Saturday, August 25, 2012

Seven ~ Food Month ~ Part Three ~ Hot Water And Preoccupation

After the initial days of no morning coffee and the tell tale headaches were past, I realized that I missed the sheer pleasure of having something hot to drink and I did something I thought I would never do. And no, I didn’t cheat!

I remember years ago, a housekeeping client (and dear friend) had her mom visiting from out of town and she had a custom of drinking plain hot water. I thought that was kind of weird at the time, but now I understand the beauty and simplicity of her choice of beverage. Even now that our Seven food fast is over, I have made a cup of hot H2O a part of my morning ritual (if it’s chilly). I find it very comforting somehow. It’s okay if you think that’s strange, bizarre or quirky. I understand. You might want to try it sometime though. It might surprise you too.

One of the aspects of food month that I didn’t like was the reality of how food conscious I had become. I was consumed with making sure I had all my foods cooked and available and my thoughts seemed to constantly be wrapped around my next meal. I hated being so food focused! One day I was taking an afternoon walk and was talking to God. I remember being in mid-sentence and drifting to thoughts of how I was going to prepare my potato that night. It was pathetic!  About midway through the month, routine settled in and normalcy returned. I was greatly relieved! 

I was thankful that I was able to eat at home so often, because eating out presented it’s own unique share of challenges with such a limited list of food options.  

I did enjoy two “oasis days” during food month. This was a term coined by the author to describe days we were guests in someone’s home. On Mother’s Day and at an early June wedding, I thoroughly enjoyed whatever was offered to me. Although, I said no thank you to my sister’s dessert and brought my slice of wedding cake home to enjoy a few days later when food month was over.   

A few things that have stayed with me since the completion of food month are the awareness of how blessed I am and how much I take for granted. It never felt sacrificial to intentionally limit my food choices, because I still had an abundant supply of my seven foods and the convenience to easily prepare them. 

During that month, I started thinking about what it must be like not to have the luxury of refrigeration and how hard it would be to have to prepare and cook for every meal. I thought about people who only have rice or beans and are so thankful that they have them. I tried to put myself in the place of someone from a third world country, coming to America and going to a grocery store for the first time. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it would be. I wonder how it would affect me to see all our choices through the eyes of that perspective. Surely, anyone who has gone through the adoption process  has witnessed this through the eyes of their child, the first time they are exposed to that experience. 

I'm still processing my journey through "Food Month" and will share more next time. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seven "Food Month" ~ Part Two ~ Goodbye To Processed Food And The Salt Shaker

Getting Better At This Bread Baking Adventure
Thanks to my positive experience during our “Food Month” experiment, I decided to eliminate processed foods from my diet (at home) as much as possible, in favor of making whole food choices instead. After I consume the processed foods in my pantry, I hope I won’t be tempted to replace them. This too is an experiment, as I venture to adopt this new lifestyle, now that “Food Month” is behind me.

Recently, I decided to pull out my bread machine and I’m experimenting with making my own bread again. I was a bread baker many years ago in my hippie/pioneer days when Sarah was very young. I made my whole wheat bread from scratch, once a week by hand, and would make six loaves at a time. This was short-lived however, since Sarah and her dad only enjoyed eating it on baking day and weren’t interested in it, once it lived in the freezer for a few days.

My first attempt to make 100% whole wheat bread in the bread machine was a disappointing flop with a happy ending. I had taken a chance and used the yeast I had on hand that was two months past expiration. Thankfully, I was keeping an eye on the dough-making process and noticed that the dough had failed to rise. I rescued it from the pending baking cycle and tried an idea to recycle the dough. I cut it into 12 parts, flattened and rolled out each ball as thinly as possible and baked them individually in a dry, cast-iron fry pan on top of the stove. I was thrilled with the outcome! The resulting finished product was similar to a pita bread without the pocket and was very tasty.

