Clean vs. Dirty

Anyone who knows me is understandably worried about this post. Who knows what I’m writing about. Personal hygiene? Housekeeping? Cars? Sex? Nope. No need to call my mom. I’m talking food here people!

I’ve been hyper-conscious of what is around me, and what goes into me, since I was newly pregnant with my son. As a young mother, all I could think of were the bazillion and one ways I would irrevocably fuck him up over the next thirty years or so. All at once I knew very, very little about absolutely everything. The one thing I did know, though, was food. During my pregnancy I read, of course, every book I could find. Later on, I took a nutrition class with Katherine Musgrave, as an elective course while finishing my degree in English. That woman, I tell you, changed everything. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my degree. Hell, I wasn’t sure how the rent was going to get paid! What I did know was how to make meals that were cheap, calorically sufficient, healthy, and full of complete proteins a la Diet for a Small Planet.

That sense of purpose sustained me through some tumultuous years. Some of you know those years as your early twenties. Some of you know them as your first parenting years. I was riding two trains with one ass. Luckily, I’m flexible. All was good, at least on the dietary front, until I began a full-time teaching job. We quickly went from planning and experimenting in the kitchen (can you see us? Colby was the best batter stirrer of all time) to grabbing sandwiches and chips to eat while I graded papers at work (and Colby did his homework at a desk too big for his kindergartener frame). I lost twenty pounds by December of that year, and was so malnourished that my hair was falling out. At some later date I’ll talk about the implications here – and I’m talking political. But later. I eventually managed to gain the weight back, and because I’m an overachiever, I put on another fifteen that I would continue to lose and gain until…now.

My poor boyfriend has listened to me talk and talk and talk about how I feel like life just wasn’t jiving. I couldn’t articulate what was out of place, or what I could do about it. But I knew that all the different pieces of my life were not working together. I felt schizophrenic: like I just could not justify my mama-teacher-partner-friend-daughter-sibling-person selves. I’m still not sure how food did the trick, and I guess it was less trick than a re-alignment, but I’m feeling like someone has finally made a whole person out of the big-bucket-of-legos that I felt like. I took the Clean Food Challenge.

My friend and co-worker Emilee created a user-friendly cleanse, and named it the Clean Food Challenge, henceforth known as CFC. You can jump over to her blog to check out the specifics, but it is a pretty basic, and doable, whole-foods diet. For the CFC you spend one week eating none of the following: processed foods, dairy, alcohol, meat, gluten, and any other potential allergens. Because I was sure I was okay with eggs, I went with eggs. Sometimes I use hormone and additive free meats, but I was broke this time, so I didn’t. Anyway. What this boiled down to was one week of purposefully creating meals and thinking about them. My household is pretty diverse as far a nutritional needs go, so that added another issue. I just finished my third CFC, and feel like things are starting to get back in order. Colby remembered that he liked vegetables, in fact, he prefers spinach in his smoothies. My partner, Matthew, siphoned off nearly a 1/2 gallon of So Delicious coconut milk. Colby’s back in the kitchen with me (at will, anyway), and I no longer hide in the bathroom eating a sleeve of Chips Ahoy when I’ve had a crappy day. Not all is perfect, of course, and we will still have many nights of eating cereal for supper. Overall, though, this CFC has helped me start to bring the disparate areas of my life together. That, my friends, is a success.

On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite new CFC recipes. Happy Sunday, all!

Pinto Beans and Rice

1, 1 lb. bag dried pinto beans
1 large can diced or crushed tomatoes (I used a bag of frozen, diced tomatoes leftover from last summer)
1 heaping tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
3 bay leaves (very important)
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 diced onion (optional)
sea salt
freshly ground pepper (lots!)

Optional: 1 small can of tomato sauce, stock instead of water,

1. Soak beans overnight. Most recipes have you cook the beans in the soaking water, but I find the beans easier to digest if you use fresh water to cook with.
2. Drain and rinse beans. Return to crock and cover with water (or stock) about two inches over the top of the beans.
3. Add all ingredients. Stir.
4. Cook on low all day. I get home around 4, give the beans a good stir, and cover until suppertime. If they look wet, turn it on high and vent the lid. If they look dry add a bit of water and turn crock pot to “warm” setting.
5. Serve with cornbread, corn tortillas (fresh or homemade), or as filling for tacos or burritos. I use this as a lunch or snack with some Garden of Eatin’ Sesame Blues and a spoonful of Sisters Salsa. Before my last CFC I would sit down with a plate of microwave nachos (read: chips, cheese, and sour cream) after school every day. With this version, I barely miss the cheese!

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