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Scheduling Time for Food

I had a busy week and then weekend, so yet again not much time or energy to write.  I should consider signing up to twitter because I have all sorts of thoughts to share as I go about my day, but when I finally sit down to write, my mind goes blank.

Last week I took an intensive teaching skills workshop.  It was a lot of fun, and interesting, but quite exhausting.  The days ran from 8:30-5pm, but I had to add an hour commute at each end.  Plus my morning routine (very abbreviated) with the dogs, and then making dinner, exercising and training dogs, preparing a teaching session, and cooking in the evenings.  By the second day I was not only exhausted, I was sick!  I don’t even remember how I used to work such a schedule.  Blech!

I am realizing more and more just how much our way of life is a scam, a ruse to get us to give up the things we enjoy or wish to try, postponing them for ‘retirement’ in order to have ‘careers’ – all in the name of progress and enlightenment.  Women have been ‘freed’ from the drudgery of cooking and house keeping in general, men no longer have to till fields and otherwise struggle in conjunction with their wives and family for subsistence.  No, we now simply work insanely long days doing mundane or even counterproductive tasks for other people who then in turn give us money so that we can subsist.  Progress?  Hmmm….

Sure, in many ways.  Especially if you really like the work you do for other people, this paid labour that serves as the grease for the wheels of capitalism.  But what if you don’t?  How many people do you know really love what they do for money?  I know a few (interestingly, mostly farmers & artists), but not many.  Certainly I have found some of my jobs enjoyable and interesting, but I can’t think of one that I would do if I was independently wealthy.  Every job I’ve had has effectively been a means to an end: money to put food on the table and a roof over my head.  If one is left miserable and exhausted by this work, how is it better?

When I was finishing high-school and considering my next step (not that long ago), the idea of a woman staying home to raise children and keep a house was really looked down upon.  (The idea of a man staying home wasn’t even up for discussion).  I remember thinking that myself, frowning upon the decision a friend made to stay home and raise kids despite having a university degree.  What a waste, I thought, as I struggled along, dragging myself through a degree I was hating.  I wish I had clued in then to her wisdom.  Pushing myself though training and degrees I have not enjoyed, jobs I’ve hated, lifestyles that clashed with the deepest levels of my being, became the very fabric of my life.

I made the decision a while back that I will not continue in this manner.  It ruined my health and left me exhausted and depressed, devoid of any enjoyment or enthusiasm for life.  Regaining and reclaiming these has been a long, hard struggle, one that I continue with on a daily basis.

I continue to be surprised by the number of people around me who struggle with these same issues.  Every time I talk about it publicly, someone (nearly always a woman) comes up to me and asks to discuss further – in private – as they are struggling with the same problems and want to learn how to heal.  I can share what I’ve done, but everyone needs to find their own path in this matter: the real solution is to be true to yourself and find a way to be truly, deeply happy.

Exploring food has been my healing path.  My initial awareness of the importance of fresh, healthy food came when I tried to save my beloved dog Jake who was dying of kidney failure.  Exploring the pet-food industry led to investigating our own food industry, which in turn got me shopping at markets and buying from farmers instead of eating the industrial food-like products I had come to think of as ‘healthy’.  Learning what an impact industrial food production makes on the environment made my commitment all the easier to carry through: this isn’t just about my health, it’s about everyone’s health – and that of the planet.

Changing how I eat has absolutely changed my life.  Yes, I feel healthier, but it’s much, much more than that.  Not only do I feel better physically, but learning to cook, growing my own food, and building social networks around acquiring food (through CSA’s, farmers markets, friends and family events and outings and so on) has touched me on a primal level.  It feels right to grow food.  It feels right to cook, to garden, to talk face to face with the people who produce the food I can’t.  It feels great to share food and to share meals.  It feels natural.

Everyone I know who engages in the above feels the same way.  There is something primal about being more in touch with our food.  This shouldn’t be surprising, after all we spent the first several million years of our existence focused on food.  I am not at all convinced that being ‘released’ of this ‘burden’ is at all an advancement.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Eating pre-prepared and fast-foods separates us from the fundamentals of our existence, it alienates us in the same way that labour does.  The mindset that is used to perpetuate it is equally damaging: food is just a fuel (and if you eat industrial food, it is literally that – petroleum) and it doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as you get the correct combinations of nutrients.  Don’t worry about how to get it correct, the food corporations will do that for you in the forms of processed foods.

Throwing together quick meals has become a source of pride, and cooking long, slow meals from scratch is now seen as a luxury.  An indulgence.  Decadent.  Something to do when everything else is taken care of, which is never.  What duties are you shirking if you have time to cook and can?  Clearly you aren’t working hard enough!

That is often the hidden tone to people’s responses.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say they’d love to cook or preserve, but just don’t have time.  I found myself sliding in that respect this year, when things got busy, eating out more, and letting food rot in my fridge rather than canning or freezing.  Instead of making healthy food prep a high priority.

