just plain, good food — hard to find, much easier to do

Thought I’d add a quick note about why I’m trying to cook and eat without added stuff in my food…and why I’m blogging about it.

My purpose in blogging about this is mainly to make the best use of the Internet — sharing information.  In this case, experiential information.  Others out there may be thinking that all the junk that finds its way into our food isn’t so good for us for one reason or another.  Sharing the experience will help all of us in creating a life without additives, and the methods and resources to do so.

I have a long history of food sensitivities, so modifying foods and doing without have become common for me.  I have avoided (most) milk products (cheese, yogurt) since I was 17, and my son appears to be very sensitive to milk as well.  So much so, that I began avoiding all forms of milk while he was breastfeeding:  butter, goat’s milk, probiotics (seems it is a problem for him, often there is a milk component to the culture medium), whey, milk starter cultures (as found in prepared meats), and a bunch of other milk derivatives found in packaged foods and fast foods the world over.

As he is also allergic to soy and its derivatives, which is also prolific in pre-prepared foods, a few weeks before starting this blog we admitted to the fact that we couldn’t eat anywhere outside the home without risking about a week of misery for all of us.  (He gets very upset when he’s not feeling well!)  We started buying really expensive, natural sodas every once in a while for a treat, like root beer.  My son and I both reacted to these, yet they contained none of the usual suspects.  Earlier that week we had also reacted to a soup we had made with organic beef broth.  The common ingredient?  Caramel color!  Apparently caramel color is often made with milk (makes sense when you think about it).  Probably a miniscule amount of milk, but enough to produce misery, so definitely worth avoiding.

Still not quite symptom free after this, though with much fewer days of misery, I discovered another common thread among the foods that started giving me trouble (including that caramel color) — sulfites and sulfur!  It’s not just what is added to wine — turns out this lovely collection of chemicals shows up as a component in many additives and even chemical pasteurization!   The alternative foods out there — gluten free products, for example — have more additives in order to make it “act,” look, feel, and taste like the original.  I decided to just cut out processed foods out of our diet, cook with actual food in pure form, and see where that gets us.

Since that time I have looked into various sorts of “diets” that aim to avoid different components of foods — from foods with high sulfur content, to Paleo, Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), FODMAPS, and IBS diet based on soluble fiber.   There are many similarities between these various diets, with a few key differences.  We haven’t hit the jackpot yet.

I must admit, I’m using all “you” out there as my vehicle for catharsis.  I’ve tried to do food diaries to connect my son’s, recently my daughter’s, and my apparent allergies with the foods that we eat.  I fail pretty terribly at food diaries.  Blame it on years of training in anthropology — I respond well to a narrative, holistic form of data collection.  As I talk about my experience of cooking and eating, the connections will become apparent.

My name is Heather, and I have a husband “C,” son “T,” and daughter “L.”  Residing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I am a nurse, I have studied anthropology and public health officially, and unofficially just about everything else.  All of these pursuits have a hand in convincing me that the food we have allowed to exist in our country (and much of the world) is not doing us any favors.  I’ve visited 7 different countries and only 10 US states.  Just another tidbit.

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