We just got back from a week's holidays, which we spent road-tripping through the American Mid-West, down to Moab, Utah: A world mountain biking destination. The riding there was amazing, and overall it was a great trip, but it really drove home to us how well we eat on a day-to-day basis.
We knew we couldn’t take much across the border, and even knowing that we ended up sacrificing some delicious organic Cara Cara Oranges (Derek forbid me from arguing with the border guards: “But they’re from California!”). So, we embarked on our trip pretty ill-prepared: There’s not a lot of natural food stores or roadside organic cafes through Montana, Idaho, and Utah. We ate what we could get and did as best we could to make healthy choices, but limp nutrition-less salads, white buns, and mystery meat meals were by far the standard. We did find a Whole Foods in Salt Lake City, Utah, but by then we were crashing hard from the excess fat, sugar, and sodium-laced food we had been eating for the past 22 hours. We got some supplies, and I picked up some GT’s Kombucha and our multi-vitamin that we had forgotten in order to get our guts through the week.
There was also a nice little natural food store in Moab (Moonflower Market 39 E 100 N, (435) 259-5712), and a great café that we visited for breakfast each day, but when travelling it was really hard to consistently make good food choices. At dinner, I would ask for double vegetables instead of deep-fried potatoes, and be presented with a lack-lustre array of carrots mixed with things from a can, far from the beautiful organic vegetables we are spoiled by at home. While we were away, our two pet rabbits ate better vegetables than us!
Arriving home this week and getting back to work, I walked through the produce department, marvelling at the delicious apple smells and all the colourful, alive vegetables. I peeled a fair-trade banana and exclaimed “I missed you!” before biting into it (Ask Jon, I really, truly did—He overheard it!). I made a decision then and there to focus on fresh for at least a week. I’m hesitating about calling it a cleanse, but I suppose if it needed to be classified that would be what it would fall under (specifically an anti-candida cleanse, something that was recommended by my Naturopath and I have been avoiding doing for nearly a year now!). So: no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no wheat. For the sake of my co-workers, I am still allowing myself 2 cups of coffee every morning, and for my Dillon sweet-tooth and personal sanity, I am letting myself eat fruit, just no processed sugars.
In starting this restrictive diet, I was inspired by two customers whom I have had a couple of conversations with in our store. They have recently started doing the 100-Mile Diet and are committed to finding local products and grocery store staff that are knowledgeable about where things come from. Luckily for them, Vital Greens Dairy in Picture Butte, Alberta is on the grey area of 100 miles, Highwood Crossing in Okotoks has local grains, and Hotchkiss Produce out of Rockyview is still producing fresh produce in these dreary winter months. I commend them for attempting the diet, though I go with more of a perspective of choosing as local as possible within the range of clean, healthy food. That means that I will always choose Sunworks Farm meat and eggs, even if a feedlot opened up beside my house. And given the choice of local cheese, even though there is not a salt source within 100 miles of Alberta, I will overlook that particular ingredient in order to support a local business (Sylvan Star Cheese, Smoky Valley Goat Cheese, and The Cheesiry Sheep Cheese are all great Alberta cheeses that we carry in the store). For resources and a guide to the 100-Mile Diet in Calgary, visit Slow Food Calgary.
Anyhow, these two guys doing a 100-Mile Diet got me to thinking about my blog. Trying things like GoGo Quinoa cookies and liking them as a person with a non-restrictive diet is one thing. Having a restricted diet and finding things that are good despite is a complete other story, one that many of our regular customers struggle with on a day-to-day basis, and a reason many of them shop at our store. So, I decided to give it a try, for as long as I deem necessary, in order to refresh my perspective and to understand our regular shopper a bit better.
I’m fortunate to have a team of experts at our store to consult. Our store manager Sherry Sweet is a Health and Body Care specialist, with a great team of professionals behind her. Our store owner Matt Paulson has extensive knowledge of the various grocery products, and his wife Erin is a top-notch allergy-free chef and co-cookbook author, with many dietary restrictions herself. Many of the staff at our store follow alternative diets and have a wealth of knowledge and personal experience. So, if there were ever a time that I should be trying out something new, the time is now! I know from a brief week of gluten-freedom that wheat is hiding in nearly everything. (I must also note here, that I mean no offence to those who have “alternative diets” or “restricted diets”. Distinguishing that which differs from the “norm” unfortunately comes with a bit of a negative connotation: Think “organic” produce versus “conventional”… Why is it called “conventional” when up until the last century, chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers were not the norm, and organic was? And who says the norm is necessarily right?)
Anyhow, in embarking on this journey, I hope those of you who have ever had to restrict items from your diet will be able to identify with me; I hope those of you who know me or read the blog will be able to laugh with me (and sometimes at me!); and I hope that if nothing else, I will be able to learn and grow as a person and develop more knowledge about food. Sprung from my roots as a market garden slave to my mother, to my short youth stint as a fast-food monger, and finally a move from conventional grocery store to grassroots and an English Lit degree in-between: food is my passion (followed by writing), and I know this will be a rewarding experiment.