My first several bread-making attempts since the flat bread have been less than desirable, making a very short, dry, dense loaf. Since then, my efforts have been much more rewarding as I experiment with different recipes. Now, I let the bread machine do the kneading and I shape the loaf, let it rise in my bread pan and bake in my oven. I like the traditional shape and size much better than the bread machine loaf and I’m enjoying being a bread baker again. I’m looking forward to experimenting with lots of recipes this autumn and winter.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the month long discipline of eating so healthfully and found out that I missed very little of my normal diet. I also had the bonus of losing seven pounds and that got me to my ideal weight again. Since weight loss wasn't a goal or motive, we were permitted to eat however much we wanted of our choices. (Going forward; having homemade bread around all the time, I'll need to be careful if I want to keep off that seven pound winter coat). I was surprised that I ate less and never felt hungry. What’s not to love about that?

The only thing I really missed at first was mayonnaise, but soon enough, I started enjoying all the subtle flavors and decided to challenge myself a little more. I gave up my love affair with the salt shaker, just to see what it would be like. So, I have adopted a post Seven habit of no added salt at the table and now I don’t miss it hardly at all. I never thought I would be able to enjoy foods like eggs or popcorn without it, but I was wrong.

I felt more energetic and better than I had in years. I suppose the no sugar component had a lot to do with that. And I’m certain that all the sunshine helped boost my energy level as I worked the soil and planted my gardens in preparation for “Waste Month”.

In my last post, I listed the foods that comprised our menu for a month. If you were to try this experiment, what seven foods do you think you would choose? I’m curious. More about “Food Month” next time.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Seven ~ Food Month ~ Part One

This is what we chose to eat for a month

It's been a month since I last posted here. My life has been filled with summertime responsibilities and projects, mostly inspired by the Seven Experiment I've been involved in since early May. And I'm happy to report; it's been a really good summer, as I thank God for the healing that has taken place in this, my favorite season of the year!
In my last post I shared about a quest I'm on with my daughter, Sarah, son-in-law, Bob and Sarah's small group Bible study gals, based on a book titled: Seven. An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.
On May 7th, we set out to face the excess in our lives in the area of food. As we prepared for launching out into our own version of the Seven experiment, I don’t think any of us realized how consuming this commitment would be. Although there were many options for the way it could be approached, we decided to follow in Jen Hatmaker’s (the author of Seven) footsteps and chose only seven foods we would eat for a month. For most of us, our only beverage would be water.
Our food list included:
Apples (only Gala or Granny Smith, as simplicity and narrowed choices were part of the goal)
Cheese (Mozzarella or Cheddar)
Whole Wheat bread (any type)
We also allowed: salt, pepper and a small amount of olive oil.
We choose these in the hope that they would provide the most nutrients and versatility. It didn’t take long for me to recognize how much I take for granted on a daily basis.
Our menu for food month required more planning and patience (compared to our normal menus), unless we were content to eat apples and cheese sandwiches most of the time. It meant more cooking, especially at breakfast time and of course it meant eliminating coffee, so several of us (myself included) had the classic caffeine headache for a few days.
We got into the habit of cooking ahead, trying to have chicken, potatoes and hard boiled eggs prepared at all times. When we are used to the convenience of our normally available multitude of options, this change of lifestyle felt all consuming. We became very creative with our limited choices and made it a challenge to see how many different options we could think of, to keep our meals interesting and not burn out in the process. I kept a menu journal so i could look back and remember these challenging days.
It certainly made grocery shopping easier and I quickly grew to love the “back to basics” philosophy. One of the facets that Jen shined a light on was the importance of eating whole foods instead of the processed foods we have become accustomed to. I have always been pretty concerned about what I eat, but this process has kindled a new desire to abstain from processed food whenever possible. I'm committed to making some healthier long-term changes as we go through this process. Thanks to the inspiration I acquired from Jen, I have taken up bread baking as part of my lifestyle. More about that on my next entry about Seven’s food month.