couldn't do this since we can make choices about what we eat. Later came the recognition of the extra burden placed on land for raising food animals, the generally poor treatment of said animals, and the health benefits of eating less animal fat.

I faltered with the vegetarian diet at about 8-10 weeks into my pregnancy when my body started screaming out for meat. I stuck with it into breastfeeding because my body was running through calories even faster than when I had been pregnant. I tried for a short time to go back to a vegetarian diet, but found it too difficult for a number of reasons, including a health problem that was making it hard for me to keep my blood sugar up. Now Trillian is not a vegetarian and could never switch to a fully vegetarian diet because of her own health issue (nothing major, but soy is actually something she has to limit), so I don't know that I'll go back to my original diet since I don't want to juggle multiple meals for the family.

An added dimension of my concern now is the quality of food: pesticides, artificial ingredients, filler like high fructose corn syrup, all the things that make the nutritional value of some foods questionable.

So here are my starting points on this issue:

A) I will eat at least 4 meatless meals (lunches and dinners) a week. It's time to pull out some of my old favorites and pick out some new experiments.

B) I will experiment with recipes for homemade chicken nuggets, using organic chicken. My son's two favorite forms of protein are veggie dogs and chicken nuggets, but only very specific chicken nuggets that come from mainstream brands. We've tried several different types made with organic chicken, but Scooter hates the breading on all of them. I have a chicken strip recipe, so I will mess with that to see if I can get the breading to his liking.

C) I will bake more often. Most of my plans to overhaul our eating involve doing away with all sweets. But if I want to create a plan that we will actually follow, I need to recognize the things we're just not going to give up. Cookies are on that list. But if I make a batch every couple weeks, freezing most of them so that we don't eat too many at a time, we will always have delicious cookies made from mostly organic ingredients so that we're not tempted to go buy a bag that is full of chemicals, creates extra landfill material with its packaging, and has had to travel a long distance to get to us (additional reasons I could add to B).

All three are fairly painless and even tap into things I like. None of them are huge actions, but it's a start.

6 comments:

cinnamon gurl said...

Great ideas. I would love to bake more cookies, because you can pack them full of pretty healthy stuff AND chocolate chips.

My partner is vegetarian, so it makes it really easy for us to eat meatless meals at home. But when we go out, especially to an Indian restaurant, I always want the butter chicken. I don't think I'll ever be able to give that up.

NotSoSage said...

Mouse,

I've been going through so many of the same things that you've written about in your last two posts. We are trying to limit meat (eating meat again after close to 10 years of being veg) and we'd ideally like to make meat, even when it's on our plates, a side dish rather than a main course. I've been baking more often and we're visiting local markets, too.

That said, there's a reason why supermarkets and packaged food exist and that is convenience and it's so easy to fall prey to that (especially when you're a new parent!).

That's what I love about this whole idea of Mad & Jen's...if nothing else, it spurs all of us into action, even if only for a short while; and the activity may sustain itself for even longer.

Good luck!

Mad Hatter said...

These sound like reasonable steps to me. I am a vegetarian but lately I've been thinking about buying a bit of organic free range chicken simply so that my daughter doesn't rely too heavily on veggie dogs. It's amazing how the kids are drawn to packaged, processed foods, eh? She simply turns her nose up at my home made curries and stews. Thankfully she loves plain, cold, uncooked tofu but how long can that last?

Keep us all posted as to your progress. Last night I told my husband about my commitment to take a hamper to the food bank once a month this year. I told him that he had to help keep me honest lest I become lax once the momentum of this wedding dies down.

Mad Hatter said...

These sound like reasonable steps to me. I am a vegetarian but lately I've been thinking about buying a bit of organic free range chicken simply so that my daughter doesn't rely too heavily on veggie dogs. It's amazing how the kids are drawn to packaged, processed foods, eh? She simply turns her nose up at my home made curries and stews. Thankfully she loves plain, cold, uncooked tofu but how long can that last?

Keep us all posted as to your progress. Last night I told my husband about my commitment to take a hamper to the food bank once a month this year. I told him that he had to help keep me honest lest I become lax once the momentum of this wedding dies down.

Her Bad Mother said...

Baby steps. I'm going to adopt this (belatedly) as a mantra.

(PS - please give Trillian a hug from me, sympathies for her grandmother. And a hug for you too, for being you. xoxo)

jen said...

it is SO a start. and i love the mindfulness you are showing.

it's inspiring. baby steps, indeed. they get us somewhere in the end.