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 didn’t’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. It’s now been several years, and we still don’t know exactly what the issue is. It’s an auto-immune disease. But it’s not lupus or Addison’s, nor any of a bunch of thing I’d never heard of. My white cells kill each other when they get excited, 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.
When I began this blog, my wife and I both taught at a boarding school. We would work 7 days a week, and 12-16 hour days were commonplace. We also run a small organic market farm and CSA, mostly veggies, but also some fruits, nuts, bees, herbs, lamb, a few flowers, alpacas, geese, ducks… We’re quite diversified.
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 got 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…
There’s was a disconnect. Despite my love of cooking, we had fallen into the habit of eating in the dining hall for most lunches and dinners over 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 looked at the prospect of having to prepare 21 meals a week, plus finding a 2 hour chunk somewhere to get to the grocery, it’ was overwhelming. “What should we have for dinner tonight?” “Can I prepare it fast?” “Will there be enough leftovers for lunch?” “Pasta again?!” were constant refrains in my head.
Which finally puts us at why I started this blog. I needed to do some meal planning. I used 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 needed most was to answer those constant questions about what to make ahead of time, so I could maximize time, keep a good variety of food, and manage costs of it effectively. And I needed accountability.
Thus, my initial goal was to post a menu every week, then do my best to stick to that menu, while eliciting ideas and encouragement from the community. It worked, for a couple of years. But, things changed.
I really missed cooking improvisationally and seasonally. And, my life situation changed. I never had the time or support to process what the autoimmune situation meant for my life and career. Additionally, as a band director subjected to dangerous sound levels all day every day, my hearing was deteriorating faster than I realized. Both conspired to create a situation where I wasn’t really able to be effective in my job. So, I lost the job.
Now, I farm and bake bread full time. It still means long hours every day of the week. But I’m also surrounded by food and foodies constantly. The purpose of the blog has shifted quite a bit, more to focus on local, seasonal eating, to encourage me to create new recipes, to share them with fellow foodies, and to promote local seasonal eating for others.
Follow along. Join in. It should be interesting!