As part of the real and whole foods craze sweeping middle class America, the food blog eatingrules.com sponsored an October Unprocessed challenge again this year. While the challenge leaves room for individual choice, blogger Andrew Wilder proposes the “kitchen test” for each food used during the month: if a person with reasonable skill could find or make the ingredients with whole foods in their home kitchen, it is acceptable during the challenge. This makes things like wine, bacon and butter okay depending on their ingredient list, but processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup or soy lecithin, for example, would be off limits for the duration of the challenge. As of October 7, 2011, more than 2,600 people had signed up for the challenge, each setting their own goal of a few days to one month with no processed foods.
As mother of a family which eats very few processed foods anyway, I decided to sign up for the challenge for one week during October. The hardest part of the challenge was getting my teenager on board — he is a born abstainer from group activities. For the week of October 8 through October 15, we would eat no processed foods. A few of our difficulties: non-dairy creamer (Dad), soda (teenagers) and peanut butter (everyone!) As part of our personal challenge, we continued to drink homogenized milk. Although raw, non-homogenized milk is available on a limited basis in our area, I was not up to the task of pasteurizing it myself for the week.
Fall was a wonderful time to take this challenge, since we all love vegetables. With the end of the garden helping us with a huge pot of vegetable soup for lunches, we are surviving the week. Some of the other real foods we ate so far this week:
- Kale red pepper pesto with pasta (recipe to follow soon)
- Winter carrot soup with star anise
- Vegetarian chili and cornbread
- Homemade yogurt — I found instructions for crockpot yogurt and it was great!
- Dad found out he doesn’t mind coffee with real cream at all. It’s just milk he doesn’t like.
- Baking without cooking spray for the pans was irritating. We had to learn to save butter wrappers to oil pans, and honestly had some slip ups when the kids made bread while I was at work.
- We eat far too much peanut butter to grind our own peanut butter. If we were to take a longer challenge, we would have to find a cheap natural source or stop eating so much!
- Remembering to look at the ingredient list for each item is disturbing. When you find out the extra ingredients added to things like sour cream, and even the pre-grated cheese has soy agents to prevent sticking, it makes you a little crazy.
- Our family is addicted to sweets. We bake desserts three or four times a week. Cutting out white sugar was a real challenge for us. I discovered I would rather go without tea completely than drink it without sugar.