Monday, August 4, 2008

Soul Food

Maria B just sent me an interesting article about how the Slow Food Movement, Organic Farming and Crunchy Conservatives all collide.

I've been all over the map on these types of issues. If my parents could sign up for an "anti-recycling" movement, they would have. I grew up hearing that "composting was for fools" and only idiots restricted their kids access to donuts and Little Debbie treats.

Then at age 14, I moved to an area rich in strip mines. Hearing about how kindergartners choose orange crayons to draw the sea because in their area all the local streams were orange with coal run-off, really freaked me out. As kids in WV "Conservation Camp" we were devastated to learn that WV was too small a population to support aluminum recycling ventures. We couldn't recycle our pop cans at camp even thought we wanted too.

My first two babies were born in the green enclave of Athens, Ohio and Madison, Wisconsin. Both places had a lot of hippie dining establishments. I used to be able to walk up to the nicest organic baby store with Alex on my hip. Some days, when I'm trying to find diaper covers for Maria via on the internet, I rue the day we moved.

But we did move the metro D.C. Our rent is too expensive and our dentist budget is too cheap. I've acquired Whole Food's tastes and I'm working with a Bottom Dollar budget. There are too many choices living in a city, and at the same time, not enough.

The thing that I know now, is that you've got to put your "needs" in the right order. Spiritual needs come before corporal needs. That means you feed the soul first, then the body. It's beautiful every morning that we go as a family to Daily Mass. We eat the Eucharist first, and then feed our bodies at breakfast. On the few nights I get out with Jon, we follow this same pattern. We'll go to adoration first, then we'll go out to eat.

This "right order" is important on so many levels. I think there's a tendency in the green Berkeleyish clan, to make dinner "spiritual." People go crazy in describing the "spiritual" benefits of eating good food. It's important to draw a firm line in the sand with them. The Eucharist is the Eucharist-- and no goat cheese pizza at Whole Foods can compare.

However, at another level, they've got a point. Eating healthy "good" food, makes our bodies feel better.

Jon hung out with a recent immigrant at our church playground. "Indian kids do not act like this," the man said pointing to my son throwing wood chips in the air and running under the falling chips." My husband braced himself for a long lecture about American parenting mistakes. Instead the man kindly asked how much high fructose corn syrup Alex had in his diet. "I don't know?" my husband answered honestly. The immigrant proceeded to explain that Indian kids don't have any such "junk" in their diet. That corn syrup stuff was made up by Americans because sugar has such a high import tax. Now we're the only country in the world drowning all types of food in that toxic stuff.

Five years ago, I would have dismissed such thoughts as foolish. Now that I'm starting to see how much sleep directly influences my toddler's personality, being more concerned about her diet is a bigger factor.

It's all a big balance. Having a spiritual house in order comes at a sacrifice. I'm not working now or plan to ever again. That "lost" paycheck hurts sometimes. There's no vat of "Yo Baby" yogurt in my fridge, at the same time none of my kids spend time in day care.

It's a rough world we live in with so many choices not available to Laura Ingells Wilder. At the same time, there are a lot more foolish choices that she didn't have to entertain either. Laura might have lived her whole life without ever tasting a banana. However, she would have thought it was pretty ridiculous to hear the "family dinner hour" is now endangered.


  1. "I think there's a tendency in the green Berkeleyish clan, to make dinner "spiritual." "

    This reminds me of an article I saw recently on the newsletter (why I still subscribe to that I have no idea, I haven't clicked through to anything in ages... but anyways) where the author was describing proudly how her son (age 5-ish) had never ingested a drop of refined sugar. Not just corn syrup, but *all* sugars! People make virtues out of the weirdest things, now that so many have lost sight of what the real Virtues are.

    I do know what you mean though about trying to figure out how to eat healthily on a very restricted grocery budget. Right now we're not doing the organic/natural stuff, but we are completely avoiding pre-processed "foods", which keeps our consumption of additives and corn syrup to almost nothing. We also limit out meat consumption to once or twice a week, so at least our exposure there is small... although I wish it could be humanely raised meat instead of factory farmed. But things are just too tight now to manage that.

  2. I clicked on your link at the Conversion Diary site, and I've really enjoyed the last few minutes browsing your site.
    My husband and I went to college in a very trendy hippy town (Ashland, Oregon) and we loved to shop at the big whole foods market. Now, living in the midwest with 5 children (and husband) (and dog) we can't afford to buy that quality of food.
    Since moving I have often thought of an aquaintance I had in Oregon who had also committed to raising her children outside of daycare and so, like us, had a lean grocery budget. She made the leap from "regular" food to all organic and I remember her saying that when she thought about it, the body is a temple and it seemed to her a matter of stewardship.
    I admit to being prone to temple desecration by way of chocolate chip cookies etc. But I thought it was a beautiful and relevant thought. Certainly something to ponder.