Monday, December 5, 2011

Black and White

I am a man of black and white. Balance is not something I excel in. I think that’s part of the reason that fasting came relatively easily to me. It’s much easier for me to, say, not eat at all or only drink liquids for a few weeks than to eat in a healthy, balanced fashion for a year or a lifetime. Maybe it’s the challenge of it. Whatever it is, it’s not balance. Black and white. All or nothing. Tupac or Biggie (Actually, I’ve always been more of a Warren G guy).

This idea of balance often comes up when my wife and I talk about my crazy new ideas. (Hey honey, let’s throw the television away...let’s run a marathon in  a month and half...let’s listen to nothing but adult contemporary music for a year). Thankfully, none of these ideas came to fruition because my wife knows me and she knows that I have more mood swings than an adolescent girl (so I’ve heard). Being the gracious woman that she is, she only rolls her eyes at my plans occasionally.

I bring up all this balance stuff because it became the topic of conversation at dinner last night as I was eating my unprocessed black beans (soaked...not from the can, thank you) with quinoa (like rice only different). I was watching the rest of my family eat baked spaghetti. It must have been the way I was looking at all the melty cheese, because my wife said to me “so is there anything good that you can eat?” I confessed that I didn’t know the answer. I’ve been so entrenched in this food system for so long that I really don’t even know what the rules are outside of this game. It’s like Peyton Manning suddenly retiring from the NFL and getting a gig with the Irish rugby team. My guess is, it wouldn’t go well.

As I began to spout off my list of do’s and don’ts (making it up as I went, mind you), Adrienne stopped me gently and reminded me of my propensity to take things to unnecessary extremes. After a couple of defensive eyerolls we got to unpacking this thing together. What we arrived at was certainly more philosophical than practical, but it seems like it might be a good starting point anyway.

First, this isn’t about dogmatic rule-following. There is grace and freedom in this process as we figure out what it means to participate in “Kingdom eating.” Second, it’s not as much learning which foods to stay away from, rather learning how and where to find those foods produced in a responsible manner without harmful chemical treatments and petroleum-heavy processing. Does this mean that I shouldn’t be eating avocados in December that are transported from half a continent away? Probably...but I had one tonight and it was delicious. Let’s face it...winter squash and potatoes only go so far.

One fortunate by-product of this way of eating is that it is inherently healthier. There are several draw-backs, however, that we became immediately aware of. First, convenience. Gone are the days of grabbing a string cheese or a handful of crackers to waylay the mid-afternoon munchies. Replacing these treats (that I really look forward to) with carrots or roasted chick peas (surprisingly good...but still no Wheat Thin) is decidedly less appealing and decidedly more work, requiring additional advance preparations (peeling, roasting, etc.). Which leads me to the second draw-back.

This is going to be a lot of work. I don’t mean mental or emotional work..I mean labor. We’re going to have to bake a lot more bread if we want to eat it. We’re going to have to spend time simmering a chicken carcass if we want to have stock for sauces, soups, etc. Steel cut oats (unprocessed oatmeal) is delicious but it takes about 25 minutes to prepare, as opposed to the 3 minutes it takes to whip up a bowl of instant oatmeal. Those of you who have kids can imagine the road we see set before us, trying to relocate not only ourselves but our kids onto this path. Depending on how hard and how fast we go after this, we could be heading for a nervous breakdown...or a family breakdown...or both.

Which brings me back to balance. I hear sustainable change comes slowly. So, mission number one is to approach this in a well-rounded manner with an eye towards sustainability (and remaining happily married) and to not bite off more than I can

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