Sunday, February 26, 2012

Changing what we eat: Going local and natural

It's been a great weekend! Friday evening we joined CAFE, a local food exchange. I am so excited! It costs $20/year to join, but they give you two trial orders before you are asked to pay that. The food is more expensive than the conventional items you find at the grocery store, but that is to be expected. Many co-ops give out a box of produce from local farms, and everyone gets the same. The trouble is I didn't want to pay for such a box when I knew I'd probably find myself standing over it holding some obscure vegetable wondering what is this thing and how do I prepare it? With CAFE, you order online over the weekend, the volunteers put your order together and then you pick it up at the closest of several locations on Tuesday evening. It just happens to be an extremely convenient time and location for us and I am thrilled. We placed our first order Friday night. Want to know what we are getting?

1) All-natural free-range eggs
2) Fair-trade coffee
3) Raw Jersey milk
4) Goat milk yogurt
5) Grass-fed ground beef
6) Swiss chard
7) Fromage blanc with raspberries from our local goat farm

All without having to walk through aisles of confusing, expensive choices at "Whole Paycheck" with three grumpy children in tow. YAY! I can't wait to pick it up.

Then yesterday while in Greenville we visited the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery for the first time. Loved it. They had the local bean-to-bar chocolate I'd been wanting to try for months, and we got raw milk and a few other things like cheese to tide us over until Tuesday when we get our CAFE order. If you're wondering what's available in your area, check here or for dairy products, here. Or just Google. There may be more available than you think.

Most of what we are doing is what people normally did a generation or two ago, especially rural folks. We've been told that my father-in-law used to bang his cup on the fridge when he was a little boy, saying "I want more 'presh' milk!" They lived on a farm. The milk was unpasteurized and the cow had probably just been milked that morning. It was the same for my mom. She still has the butter churn she used to make raw butter with her grandmother.

My mom churns butter in her heirloom churn. We made some from raw cream New Year's Eve.

I just now watched my two-year-old gulp down some presh milk we bought yesterday from a local farm. She sucked it down like she'd never seen milk before. Then, aaah. That's good stuff. Yeah, there is a difference.

I've been turning over in my head the reasons I think these foods are better. You know how when you're nursing, it's a good idea to eat a decently balanced diet because you are making your baby's sole source of nutrition? You want the milk to contain what your baby needs (while also maintaining your own health), so you incorporate those things into your diet. But what about the milk you buy for your older children and yourself at the store? What were the cows who made it fed? The milk we bought from CAFE was produced by pastured, mainly grass-fed cows whose diet is handled carefully--and if I had a question I could call the farmer! The eggs we ordered are free-range. Have you ever noticed the difference in the shells of free-range eggs and the regular cheap ones you buy at the store? The times we've gotten the free-range eggs locally, I've been surprised at how thick and hard the shells are. The cheap ones at the grocery store are thin and brittle, much easier to crack. Interesting, right? What does it say about the health of the chicken and the nutritional value of the egg when the shell (made mostly of calcium) is paper-thin? Calcium is vital for my daughter's teeth, obviously! And this is just one small example.

Even though we have embarked on this journey of nutritional changes mostly because of Suzi's visit to the dentist, I am certain it will affect our health in numerous positive ways. Even if we end up deciding we need to get some dental work done--and we may--these changes are not for nothing. If you'd like to learn more, the reading I would recommend at this point is Cure Tooth Decay (the Kindle edition is only $10) and also Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. I have not yet gotten the Price one, but I want to. It goes into much more depth, and the first one, which I am using as a starting point, is largely based on Price's research. We are taking baby steps towards following the recommendations in Cure Tooth Decay, including the dietary changes I've already mentioned as well as ordering a high-vitamin butter oil/fermented cod liver oil combo. I am not at all sure we'll be able to get that into Suzi, but Jordan and I will take it at least, and if needed we'll order her the somewhat less effective but more palatable butter oil-only supplement.

We're committed to navigating this calmly and firmly, considering all options available, and making the best choice for Suzi. It may be that we choose a combination of natural and conventional approaches. I'm feeling much better about it now, especially after talking to a wise earth mama friend who did end up needing to seek dental work for her young child. Meanwhile, I am unfolding more and more into this...

And you know what? I'm proud of it.

Our butter near the end of its journey, ready for the molds.