On Becoming Crunchy

On a scale of compost to kefir, my crunchy level falls at about a 5.

On the one hand, I don’t really know anything different.  My family was crunchy before being crunchy was a “thing”.  We were homeschooled, ate food cooked from scratch, “wore” the baby in some sort of sling/wrap and had a compost pile in the backyard.

It wasn’t a fad for us.  It wasn’t an environmental cause.  It was normal life in a big family.

I remember my favorite part about spending the night with my friends was all of the packaged food we’d get to eat.  They had toaster strudels, lunchables, happy meals, frozen things, oh my!  It was a veritable treasure trove of deliciousness!  Or so my 10-year old taste buds thought…  I looked forward to being an adult and getting to buy all of those things at the grocery store.  Until, of course, I arrived at adulthood and to my disappointment discovered that not only do packaged things not taste very good when you’ve always had home cooked food, they’re ridiculously expensive!  I suppose the price is to be expected when you consider all of the chemicals required to make that stuff though.  Darn you budgets and your dashing of dreams!

I guess you could say my journey to crunchy started with a food intolerance.  I L.O.V.E. dairy products.  If I could eat them, I would live on milk and cheese.  Seriously.  So much goodness.  Unfortunately, my tummy doesn’t agree with my taste buds (sad face).  My issues with dairy products began when I was around 10 years old and steadily got worse until, at the age of 14, the pain outweighed the enjoyment.  It was no longer worth the agony to have that slice of cheesy pizza, even as it taunted me from the dinner table.

There was but one path left.  I became an OLR.

In case you don’t know what that is, it’s an acronym I just made up for “Obsessive-Label-Reader”.  (If you’re not an OLR, turn away now, lest you be ruined for life.  Once you begin reading labels, there’s no going back. 😉 )You would be amazed at the many names that dairy products can hide under.  It’s in everything.  Almost as much as gluten or wheat is in everything.  I became quite skilled in reading and understanding all of the different names for some of the most common allergens and found a way to eat most of the things I enjoyed with substitutes or cooked from scratch.  I still was determined to eat as many convenience and packaged foods as I could though; after all, if they were FDA approved, they must be okay for you, right?  And talk about the time savings!

Of course, being an OLR and a curious person, I began to wonder what all of these other strange ingredients were.  I think BHA and BHT were my breaking point.  Seeing as we live in the age of technology where information is always at your fingertips, I opened up my handy dandy phone app whilst grocery shopping one evening to discover what these two mystery ingredients on my prepackaged sausage were.

Here’s what AdditiveWarning had to say about Butylated hydroxy-anisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxy-toluene (BHT): “A petroleum derivative, retards spoilage due to oxidation…May provoke an allergic reaction in some people and may trigger hyperactivity and other intolerance reactions.  There are serious concerns over carcinogenicity and estrogenic effects and in large doses caused tumors in laboratory animals.  It was banned in Japan in 1958, and it was recommended that it be banned in the UK, however, due to industry pressure it was not.  McDonald’s eliminated BHT from their US products by 1986…”

Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but something about McDonald’s not even being willing to use it makes me a little wary – that, or the petroleum derivative part.  Either way, I knew my love affair with processed foods was coming to an end.

With a reluctant sigh mixed with an ever-so-slight bit of anticipation, I took the plunge [back] into real food; cooking as much as I could from scratch.  I have never been more grateful that my mom taught me how to read a recipe and how to cook.  I always love a good challenge, and finding ways to make yummy foods without all the nasty ingredients has been a grand adventure.

I think a lot “crunchies” start down the au naturel path after learning about food.  I know for us, food was just step one.  My latest research project and challenge is household items and beauty products – not because I am completely dead-set against the store bought stuff [yet], but because I think it’s fun to make things on my own.

Am I a total hippy now?  Not completely.  I’ve had fast food more than once in the last few weeks and even fed my baby a french fry!  I still enjoy many of the conveniences that modern stores and technology have to offer.  I will not relinquish my Oxy-Clean no matter how many natural-stain-removal-for-baby-poop products you throw at me.  We’re bffs and neither I, nor my wallet, are ready to end that relationship.

The point of this post?  I’m in a journey.  We’re all in a journey.  “Becoming Crunchy” for me means that I take a step back from “this is the way it is done” and ask the questions “why?” and “is it the best for my family right now?”  Sometimes, the best for my family is shopping at Wal-Mart (insert crunchy gasp here).  Sometimes the best for my family is growing my own herbs and making my own shampoo.

Now, don’t worry friends.  I’m not ready to trade my bathroom for a hole in the ground and my toilet paper for a corn husk; but I am ready to look at life differently.  I am okay with (respectfully) questioning the opinions of the “experts” and making the best and most informed decisions I can, for the sake of my family.  And who knows where we’ll be 5 or 10 years from now?  If you hear a story about a family that lives off the land on the side of a mountain, but has cutting edge indoor plumbing, well, stop in and say hi.  We’ll pitch a tent for you and serve up the finest of Dr. Pepper’s. 😉

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