Sunday, January 25, 2015

Clean Eating is a Dirty Word

I dusted off the suitcase for a trip to warm and sunny Austin, Texas.  Leaving the farm and the kids behind to spend two days learning about how to better engage consumers about the food coming from farms.  The chance to get-away and learn something new has a narrow lead on my feelings of guilt and anxiety about leaving the crew behind.

Speaking of consumers, the latest buzz word among food-savvy folks is clean eating.  It’s the trendy way to say you’re choosing less processed, reduced salt and sugar, and lower fat meals that boast plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

It’s the way I’ve been trying to cook for years.  Now it has a name.  And a hashtag.  It’s trending.

Follow me.  I’m going somewhere with this.

In a push to cook a few extra meals and leave plenty of leftovers for the crew while I’m gone, I made a Chicken Broccoli Quinoa recipe.  Clean eating?  Absolutely.  Right down to the home-made, low-fat milk cheese sauce.  Kid pleasing and husband pleasing?  It was a 66% success.  Right on track with my new recipe average.

What’s a farm girl like me doing with a trendy food like quinoa in the house?  Well, I have a cookie problem.  A 2 o’clock in the afternoon cookie problem.  Love to bake ‘em almost as much as I love to eat ‘em.  So, I’m trying a homemade chocolate chip granola bar.  It’s working.  So far.  But I had oodles of quinoa left over.  When Chicken Broccoli Quinoa appeared in my Pinterest feed, I clicked.

As I pulled a few (home grown, home butchered) broilers from the freezer to roast for the quinoa casserole, it occurred to me – clean eating is not very clean.

We raised those broilers from baby chicks.  Cleaned their pens.  Fed and watered them.  Cleaned the chicken poo from their feeder and waterer.  (That’s a legit farm girl word; emphasis on the second "er.")  Killed them, gutted them, plucked their feathers and froze them. 

Dirty.

I roasted those chickens.  Skinned and deboned them.

Dirty.

I cooked quinoa.  Made a cheese sauce.  Satueed panko bread crumbs for the topping.

Three dirty pans.  (Not counting the roaster and the cutting board where I chopped the freshly roasted chicken.)

Had I actually retrieved the broccoli from our own garden, washed it and chopped it, instead of buying a $1 bag of frozen chopped broccoli, then we’re talking a major kitchen mess.

Clean eating – among other foodie phrases – is misleading. 

Sure, you’re putting clean, wholesome meals on the dinner table, but it took a lot of getting dirty along the way to get it there.

The business of growing and producing food so that you can choose clean, colorful produce at the grocery store, clean shiny eggs, and neatly packaged fresh meats is full of folks willing to get their hands dirty.

And the responsibility of providing clean, healthy meals on the tables for our families means we’ve got to be willing to dirty more dishes and more countertops.  And spend a little more time at the proverbial kitchen sink.

It’s my hope that after two days in sunny, southern Texas, that I return home better able to reach Common Ground with consumers - to reach an understanding that clean eating means getting dirty.  And getting dirty means 66% of your family is happy.  100% healthy; but 66% happy.  That's trend-worthy.

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