Why?

So, why am I doing this blog?  Why am I trying to eat everything organic and not processed?  What’s the big deal?

After many years of having an inexplicable, but stable and seemingly inconsequential, slightly low white blood cell count, in February and March of 2017, I suddenly had weeks of overlapping illnesses: a flu that wasn’t part of the flu shot, a norovirus, pneumonia, bronchitis, upper respiratory infection, sinus infection, all overlapping each other.  I was miserable.  And, my white blood cell count was now critically low.

A referral to a hematology oncologist, a bone marrow biopsy, an ultrasound of my liver, spleen, and kidneys, and dozens of additional blood tests later, and I still don’t know what’s up.  It’s not leukemia, or some other bone or blood cancer.  My bone marrow is working fine, producing all the right cells, and all healthy at that.  Seems to be an auto-immune disease.  But it’s not lupus or Addison’s, nor any of a bunch of thing I’ve never heard of.  My white cells are killing each other, and there seems to be no way of knowing (or treating) why.

Avoidance of the cause (likely an environmental irritant/allergen) is probably the best bet, even though we don’t know what it is.  The doctor recommends eating only organic food, and to eat no processed food (even if organic), and filtering all of our water.

Now, let’s take a step back and look at our situation outside of this thing.  My wife and I both teach at a boarding school.  We often work 7 days a week, and 12-16 hour days are commonplace.  We also run a small organic market farm and CSA, mostly veggies, but also some fruits, nuts, bees, herbs, a few flowers, alpacas, geese, ducks…  We’re fairly diversified.  But we don’t produce much in the winter: it’s possible here in Northern Indiana, but I just don’t have the time during the school year around other duties.

Our farm is really the only place in our immediate area to get organic food.  We live in-between two tiny towns, and the one we work in does have a shop that sells food.  It’s more than a convenience store, but less than a supermarket.  But it’s produce section is awful, and it offers very little in the way of organic options.  And its prices are higher than Whole Foods (we can get to one of those in about an hour and 10 minutes…).  We have two choices of grocery stores – 45 minutes away in opposite directions.

I love to cook.  But we also get free meals in the dining hall at school as one of our benefits.  When it’s 6:30 pm, you arrived on campus at 7:00 am, you ate lunch at 11:00 am, you’re teaching until 9:45 pm, and the pantry is somewhat bare at home (15 minutes away), going to the dining hall where there’s yummy food, already prepared, for free is difficult to avoid.

And, of course, when I cook, I tend to do everything from scratch.  As in, grind the wheat (that I grew) into flour to bake the bread, capture yeast for the sourdough starter for it off of blueberries, bake it all in the oven of the wood burning stove, with wood I cut, split, and stacked myself…

Thus, there’s a disconnect.   Despite my love of cooking, we have fallen into the habit of eating in the dining hall for most lunches and dinners over the past 5 or 6 years, at least 10 months of the year (and in the summer, it’s mostly snacking out of the garden while working it).

So, when I look at the prospect of having to prepare 21 meals a week, plus finding a 2 hour chunk somewhere to get to the grocery, it’s somewhat overwhelming.  “What should we have for dinner tonight?”  “Can I prepare it fast?”  “Will there be enough leftovers for lunch?” “Pasta again?!” are refrains in my head more frequently than I have mental space for.

Which finally puts us at why this blog.  I need to do some meal planning.  I will probably need to use most of the “tricks:” re-working leftovers, freezing cooked and ready-to-cook meals, prepping ahead of time for a week.  But, I think, the thing I need most is to answer those constant questions about what to make ahead of time, so I can maximize time, keep a good variety of food, and manage costs of it effectively.  And I need accountability.

Thus, my goal is to post a menu every week, then do my best to stick to that menu.  I may not be able to come up with a 21 meal plan all the time (especially at first) as I work out my flow.  But it will at least be an improvement.  So, keep me accountable to post my menus.  Give me ideas and tips.  It should be fun…