Processing Unprocessed

I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions this year, I set goals. Is that different? I’m not sure. It’s different enough in my head. I can always make progress toward goals, but New Year’s resolutions feel like a pass/fail situation to me. And let’s be honest here: I’ve never passed that class.

So this year one of my goals is to read a book a month. I made a list of tons of books that sound interesting to me so that I always have ideas, and started reading a little bit before bed each night.

I am happy to report that I met my January goal! I may have read the last third of the book on the last day of the month, but I did it! Picking a good book certainly helped.

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I choose Megan Kimble’s Unprocessed: My City-dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food. Her book is a 326 page account of her 365 day challenge to only eat unprocessed food. Fortunately for her, she lives in Arizona where food can be grown locally year-round, which makes fresh fruits and vegetables more available. But as she points out in her final week in which she also takes the SNAP Challenge, unprocessed does not have to be local, organic, or expensive.

I am a sucker for a well-written book about food, and this one is exactly that. She’s a young, female version of Michael Pollan. She has a great mix of introspective narrative and excellent outside research to give a well-rounded and informative take on what eating unprocessed looks like for a young, single woman.

What surprised me the most is the tangents into non-food topics. I enjoyed it because she dipped into some of the other topics that also concern me. And while they don’t seem connected to food, they are all connected to a way of thinking about how we impact our world.

For example, in chapter 9 Kimble explores the devices and technological advances that have changed the way we prepare and store our food, like refrigeration. If you look at advertising back in the day, much of the pitch was about liberating women from the drudgery of kitchen-work. I imagine both of you who are reading this just snorted your coffee out your left nostril (if you are female and drinking coffee). The fridge doesn’t seem to answer all our struggles to feed ourselves and our families (which reminds me, I think I have some molding rice on the back shelf…).

Anywho, this leads to a discussion around work inside versus outside the home, gender roles, and Wendell Berry.

“As we know it today, work takes place in a realm outside the home. Work is something to be directed to an end; chores are something we must do in here. But what makes for good work? If a wife edits her husband’s manuscript because it contributes to the economic well-being of a shared household–and because she enjoys it–is this better work that what she might do for someone else, somewhere else, to earn a paycheck to contribute to that same household? The better question might actually be: Is it more pleasurable? “More and more, we take for granted that work must be destitute of pleasure. More and more, we assume that if we want to be pleased we must wait until evening, or the weekend, or vacation, or retirement,” wrote [Wendell] Berry in a later essay, “Economy and Pleasure.” “We are defeated at work because our work gives us no pleasure. We are defeated at home because we have no pleasant work there.”

Since the first half of the twentieth century, women have exchanged work in the kitchen for work in the world–and thus so did I, without ever knowing it was a decision to be made.”

This. THIS.

I happily identify as a feminist. I have a job that pays me money. But what about this? What have we lost and gained in this exchange? And not just women, but men, too. We accept (in the U.S.) that 40-60 hour work weeks are normal. We accept 2-3 weeks of paid vacation and might not even take it for fear of not looking dedicated enough. We are accessible 24-7 by phone, email, and text. We work extra to save up for retirement, when we’ll get to do whatever we want, and then find ourselves too unhealthy to do what we want. Or perhaps even worse, we wake up on day 1 of retirement and realize we don’t know what we WANT to do.

Thank you for letting me get this mini-rant out. I promise there are so many more. As soon as I find a way to connect them to food, they will end up here. 🙂 

I am still processing everything that I read in Unprocessed. I find it truly ironic that in the course of trying to uncomplicate her diet, Kimble stumbled into so many complicated issues–animal welfare, international food sourcing, organics, hunger, dating, gender roles, and more. She has convinced me to start to migrate our diet even further toward unprocessed food for so many reasons.

What about you?

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