After reading "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" last summer, I decided to use this year to cut out processed food. Last year I ditched soda pop (with the sole, important exception of fancy root beer). This time around, I thought I was ready for a bigger commitment. I figured that by New Year's, I'd have the rules of the venture clearly and completely laid out and would have weaned myself into the regime with several months of gradual cutting-back.
The gradual cutting-back did happen, and I've already discovered some unprocessed winners (L'Anticca Rocca fettuccine, natural peanut butter, milk+honey granola) But as a 2L, I'll admit I didn't focus much time this past quarter on how I'd regulate what qualifies as processed or unprocessed, instead putting it off until holiday break. As if anyone does anything on holiday breaks.
One thing I DID do on holiday break was EAT: in the run-up, as you do with any diet, I crammed in everything I intend to miss this year ... McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries, Hershey kisses, my grandmother's cheesy potato casserole, Oberweiss Dairy chocolate milkshakes... We did hand-toss some pizzas with Matt's family (my future in-laws!) but aside from that, I'm going to admit here and now that approximately everything else we ate was dipped in chocolate, rolled in corn, battered with sugar and bacon bits, and topped with a Cool Whip/GoGurt blend.
So it is now January 1st, and though I'm officially not eating processed foods, I'm unofficially not quite clear on what that means. Until I reread "In Defense of Food" and do some more research on the processed/unprocessed distinction, the following ad-hoc rules apply (taken from Michael Pollen's "eating algorithms"):
*Eat nothing with an ingredient my great-grandmother (Genevieve Holliday, pictured below) would not recognize as food. This means no more soy lecithin, maltodextrin, or other unpronounceable deliciousnesses.
(Yeah, she's hott.)
*Avoid purchasing foods with more than eight ingredients.
*Make every effort to eat fresh, local, sustainable, and to only eat meats which have been raised and slaughtered ethically.
*Allow myself one exception meal a week, at least until I'm ready to go entirely cold turkey. The idea of skipping meals out for an entire year is just unconscionable.
Today, this ad-hoc regime meant waking up to scrambled eggs and turkey bacon (ultimate hangover cure), toast and Kerrygold Irish butter. Satisfying, and something of a relief that the first unprocessed meal didn't have to be apple slices and almonds ... Of course, there was some unfortunate miscommunication between me and the fiancee about the toast and whether it qualified ... he claimed to have checked the ingredients list, but it later turned out that he had been referring to the butter when he handed me a slice and said "It's fine!" The toast -- Domino brand white bread -- didn't strike me as particularly unprocessed, but by the time the mistake was discovered, two slices had already been consumed.
So the very first unprocessed meal of this New Year's resolution was not entirely unadulterated. This is not, perhaps, the best sign.
A late-afternoon meal was grilled chicken kebabs with roasted mushrooms, peppers, and onions served over rice (at the fanciest movie theater -- movie theater! -- I've ever seen). In perfect honesty, after dithering about whether it qualified or not, I ate the movie theater popcorn (in my defense, sans mystery butter-like topping). Popcorn is popcorn, right? Even if you don't know what it was cooked in?
Another bad sign.
That meal was so late that we skipped dinner, in the end. Upon returning home, though, I concluded the day by absent-mindedly popping a Christmas butter cookie in my mouth and munching it down before realizing it was topped with factory sprinkles and a red hot.
A very, very bad sign.