Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughts on Food

For 25 days now we have been on the RPA elimination diet, also known as Failsafe, with help from a dietician. I'm hoping what I find out will help to manage my IBS symptoms and Laura's sometimes angry behaviour, (which goes on and off like a switch for a week or so at a time, while at most times she is controlled and lovely) This diet restricts for a time foods high in natural chemicals - salicylates, amines and glutumates, and then reintroduces them later.

Our eating is very restricted:

peeled pears

peeled potatoes
iceberg lettuce

raw cashews

Allowable foods for flavouring:
citric acid
sprinkle of parsley
white chocolate melts
condensed milk/caramel

whisky/gin/vodka (haven't had any of those yet!)
cordial (sugar, citric acid, water - the girls like it!)
pear juice (made from tinned pears and syrup - lumpy - ick)

We can have wheat, dairy etc. so baking is not a problem, so long as I am careful to only use allowed ingredients, but there's not much processed food we can buy because we are also avoiding additives. We can have meat, so long as it's not processed, not older than 2 weeks, not cooked in its own sauce and is cooked fresh (not leftovers). It's all been quite a learning curve.

So I've been making from scratch:
bread (in the breadmaker)
pear jam
pear ketchup

It's a lot of work, but mostly it doesn't bother me, I like making fresh good food for us, anyway.
I think the diet is helping us feel better, so it's worth doing.

But all this restriction has made me think about food, our needs, and wants.

One thing has surprised me:
In 25 days, I have not felt deprived.

Last weekend I went to a potluck dinner. There were plenty of delicious-looking dishes but I couldn't sample any of them. I took my own food to heat up and it was good. (And I baked some leek tarts for everyone to share - yum!) I have to take my own food wherever I go, there's very little I can pick up at the shops and eat immediately.

Now I know that 25 days is not very long, and a lot of people do this diet forever and also avoid wheat/dairy/eggs/soy, which would be much harder. Also I know (or at least I hope) that this diet is not forever, for me. The think I miss most is a cup of tea. Instead I'm having hot water with milk, so at least I get to sit down with a hot drink.

But this is what I'm thinking:

We don't need as much variety as we think we do.

The main point of food is to give us sustenance.

In the old days, I might have lived off the limited foods grown on my farm, or in my village. I might have lived on cabbage, bread and potatoes. Millions of people around the world live on a limited diet. Now I'm not saying that those people are as healthy as we in the wealthy West are, but they survive, and if they have enough food, are satisfied. Sometimes as I head to the shops with my limited shopping list, and can buy only one thing from each aisle in the supermarket, I imagine we have moved to a country where only a limited number of foods are available, and work out ways to provide meals with only those foods, rather than focus on the many foods we can't have.

The many cooking shows on our televisions tell us that we need to try all sorts of exotic fruits, vegetables, cuts of meats, and spices, and put them together in amazing ways, so that every meal is a sensation for our taste buds. Packaged foods laden with herbs, spices, MSG and artificial flavours make plain foods seem uninteresting. I think our tastebuds are just as over-stimulated as our minds are with TV, internet, videos, music, advertising and big loud shopping centres.

So for now I'm savouring the real taste of a baked potato (peeled!) with a sprinkle of salt. I'm grateful for the flavours of leeks, garlic and shallots. I'm loving my plain crisps and fresh homemade bread, and even my hot water and milk, which my octogenarian mother-in-law elegantly calls "pearl tea".

I'm thankful for the abundance of food in my kitchen, even if it seems plain compared to what we had in the past. I'm grateful for the gift of time to be able to provide homemade foods, even down to jams and sauces.

Doing this diet has made me aware again of how rich we are - even with what I consider to be severe limitations, we are enjoying a large variety of dishes, and have not gone hungry once. It has made me re-think the amount of processed food I provide my family, and what real nutrition means.

I'm also marvelling at the way God has designed and provided food to give us energy, and am thankful for the real and lasting sustenance he provides, which is better than any food.

In about 10 days Emily will fast for the 40-Hour Famine, and understand (a little) what real hunger is like. We will sponsor her, and continue to sponsor a Compassion child in Peru, who knows a lot more than I do about hunger and monotony of food, I'm sure.

As for me? I can't promise about the long term, but for now ... I am content.


DancingInTheRain said...

Lots of food for thought in there! Thanks for sharing.

Hill upon Hill said...

I love the delicious lessons that you have learnt.