Have you heard of October Unprocessed? It’s the brilliant idea of Andrew Wilder at Eating Rules – taking something most of us want to do and setting a goal just hard enough to make you really think but not so hard it’s beyond most of our grasp.
The goal? Going without processed foods for thirty days.
It sounds easy until you think through it. He’s got a pretty specific list of what is not allowed although he’s letting you make exceptions, so long as you think them through ahead of time (otherwise it’s like changing the rules to suit your hand – nothing gained and nothing learned.)
Think back on everything you ate today. How would it be different if you had to make it all from scratch?
This challenge is near and dear to my heart as you well know since I’ve been doing this since January 2009. Minus a brief strike and some cheating while trying to write the book in six months last winter. I’m not going to lie to you and say it will be easy. What I will say is that you will surprise yourself. You will think more about what you feed yourself and your family then you ever thought possible. And throughout the month you will learn a lot, feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and probably change a few habits along the way.
So, how do you start?
Then sit down and think through what your family likes to eat. Can you make it from scratch? Will they mutiny if you do this for a month? Then take it one week at a time. The best steps you can take aren’t the biggest ones. The steps that you can consistently maintain bring about the most lasting change.
Andrew has thought through some things like chocolate and baking powder and come to conclusions that don’t work for me, partly because I’m not just in this for October, I’m in this for reals. And while traditionally people ground up reindeer antlers to use as leavening agents for things like cookies I’m not advocating the poaching of nordic animals so I’m using baking powder. As far as chocolate goes I try not to buy processed chocolate (although I admit it’s a weakness). Instead, I use cocoa powder which does not contain emulsifiers and soy. Very briefly I tried to buy cocoa powder and cocoa butter and recombine them myself, but the expense was ridiculous. When I have chocolate cravings this chocolate pudding fills the bill nicely. Andrew would disallow the cornstarch but you could add an extra few egg yolks and omit it entirely.
Making a meal plan would be a great place, although I’m an unstructured cook who works with what is in the garden, the freezer, or beginning to rot on the counter. In fact, the best way to ditch the store (and it’s processed food temptations) is to stop shopping for recipes and to learn to cook with what you have on hand. But here is a glimpse of what we’ll probably be eating:
- Swedish pancakes with seasonal fruit
- Kefir and fruit or carrot smoothies
- Cheese quesadillas with homemade spelt tortillas
- Egg or Chicken Salad sandwiches
- Bacon or ham sandwiches
- Hummus and vegetables
- Grilled cheese sandwiches
- Smoked salmon, cheese and Rosemary Flatbread Crackers with fruit
- French onion soup with crusty bread
- Market Street meatloaf with mashed potatoes and parsnips and creamed kale
- 100% Whole wheat pizza with homemade feta, pickled cherry bomb peppers, Italian sausage and cured olives or fig, soft and moldy cheese (think brie) and walnut pizza
- Salmon Patties with coleslaw
- Rabbit with Mustard Sauce and braised greens
- Taco salad made with lettuce, grated carrots, homemade creme fraiche, the last tomatoes of the year, tomato salsa and smoked jalapenos
If you aren’t prepared to take the challenge for an entire month, consider doing it just a few nights a week, or for one solid week. Do what you can, that works for you and your family. I hope you’ll play along!