By Sarah Fancy Fuerstenberger
Don't worry, I am not going to talk about grooming your nether regions. I'm sure there are plenty of blogs about that topic!
As many of you know, my husband is trying to be vegan. That's great for him, but it certainly doesn't work well for me. It does make cooking more complicated. But in his efforts, he has also been looking at other stuff we use that is full of crappy chemicals. It is neither easy nor especially efficient to make all this stuff from scratch that you can get easily at the drug store. So we are really examining the everyday products we use and the food we eat. I always called him the food police, because he would see "bad" ingredients in stuff that looks normal and it was always after I had already bought whatever it was.
On my way to work, I often listen to podcasts. One of my favorites is the BBC Food podcast. This past week, Sheila Dillon was talking to Joanna Blythman, the author of a book called Swallow This, "a revelatory investigation into what really goes into the food we eat. Even with 25 years experience as a journalist and investigator of the food chain, Joanna Blythman still felt she had unanswered questions about the food we consume every day. How 'natural' is the process for making a 'natural' flavouring? What, exactly, is modified starch, and why is it an ingredient in so many foods? What is done to pitta bread to make it stay 'fresh' for six months? And why, when you eat a supermarket salad, does the taste linger in your mouth for several hours after? Swallow This is a fascinating exploration of the food processing industry and its products - not just the more obvious ready meals, chicken nuggets and tinned soups, but the less overtly industrial - washed salads, smoothies, yoghurts, cereal bars, bread, fruit juice, prepared vegetables. Forget illegal, horse-meat-scandal processes, every step in the production of these is legal, but practised by a strange and inaccessible industry, with methods a world-away from our idea of domestic food preparation, and obscured by technical speak, unintelligible ingredients manuals, and clever labelling practices. Determined to get to the bottom of the impact the industry has on our food, Joanna Blythman has gained unprecedented access to factories, suppliers and industry insiders, to give an utterly eye-opening account of what we're really swallowing."
Yogurt? Washed salad? Really? Why do smoothies need all this processed crap in them? Of course, I can make them myself, which is what I normally do. But I am always looking for something to give Emma when she runs out the door to school and those small bottles are great.
People are very keen at the moment on all things natural. And the companies that make food know this. So they are even disguising the processed stuff by calling it something that sounds natural. And then they put a premium price tag on it an we buy it, in both senses of the word. That frustrates me. We have been looking at labels for a good while because Olivia, who is seven, reacts terribly to artificial colors. We noticed it the first time in Ireland, when she turned into a crazy monster child after eating something that was blue (or it could have been red). Her pupils dilate, she gets aggressive, and she starts kicking or hitting the people in her immediate area. It is an obvious, immediate, visceral reaction. The result is that we have to be very careful about food. It isn't just candy and cake that presents a problem, as you might expect. This stuff is even in vanilla pudding that she gets at school. I mean, I guess that wouldn't surprise me at home in the US. But I always had the impression that color was used less often here in Germany. But it's not. It is even in Extra gum! We are lucky that Olivia knows how to read. She looks for the E numbers in the ingredients list and knows not to eat the stuff, even though it is appealing to her as a kid.
We've also found a good combination of essential oils that helps her with her attention issues most of the time: Lavender, Cedarwood and Vetiver. She uses Stress Away as well when she needs it. But we are starting to look at the foods she is eating as well. And if artificial colors affect her behavior, I can only imagine that other processed ingredients too.
To that end, we are moving toward really eating non-processed foods. And that means more work. We are using Thieves cleaner for everything at home: floors, kitchen, bathroom, etc. Jan started using deodorant from Young Living as well. I also have shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. At least I know what is in there. No aluminum in the deodorant, for example. Jan is allergic to something called benzyl alcohol. It is in EVERYTHING. And it is often hidden behind some name like "Parfum" in German. This stuff costs a bit more, but my health is worth it
What we have made thus far is:
I haven't tried my hand at shampoo yet, but I plan to! I may have to be a bit more adventurous soon with making more products. But co-blogger Melisa will be doing just that in the near future, so watch out for recipes! If I can do it, anyone can.