Monday, April 28, 2008

I read a blurb on the Internet the other day that was intriguing. It was about a study that found that mothers who ate a more nutritious diet during pregnancy had a higher likelihood of having a boy (56/100 as opposed to 50/100). I didn’t read the actual study, so some of my inferences and information may be off-base. The article noted that in the US, the birth rate for girls has been going up, so this study may be implying a growing nutritional deficiency in women. Which makes a kind of sense. Despite the fact that we have an obesity epidemic, people are eating crap (I think it’s now around 50 percent of calories in the average American’s diet coming from high fructose corn syrup!) and since the Green Revolution, as our soils have become more and more depleted and sterile, the actual nutritional value of foods has dropped dramatically. It’s sad that in a land of so-called plenty we could actually be malnourished (yet fat). The article suggested this male/female fluctuation serves a biological function in times of famine. I forget what their theory was, but mine was slightly different from theirs. In a time of famine, more children will die before reaching reproductive age. Therefore you want to produce a surplus of girls to ensure an adequate base of surviving adults to bear a new generation. The boys don’t matter as much because they can impregnant many women, even if they are few in number. In times of plenty, more boys mean fewer available wombs, which helps to keep the population from exploding (and thence creating a new famine cycle). It’s all very fascinating stuff.

I find it so astounding that people mindlessly put so much crap into their bodies. All of these chemicals (aspartame!) and manufactured food products, instead of basic, real food.

I’m still trying to grow mold on my piece of commercial bread. I left the ziplock bag open for a day to give the moldies a chance to move in, but they didn’t take the bait. I’ll leave it open for another day, then add a little bit of water and see if that’ll produce any mold. If this bread is not even life-sustaining for mold, how can it possibly even be considered a food?

In my opinion, shelf life is a thing to avoid. If the food doesn’t spoil, it’s probably not a food anymore. If the little critters that make food spoil aren’t willing to touch it or digest it, it probably has no life-giving value. Why waste the energy to send it through your digestive tract? And not only may it have no life-giving value, it may possess life-destroying properties--chemicals, pesticides and preservatives that do real harm to your body.

The diet I’m striving for is closer to a hunter-gatherer diet than anything else. I doubt I will ever completely wean myself from grains, but at least I’ll continue to incorporate more kinds of whole grains. My meat consumption is kind of hunter-gatherer in style, not what I’m eating but how I eat it. Meat is occasional, as if the men had just come back from a successful hunt. Most days are vegetarian days, but here and there are meat days. I think that’s a good way to do it. My body isn’t constantly being taxed, every day, by having to digest meat, but I still get the nutritional benefits that meat provides.

I still find myself breaking out of the consumer mind-set, and it’s often surprising to see the ways I’ve been caught up in nonsensical ideas, once I escape them. These beliefs that you need certain paraphernalia in order to participate in activities are often a real load of crap. When I decided to start growing sprouts I went to all of these websites to find sprouting guides (how long each type of seed needs to soak and how long they take to sprout). It was amazing to see all of the specialized sprouting equipment they had for sale! All you need is a Mason jar and some kind of mesh (cheesecloth or window screen). But I’m sure there are plenty of people gullible enough to think they need special equipment to grow sprouts.

But then, I find that I’ve been gullible in thinking about something else. For the longest time I’ve wanted to get a hand-cranked pasta roller so I can make my own homemade pasta. Collin eats so much pasta, and the store-bought pasta is probably as much of a health disaster as the white bread. Now of couse I didn’t want a motorized pasta machine—I like simplicity, after all. But even the mere $30 price tag on a hand-cranked model has stood in the way, given my budget constraints. So we’ve continued to eat store-bought pasta. The other day I was browsing through my favorite cookbook and there was a section on homemade pasta. It listed the various methods: hand-kneading and machine-kneading, hand-rolling and machine-rolling, hand-cutting and machine-cutting. And Mel’s very sluggish light bulb finally went off--oh, you can make pasta by hand! Well, who knew! The ridiculous thing is that I’ve been making my own egg noodles for several years now for my chicken noodle soup. It never occurred to me that I can also use the same old rolling pin to roll out dough for spaghetti, and ravioli, and tortellini, and fettuccine….

How do these silly blind spots persist for so long?

I still think a pasta roller would be a nice gadget to have, but at least now I know I don’t need it and I can start making pasta now. In fact the other day I made a small batch of ravioli and they turned out beautifully.

A good practice for me would be to ask myself, whenever I start to think I need a gadget: how was this task performed before this was invented? Is there a simpler, less contrived way?

As a species, I think we’re going really soft. Basic skills around food especially are being lost, and food after all is the main reason we’re able to be here at all. Why are we allowing ourselves to lose such core knowledge?

When I move back to Pennsylvania, I want to achieve food self-sufficiency. I want to grow and raise all of my food, the food for the animals, my green cover crops, and I want to create my own seed bank. I want to use a combination of canning, drying, a little bit of freezing if I have a freezer, root cellaring, and solar and cold frame gardening to get me through the winters.

I may still buy exotic things I can’t grow myself, like bananas, coffee, sugar (although I may try to grow sourghum), avocados, and mangoes, but I won’t need any of those things nutritionally.

My goal for the rest of my life is to earn enough money to buy land and build my modest off-the-grid house, without ever having a mortgage again, and to become as totally self-sufficient as possible. If I can save enough to pay for my house and land up front, after that I will need very little cash, and will largely be able to escape the cash economy that I so despise.

There will still be things like property taxes and I’ll probably still need a car, unless I live close enough to a town, in which case a bike would do. I’ll need new tools periodically and incidental things, like toilet paper.

(Oh, by the way, my experiment with no-deodorant/no-shampoo has more or less fallen by the wayside. As far as the deodorant, yes I will definitely need something, although not necessarily a commercial product. For now, I’m finishing up my stick of aluminum-laced stuff. As for the shampoo, I’m back to using up my chemicals-soup shampoo and will try to find a good homemade recipe for when that runs out.)

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