Sometimes I forget that I live in a bubble. It’s called Portland, Oregon, and it’s the most beautiful place on earth. Here in the PDX bubble, my house is situated smack dab in the middle of 3 different farmer’s markets. Within one mile from my house, there are no less than 6 different farms offering fresh, seasonal produce, dairy, meat, nuts, wine.
As soon as I step outside of the bubble, it smacks me in the face: not everyone is this lucky. Over the past month, Facebook and Twitter have been all, well, a-twitter over Jamie Oliver’s TED talk and his new Food Revolution. I will let others hash out the debate about HFCS, how former media darlings like soy are now toxic, and whether or not Jamie Oliver can actually turn that crazy town and possibly this country around. What I want to talk about is YOUR idea of fast & easy meals. It has bugged me beyond belief that so many magazines and food bloggers who tout supposed fast & easy family-friendly meals include unhealthy processed foods as the solution. I’ve had this discussion with several fellow moms and bloggers lately, including Gina of ChangeBecomesChange.com. Do you know how EASY it is to create truly fast and honestly healthy meals without unhealthy shortcuts? I run two crazy busy businesses and raise two insanely active kids (plus my husband & our dog), and if I have the time to cook these meals without unhealthy shortcuts, you most definitely can too.
It’s taken me a long time to get here. I grew up in a family full of love and full of food. My parents and I came to the United States mainland when I was two-and-a-half. We didn’t have a lot of money. I believe there is a profound difference between growing up without a lot of money in a family that has just come to the US, than growing up in a family without a lot of money already in the US. Because my parents worked their tails off, because they were SO PROUD to come home tired but with a paycheck, because they wanted me to learn English and because they were so proud that I was born an American citizen (Guam, baby), they engulfed me into mainstream American culture. That included the fast food culture. We’d go to McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Dairy Queen, easily 4-6 times a week, if not more. The important part of the fast food message for my busy parents was the word “fast” and they, like so many people still, bought it hook, line, sinker. The thing is, we would also eat a lot of home-cooked meals, but a lot of those meals were more about quantity than quality; one summer my great-grandmother fed me HUGE plates of white rice, Spam, and fried eggs for lunch every single day. And for snack? White bread with butter & sugar. Sounds disgusting right? No food is disgusting when you don’t have a lot of money. And when you come to a new country without a lot of money, you feel SO LUCKY to be able to have so many choices like nuggets or a burger, crispy or original…to a lot of families like mine, success was – and still is – often equated with the ability to devour what all of the “true Americans” are eating. Having something to eat was a privilege I was taught to never take for granted, but then cooking was a responsibility that I was also taught was a gift and a joy to treasure.
So because of my childhood, I get why so many Americans who are just trying to live are having a hard time eating healty, home-cooked meals. Oh I get it…but, I in no way buy it. Not anymore.
Fast forward a few decades. We’re more educated about the dangers of fast food and processed food, AND I have this mad passion for the art of cooking & baking in my own home (minus my great-grandmother’s Spam lunches & butter/sugar toast). Right now, my kids will eat chicken nuggets, but absolutely won’t touch pizza, hot dogs, or hamburgers. They prefer fresh fruit. Far from perfect, my family also enjoys snacks that come in a box or bag. I bought two kinds of ice cream today: mint chocolate chip for me and rainbow sherbet for my son. An ice cream maker is on The List, but until then, it’s store bought, which is not as healthy as the homemade goodness I know we’ll one day have. But boy do I love to cook, and although I rarely have time to create fancy meals that would warm my heart, I do what I can in the short time that I have with limited ingredients and a tight budget. Fresh IS fast, and processed foods are NOT always the answer to a quick & easy meal. Sure, I have boxed mac & cheese in the pantry, but it really is about moderation. This is not a diet blog. I love my bacon & chocolate, and you’ll see both on here regularly, but it’s not like I eat those kinds of food all day long. It seems so many “family” blogs are either all about processed food shortcuts OR go to the extreme and make you feel guilty that your broccoli is not organic. This is not an all-organic, expensive ingredients, hoity toity, unsatisfying, this-is-how-you-should-eat blog. This is a blog about real food, for real families, with recipes that are super easy and crazy good. I’m not trying to change the world, I just want to share little bits of goodness that come out of our kitchen. Plain and simple: this blog is about a healthy love of food.
For more on someone who IS changing the world… check out Jamie Oliver’s TED talk if you haven’t yet:
Check out my friend Alisa’s Gaia Baby blog for truly fast, fresh and healthy meals for babies, toddlers and big kids.
One final shout out to my new pal Mellisa in Oklahoma. Check out her blog Getting All My Ducks in a Row for some fast, fresh and healthy lunchbox ideas.