If you’ve read the story about the start of my journey, then you know it began with a diagnosis of a food allergy. But I could have yielded to this knowledge, and simply changed my buying habits. The metamorphosis that has had me in its grip for the past while could have ended with reading labels and buying soy milk. And for many others like us, this is probably the way it goes.
My son’s allergies came with side effects that felt a little punitive to me: the costs of formula and medicines, my time invested in grocery aisles reading labels, the embarrassment/guilt/awkwardness that was caused to me and others whenever I had to ask for special concessions or forbid the gift of a treat. And so the original goad for change at the beginning was anger. I had a lot of it, and it was looking for a focus.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. No matter how much you learn, the first thing you come to understand is how much there is that you don’t know. With a lot of reading and a little imagination, it’s not difficult to extrapolate that there’s a lot that most people don’t know about food, and the environment, and even ourselves. Bees have been dying for decades, and science still is unsure why. Food allergies are becoming incredibly common, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the causes and correct methods of treatment. The weather has been intense, and food prices are skyrocketing. There’s still debate about whether climate change is even happening! There’s a lot of people saying that, within the lifetime of my child–maybe even in my own lifetime–we may be facing mass extinctions of plants and animals that we take for granted, destruction of whole ecosystems, starvation and grave trouble for all of us.
It’s interesting to read about the house of cards that society has formed for itself. It’s almost like an inverted pyramid. A vast majority of us stand on the shoulders of strangers, having the most basic of services split from us and rendered to us instead by faceless corporations and a few employees. My food all came from the store or from restaurants. I knew virtually nothing of the huge industries that produced what I ate. We are almost completely dependent on a structure that most of us cannot see, and, as none of us can get away from the necessity of food, I realized that the commercial food industry had complete control over me.
So the second impetus for change was a kind of self-defense. Hey, at heart, I’m a bit of a control freak.
Anger and fear are powerful tools of change, and most people are familiar with them. Most people don’t alter the courses of their lives by sheer will alone, they are usually forced from their ruts by obstacles or threats. Like a river forced from its old bed by rockfall, I have been meandering in search of a new channel.
It’s not an easy transition, and I won’t claim that McDonald’s never creeps its way back into my household, but in many ways, it’s easier to embrace the change than I would have believed. I never thought I would have been a gardener, and yet every morning I’m out there checking out my plants before I sit down for breakfast with my family. My small, urban container garden has become a tranquil space where I seek refuge with a book.
The kitchen has always been the heart of my household, which is perhaps why it can never stay clean for longer than 5 minutes. It was mostly a mealtime thing. Now, I’m no longer alone there while I’m experimenting at the stove, either. My son knows he’s more likely to get my beaters if he’s hanging around emptying my dishwasher, and there are other taste-testing “bonuses” which he and my friends have been enthusiastically assisting with. The creation of these recipes has been a source of reconnection with family members and new connections with strangers and acquaintances who are overjoyed to discuss the finer points of cooking with herbs or share funny and educational disasters, like making homemade bagels at a mile-high in elevation.
I hope during this journey, if nothing else, I can share my experience with a few of you that sometimes making the time to create things from scratch is more rewarding than you ever imagined possible. There will never be a Febreeze substitute for making your home smell of apple cider, chocolate and spice, or warm bread.