Do you know how, once a little thing or two have disrupted your routine, it can be incredibly hard to get back into that routine again?
It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted here, never mind blogged regularly. I haven’t been cooking much that’s interesting, so I’ve had a shortage of things to blog about. The past few months have been tumultuous. I left one job, and started another – and even though everything has gone smoothly, and I’m very happy in my new job, I’m only now settled in enough to feel my stress level going down. Nathan has been embroiled in a massive project at his job. And on top of that, our basement flooded last month, then we had a hurricane and lost power for several days (surprisingly enough, the hurricane was after our flooding), and the repairs have only recently been finished.
With all that happening, cooking has been far down my list of priorities. But now, fingers crossed, I’ll have spare time and energy to devote to food again, and to blogging. Better yet, we’ve found a way to force ourselves back into our cooking-good-food routine: the Unprocessed October Challenge.
I learned about Unprocessed October last year, but didn’t feel like participating. But the idea is simple enough, and perfect for me right now: eat only unprocessed foods for the month of October.
What does “unprocessed” mean? It’s flexible (and you can make your own exceptions), but the founder of the event suggests: “Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.”
There are a lot of words in there that you could qualify or quibble over. Here’s what I want it to mean for me: cooking a lot, from scratch, using mostly whole and local ingredients. Eating nothing refined, no preservatives, no chemicals. Spending time in the kitchen, having fun, and maybe even making things from scratch that I would normally buy. As a bonus, I’ll eat healthier, because if I want something unhealthy, I have to make it myself, and with ingredients that are at least more wholesome than if I bought something processed.
It won’t be a drastic change in our habits… at least, not from what our habits were a couple months ago. We’ll be getting back into the comparatively good habits we usually follow.
We will make some adjustments, though, and lay down some new rules. We will read ingredient lists for everything we buy. If it has ingredients we wouldn’t have in our own kitchen, we won’t buy it. We’ll cook with whole grains. Most “white” food is out: no white flour, sugar, or rice. No corn syrup, high fructose or otherwise. No cookies unless we bake them, but also no store-bought granola bars or energy bars (which we usually keep on hand). For me, no visits to Kripsy Kreme, which my new commute takes me past every morning – no matter how long a day I expect to have. If we eat out (which should be rare), we’ll have to choose very carefully where we go.
Beer, wine, tea, and coffee are all okay, but a pumpkin latte from Starbucks is not. Store-bought tofu is probably okay. Store-bought seitan is probably not. Most cheese is fine (in fact, I make my own cheese regularly, and hope to do so this month). Chocolate will depend on the ingredient list. Spices, oils, and most other common cooking ingredients are fine.
I think avoiding white flour will be the hardest part. It’s not much of a problem at home, because I can happily cook with whole grains, but white flour is in almost every food you buy. Lunches and snacks will be difficult. (I expect to eat a lot of salads for lunch.)
We’ll also be making some specific, planned exceptions. We’re going to a lot of events month: one wedding, several parties, a 2-day conference for me, and a trip to the Renaissance Faire, where everything is guaranteed to be processed (and fried). I have no intention of starving myself or refusing food at these events.
Mostly, I’m looking forward to cooking and baking much more than I have been. I’d like to make things from scratch that I don’t normally make time for: homemade pasta, cheese, bread, granola bars, and maybe even seitan. If this experience forces me to cook more, it will be a win.