In sharp and eye-opening contrast, my roommate takes part or a whole day, at least once a week, to cook, can, blanche, and freeze food, for eating now and over the winter.  She approaches this like a job, even coming home early or taking a morning “off” of her other duties, making food prep an important priority in her weekly schedule.  It’s a fascinating.  And brilliant.  Preparing and storing food (add growing to that list as well) should not be an afterthought.  It needs to be a priority.  For all of us.  Just look at how our  health has declined, how our environment is being ruined, how our social networks are degrading.  All of this can be reversed by getting more in touch with our food, by buying from farmers, cooking from scratch and working with friends to put food by.  It certainly worked for me.

Of course this means cutting out other things.  I have given up television completely, for example.  Who has time for that?  Do I miss it?  Not at all.  In fact I now find it irritating when I go to people’s house’s and they have it on.  I’ve also cut way back on the amount of time I spend on the internet – something else I do not miss one bit!

Over the last two years I have become fairly adamant about making time for canning, but this idea of scheduling in regular cooking is quite new to me.  I have been guilty of letting my cooking slide, but no longer.  From now on I will be scheduling it into my weekly routine.  Speaking of which, there’s a mountain of produce in our two fridges and more on it’s way home tonight.  I had best get down to it…

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6 Responses

  1. I am impressed by your dedication to eating local. I do what I can, but it’s not nearly enough. I was really inspired by a recent visit to River Cottage Canteen, the brainchild of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingtall, where everything was local and sustainably produced (line-caught sole, for instance). It wasn’t cheap, but it was really delicious – venison with roasted hemp seeds, mmmm… He’s one of the best known poster boys for organic food over here and has mounted a very effective campaign against battery chickens.

    The other thing that made me think of you recently was an article on Wwoofing – http://www.wwoof.org/ This is sort of what you do anyway – exchanging labour for a place to stay or to run your dogs. However, it seemed right up your alley and a good way to take vacations in future? (Remember those in the heady pre-PhD days?)

    • Pre-PhD? Was there such a time? And what’s a va-ca-tion?

      I actually tried to find a full-time arrangement where I could help part-time on a sheep farm in exchange for accommodation and dog training time. Unfortunately I discovered that most sheep farms in this area do not use dogs, and in fact are quite horrified at the thought of having dogs near their sheep. I did find one willing adventurer but there was no accommodation on his farm, and the only place close by would not accept the dogs. But I am very happy with where I am for now, and am trying to make more time to do some work-for-food locally.

      As for dedication, I’ve only been able to do it by making food my research so that I can justify the time it takes to buy it all locally and prepare it all from scratch. I really don’t know how one could work full-time and try and do this as well, or at least get up and started. It took me a long time to find all the ingredients and to really streamline the process. My suggestion is to just take things one step at a time – do what you can, and perhaps when that become routine instead of an effort, take one more step. Start making your own yogurt or bread, or plant a small garden, or can some fruit. One thing at a time, and only if it doesn’t drain you of your energy. This should be a joyful process, not a burden!

  2. I am so happy you posted your feelings on this subject as it is something to which I can totally relate. Recently I have been struggling between building a career and balancing my family life. As a recent university graduate, society requires me to “put in my time” in order to build a good career foundation. As a mother of a precious 1 year old son, I feel it is important to put in the time at home nurturing him and as a result I feel quite torn at the prospect of letting someone else raise him while I work 8 hours/day and commute another 2 to provide financially for my family (my current situation that seems to be creating much stress and unhappiness). My mother was always a career woman and was not around much for my siblings or I when we were younger. Consequently she does not understand my desire to stay at home full-time, especially when I love the field I studied so much. These sentiments have also been expressed by others close to me… “why would you waste your education on staying home”

    It truly is hard to find the perfect balance. I’m glad you’re getting back to it 🙂

    • Kristy, that is a really tough struggle! I have watched my friends have babies and then go back to work. Some were delighted to return to their workplaces, but others turned into sobbing messes as they dropped their child off at daycare and went back to jobs they really didn’t love. I saw one friend on her first day back to work and I really don’t know how she did it. She was an absolute mess after leaving her baby. I really think something that makes a person feel that strongly should be heeded by society! In some countries (ie. Germany) maternity leave lasts much, much longer. I think you can be away from your job for up to 12 years and still be guaranteed to have it back. That doesn’t suit Capitalism very well, but it sure prioritizes the family and child rearing in a way that I don’t think we can even relate to on this side of the pond!

      Best of luck finding that elusive balance. The sad fact is that most of us have to work to keep a roof over our heads, and few of us find a way to get paid to do what we love the most. But balance can be found and I’m striving for that as well, one step at a time!

  3. You’re an inspiration!

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