We produce a lot of beautiful food on our farm. From raw milk to red meat to rendered lard to herbed salts to organic vegetables to fresh fruit. It's all here, all for the taking. Natural. Uncomplicated. Unprocessed. Just food.
Would you believe that our entire journey here on our farm began with my babies?
When our first-born Georgia was just a wee bairn, this raging Mama Bear came out of me. I didn't even know she was in there – alive, gaining strength, waiting for her moment. As a Mama Bear, I was willing to fight the dangers, shielding my cub with my life , and reigning terror on those who dare venture too close.
That was my method of protecting my littles from the outside-in. But I was equally as aggressive at protecting my cubs from the inside-out.
For us, this meant a steady diet of food choices that would nourish their bodies and allow them to avoid as many of the pitfalls of a bad diet as possible. And (good news!) there are many that are avoidable.
A lot isn't in our control. But some is. And I'll take what I can get.
So raw milk for the weaned children led to sourcing it from local farms – which led to buying a cow – which led to buying a farm – which ultimately led to the homestead as we know it today. And here we are.
The days of my cubs being fully under my control is shrinking. They are growing up – rapidly! And while I used to be able to control each bite that they enjoyed, now, they face the consumption of the world more each day. A world that is telling them up is down, black is white, pain is pleasure. A world that is shoveling garbage down their throat in gilded packages and telling them it is good.
It's not good.
This has come up over and over again in our home, as I have recently taken notice of the ingredients in a few new food items we brought into the home. Some lunch meat. A box of snack bars. Little portions of hummus. A bag of chips here or there. And, turns out, do you know what an ingredient is in all of them? Highly processed hydrogenated oils.
It encouraged me to dig deeper, but turns out, it's really not complicated: food manufacturers can produce these (often GMO) chemical-laden “vegetable” oils for very cheap and can replace the cost of high-quality fats in any recipe. Hydrogenated oils are an inexpensive, knock-off version of healthy fats.
We aren't limited on vitamin-rich and health-enhancing options. Fats that are proven to beneficial to our health. In fact, historically, the majority of calories in traditional diets came from fats like coconut oil, butter, ghee, duck fat, bear fat, tallow, lard, cold-pressed olive oil, blubber, etc.
You most likely won't see these good fats in any form of processed food. Even organic ones. Instead, you'll see highly processed hydrogenated oils that are heated, bleached, and chemically altered to provide a “cheap” alternative (I say “cheap” because it's only through government subsidies that such farming is possible, but that's another blog post).
But what is hydrogenated oil? Well, let's say we have a bazillion sunflower seeds. Most seeds don't have enough oil to be pressed. Instead, manufacturers use toxic chemicals and heat to extract the oil from the seed. In this process, most all of the nutritional value of the oil is destroyed. An oil that began as very fragile is now broken. This oil will go rancid very, very quickly. In order to make the oil last, food scientists began mixing and exposing those oils to hydrogen. This turns liquid oil (fat) into a solid oil (fat) and by rearranging the chemical structure of the oil, we have now created an oil that is comprised of mostly trans-fat.
Not only are these oils linked to heart disease, digestion issues, and cancer, they also do something quite awful when heated. At the point of heating (each fat has a different temperature at which this happens), the chemical compound of the oil begins to once again change. This results in a new chemical composition and new compounds – many of which are found to be carcinogenic to the body. These oils are openly linked to heart disease, inflammation, fertility, genetic disorders, and hormone disruption.
I know. I'm sorry to go all scientific on you. And (obviously) this is not the blog for that. I'm just a homesteader. There are plenty of people who have covered this topic with passion and thoroughness. But it's worth recognizing.
Here's my point: I don't want that garbage. It is in everything. In fact, our consumption of these toxic oils has gone up nearly 1000% in the last 25 years (that was 1996, ya'll).
These oils are in cookies. Chips. Crackers. Snack bars. Dressings. Margarine. Marinades. Any deep fried food. Spreads & dips. Ya'll – I'm not kidding you – these oils are in everything. (I know this because I've been trying to avoid them like the plague and it's almost impossible.)
Maybe it's not a thing for you – and that's okay. I generally try to do well by my body, my children's bodies, and our food choices (without letting such choices burden my heart). After all, these choices aren't of eternal importance.
I'm just a mom, farmer, and human, desperately trying to do well by the people in my charge. I want my cubs to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body and mind as much as possible. Burdens come in this world. Unavoidable burdens.
I'm happy to spend my efforts to help them avoid the ones we can.
For those of you out there who are laboring in your kitchens, over your stoves and tables, take heart. Your efforts are worthwhile.
It's okay to be weird. Drive the old car so you can spend more on the groceries. Unapologetically cut out all the crap. Eat the pastured red meat. Drink the raw milk. Celebrate the sauerkraut. Drizzle it all in butter. A healthy body is able to be of great service to those around them.
Health is a hard-earned gift. And it is worth fighting for.