Quitting... But Not Cold Turkey

I’ve been making little changes here and there day by day, but now I feel it’s time to make a big change. And for me the big change is going to be in the way I eat, because quite simply, I love food.

I love to cook and I love to eat, I love to share food and photograph food. But it has recently come to my attention that there’s more to it than that. Where does the food come from, who grows it? How does that affect my body, my well-being? And why do carrots from my friend’s garden taste exponentially better than the bagged ones at the grocery store?

OK, so the natural food movement is nothing new. It’s been picking up speed for several years. Then why didn’t I make this decision sooner? Probably for the same reason so many consumers continue their old habits despite the fact that groups and individuals across the country are promoting what they call “real food.”

Here are my reasons, although they might be more accurately described as old perceptions, that organic/local/sustainable food is:

  • Expensive: Compare the organic and regular sections of your local grocery store.
  • Not as convenient: Supermarkets and gas-station groceries are everywhere, it seems.
  • Elitist and trendy: Unreasonable though it sounds, I must admit that the thought has at times figured into my thinking. And it’s true that being green, sustainable, natural, eco whatever—it’s hardly just a lifestyle. There are places where it has become a look or an attitude that whole sub-cultures adopt, and some of us might feel like we don’t fit in, or that we will be judged. The other side is that you don’t want to be perceived as snooty by friends who still eat anything and everything.

There’s some truth in these misgivings, but in the end it’s just a big excuse. At some point I realized that eating healthy and supporting environmentally and socially friendly methods of food production is something I value more than convenience and low prices. So what if I have to pay a little bit more or go a little out of my way? And maybe I won’t even have to… because I’ve got a suspicion that if you know where and when to look, organic food can be cheap too.

So, I’m starting off with the idea… no, the belief… that food can be all at once delicious, healthy, and affordable. I mean healthy in the minimally processed, as-natural-as-possible kind of way and I mean delicious in the easy-from-scratch cook-at-home meals kind of way. I’ve got a good start with many years experience cooking delicious meals on a budget. What I’m aiming to do is add organic and local to the equation, educating myself (and readers) along the way.

Here’s where I stand in October:

  • Working part time, on the prowl for another job.
  • Using allocated food stamp budget to feed myself and my boyfriend.
  • Switching over to a mostly organic and local diet, but still using up most of the food we have around here that doesn’t fall in either category. Until it’s gone. Because we don’t like to waste.

However, I will say that we took all boxes of mac n’ cheese, brownie mix, and Pasta-Roni to the food bank, and I dumped out a half-empty bottle of Mrs. Butterworths that was composed almost entirely of high fructose corn syrup.

I’m no expert on deciphering food labels, but I have to draw the line at the obvious stuff.

If it sounds like it was made in a laboratory, that can’t be a good sign… I mean, you are what you eat, right? I feel better when I recognize the contents of my food.

The new bottle of natural maple syrup in my cupboard was a bit of a splurge, but it’s a reminder of little sacrifices made for rewards of quality and clean conscience, which makes the savoring of these things that much sweeter.


About Kate Hilmer

Kate Hilmer learned to cook at home as a kid, but fell in love with food while working at various bakeries and coffee shops throughout college. She graduated in 2010 with a bachelors in fine art and spent six months in a teaching internship abroad before returning to Montana to pursue food and art as a career.

She lives with her boyfriend in Missoula, Montana, where they eat really well despite their limited income and tiny kitchen.

Visit her blog for more food photos and writings on other things, from travel to knitting to general silliness.