Community Gardening… or playing in the mud for grown-ups!

Spring has sprung and launched headlong in to what appears to be, at this point, a pretty soggy and humid summer. This may seem irrelevant in the face of day to day business, but when you, like me, are at least two months behind in planting your garden, it is a God-send.  You see, this is Texas, where spring usually quails in fear or runs in full out retreat when faced with the onslaught of 100 degree summer days, where tender seedlings wilt at the first hint of that blazing ball in the sky, and, where, for a Brit-abroad, summer gardening means watching lettuce bolt and tomatoes fail to set flower! All in all, a hard place to garden.  Until this year… so far at least!

The difference this year is that, along with another refugee from rain, I have joined a community garden.  We don’t have a clever name or even a sign announcing our green-fingered presence, but this little patch of composted wonderful is just bursting with life and produce.  Sarah and are the only girls in this little group and our kids are the only kids with a row of their own… not that they do much actual “work”, they are content to leave that to the grown-ups in favor of visiting Avery the pig or playing on the tree swing.  In this little chicken-wire-enclosed haven we have found a way to connect with our kitchen-gardening parents and, hopefully, a way to connect our kids with the outlandish concept of where food comes from.

We haven’t produced much but the odd tomato yet, but I thought I’d share a couple of pics which hold the promise of future bounty. (Disclaimer.. most of the actual food you see growing isn’t ours but the result of others’ diligent work.)

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Food Nazi throws a birthday party!

It is fact universally acknowledged that the child of a food nazi will be in want of a party, regardless of his mother’s positions on food coloring and sugar and all things processed!

This fact and the looming specter of another birthday for the intrepid lizard hunter has finally prompted me to blog about last year’s foray into “Crunchy Mama” birthday party throwing!

Last year, the theme was Phineas and Ferb, the preternaturally awesome tv show, of which both the Reluctant Suburbanite and the Reluctant Husband are huge fans, not least because of the burgeoning inventor it has awakened in our second son!  Last year, the cake HAD to be a blue wave cake with a beach (see if you can place the episode?). Last year, we also, absolutely,  HAD to have ice cream sundaes!  This was looking like an unwinnable contest of kid-will vs crunchy mama!

After much deliberating and a huge amount of searching, I finally found organic veggie based food colorings online, and set out to make the cake… Which turned out so well, I am tempted to make it again this year, if only he hadn’t requested a lego themed cake this year!!  But then the challenge of the ice cream sundaes reared its ugly head!  What to do?  Don’t you know that kids only like ice cream because it has all that bright, fluorescent, sugary, junk in it? Not so you say?  Well, after I had calmed down and realized that the WalMart ice cream aisle was not the best place for inspiration, I agreed with you too!  And so… ice cream sundaes with strawberries, chocolate chips, caramelized pecans ( made from scratch), and blueberries, with a raspberry sauce were guzzled by one and all!  Throw in a few organic  hot dogs on whole wheat buns and carrot sticks and there you have it; all the required components for a kids party with none of the junk!  Oh, and did I mention the giant slip ‘n’ slide?? Fun for the whole family (well those under 12 at any rate!!).

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They call me the Food Nazi…

I appear to have developed a bit of a reputation as a Food Nazi among my friends here in ReluctantSuburbia.

(see below for how that happened!!)

My boys, energy filled, clever, wonderful little chaps that they are, are deemed paragons of eating virtue by their friends’ mums… why? Because they eat vegetables, fruit, brown rice, beans, lettuce wraps, fish etc. Apparently, however, I am regarded with a certain amount of trepidation; as if my friends are conjuring up images of me standing over my crying, protesting children, force-feeding them raw veggies and cardboard-esque slabs of tofu! The truth is that we make dinners and lunches together, they love cooking – all that tearing, mushing and stirring – and they have quite developed opinions on which tomatoes go with which dips.. don’t even get them started on types of hummus!!

As you may have noticed, here in the RS household, there are a few things we do differently – like having babies, and our approach to food and feeding our family is right up there. The thing is, I have never been one to accept the status quo, and consequently even before our babies were eating real food, I was consciously choosing whole, fresh foods for nutrition. When I was pregnant, our midwife had a standard for us, a certain amount of each type of food each week, and explained why I needed to eat whole, natural, preservative-free foods. This got me thinking that if, when pregnant and growing a whole person, I should protect them from harmful preservatives, additives and chemicals, why would it be any different when they come out?

Now, I will admit to being an obsessive label reader, a passionate cook, and an unashamed hater of additives and chemicals in my food, so it will come as no surprise that we have always done our best to avoid obviously junky foods. But, recently, I have had to take another hard look at our regular shopping list and have discovered some really disturbing things: Cinnamon Life cereal has red food coloring in it, most kids yoghurts not only have blue5 & red40 but also HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup – Ugh don’t even get me started on that junk!), that almost everything marketed to kids has added sugar, refined bleached enriched white flour, added salt, and artificial sweeteners, not to mention the preservatives and other unintelligible-chemistry-babble ingredients. Why, Oh, Why do we need to add all this junk to our food and why is it being marketed to us as “healthy” when, as soon as you take your eyes off the happy smiling people on the packaging and actually read the ingredients, you can see plainly that it is the exact opposite?

This is my plea; People, take control of your family’s health by taking back your brain in the grocery store! Don’t be fooled by pretty, healthy-looking packaging and special offers, but rather choose things that actually resemble real food! Please stop cramming your children full of sugar, food coloring and additives and then berating them for their inability to concentrate at school – their brain is broken because of their diet… they don’t need drugs, they need real food; whole raw foods that support their immune systems not destroy them!

And, here is a truly radical thought – send them to school with a healthy home made packed lunch, with whole grains and fruit and veggies and water to drink, instead of the crap they provide at school.

I have always maintained that school lunches are junk, and have never participated in the mess that is the government-funded big-food-company sponsored poisoning of school children; however, even I was shocked at the “Healthy Eating” claims of USDA approved school lunches, apparently pizza with jello and chocolate milk (sweetened with HFCS and food colorings galore) is “balanced”, brain food! One courageous teacher in Illinois has set out to expose the ugly truth of her school’s food, by committing to eat it every day, follow her, read her, encourage her and most importantly, take control of your child’s health by opting out if you can, or lobbying for change if you can’t.

So, here in ReluctantSuburbia we will be having brown rice, chicken and veggie stir-fry for dinner – stop by, the boys may even let you cook!

Here’s to your good health and ours!

The Reluctant Suburbanite

ReluctantSuburbia:

Where mummy-hood is more about raising men than being a taxi-driver… but that is a topic for another day!