Label food, not people

We all seem to have labels these days, more now than I can ever remember. It’s a shorthand to sort out people we will never meet. Find out who’s good and who’s bad without knowing much about them. It’s convenient for online discussions but not very useful when it starts to spill over to real life. You know, the life we lead at home and work, with our significant others and friends and children. The life where we cook food and share it with other people.

Just to get it out of the way, here are some of the labels that might define me: ADD, OCD, ASD, HKPP/ATS, middle-aged (cough), centrist Democrat, ex-Mormon, atheist, bookstore owner, white, female, married, mother of five. There. Now you think you know something about me. And maybe you do. But it’s not who I really am. Labels are superficial, which is kind of the idea. If I put a label on an apple, it’s not an apple, it’s a label on an apple. It might tell me what nutrients I can expect in that apple, but it’s not a thing in itself.

Now I’m going to start a sentence with “my best friend is…” But it’s true. My best friend is a very politically-minded, religious, Wyoming Tea Party Republican. Which is why it’s hard for me to talk to her on Facebook. Because I really don’t like the people she is voting for. I don’t like the memes she likes. I have to link to rebuttals from Snopes about most of what she posts. But I can’t let those opinions–online opinions–override what I know about her. That she is also the mother of five children, one of whom was lost while serving in the military. That I have known her for over 40 years. That she has a beautiful singing voice and a kind heart. We had to agree a long time ago not to talk about politics. Now we don’t talk about religion, either. That still leaves plenty to talk about. Forty years of memories, for one thing. Husbands good and bad, the things our children did, that time I sneaked a contraband chocolate shake into the hospital right after she had a baby. The trip to Seattle where she broke her ankle and I was allergic to everything. Just not religion and politics.

I’m not very political at all, as I lack both the temperament and the energy for it. I believe what I believe. I don’t care what other people believe, because they have their reasons. The one area I do get involved in is the intersection of food and government. The government has long regulated food safety, which is probably a good thing. I’ve read The Jungle. But I don’t agree with the USDA food pyramid that came out in 1992 and probably did more to ruin the health of Americans than any other one thing I can think of. Before the modern era, we ate the traditional foods of our ancestors. They were foods we were adapted to, and that were healthy for us. But the authorities were now telling us to fill up on grains, contrary to what Grandma taught us about bread making us fat. But what did Grandma know? She cooked with lard and thought bacon and eggs was a healthy breakfast. Fat was demonized based on flawed studies. It was somewhat convenient and not too coincidental that the foods that formed the base of the pyramid were all commodity crops that the government so heavily subsidized.

So putting labels on food became necessary to protect us from the manufacturers of the food products made from those commodity crops. The government trying to protect us from itself.

I do think that processed foods should be labeled with where they come from, information about GMOs, and exactly what ingredients go into them. Consumers have to have all the facts to make an informed choice. But here’s my question—why are we even eating these foods in the first place? Why did we start eating them, and are those reasons still valid?

I read articles all the time about how we have to read the labels, and yes, we do. But there is another solution. Eat food without labels. Vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, locally grown if possible. I’m not an extremist. I do eat food that wasn’t grown locally, because I can’t imagine life without coconut or avocados. And I wouldn’t want to live with my husband if his coffee wasn’t available every morning RIGHT NOW! But the majority of what we eat is grown within 25 miles of where I live. Eating local food was a huge factor in my move to Missoula.

If my ground beef had a label, it would say: grass fed and finished, raised in Montana. My veggies would boast: Organic vegetables, grown just down the road. But they don’t have labels because they don’t need them. They are just what they are, no need to clarify, categorize, or warn me of anything. I heard someone say the other day that eating organically is elitist. The way I see it, everyone should be able to afford food grown without chemicals! How crazy is it that chemical-saturated food is the norm, and it’s somehow elitist to eat food that won’t kill us? I know the truth is that many people can’t afford organic food, or don’t have transportation to where it is sold. But that’s not the truth for most of us. It’s out there, you just have to look for it. You have to buy it if you want the stores to stock more of it. When Costco and Walmart have some organic choices available, you know it’s getting more mainstream. Someday, I hope to see a very small “conventional food” aisle, for those who, for some reason, want a side of pesticides with their strawberries. Heaven knows why anyone would.

There are plenty of places online with lists of dirty and clean produce; what to eat and what to avoid. I don’t need to go into that. I just hope that more people will decide that they want to eat good food, cooked at home, no labels needed. Unless you really do want to put that cute little Pinterest-y label on your homemade mayo. That would be okay.

Now for a recipe. About damn time.

“Paleo” chocolate chip cookies

First, a few words about Paleo eating. You probably know that it’s not an attempt to perfectly replicate what cavemen really ate, but more of an effort to get back to basic, wholesome foods that really nourish our bodies. When I look online for paleo recipes, I come across a lot of this type—You’re making ice cream, but putting a cup of maple syrup in it instead of a cup of refined sugar. This is not Paleo. It’s just a somewhat more natural source of sugar. Not that much more natural, but it comes from trees, so it must be okay, right? Your body doesn’t care where the sugar is from; it’s still not healthy.

But sometimes you want a treat. If you’ve been eating doughnuts or store-bought cookies, this will be a better alternative. Just don’t sit down and eat a whole batch. Which is what I would do, so I can’t make them very often. They’re really good. They’re sweet but they’re not junk. This is adapted from the Detoxinista’s recipe.

  • 2 cups almond meal, or almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut oil or butter, softened (I use both unless cooking for a vegan)
  • 1-3 Tablespoons grade B maple syrup, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
  • 2 tablespoons Flax meal
  • Optional—chopped dried fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, flax meal, salt, and baking soda, then add the coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips, then drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350F for 8-11 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes

If you choose not to use the flax meal, it will be more like a shortbread cookie.


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