Tag Archives: reversing the process

Living Without Ziploc and Saran

stock in mason jars

There was a time when I didn’t think I could live without plastic food storage bags and plastic wrap. But once I figured out how to get rid of paper towels, I figured out how to get rid of all of them. Like paper towels, these are products which many generations of humans lived without and they stuck out like sore thumbs in my less industrial kitchen. I had Ziploc bags in multiple sizes, non-resealable plastic food storage bags, plastic wrap, and I ended up with all kinds of plastic bags when buying produce and bulk dry goods.

I still use plastic trash bags, but I’ve switched to more eco-friendly brands which I buy at my local coop, and I do keep a stash of large ziploc bags in the tool box. However, I only use them for rare circumstances like when I ship food products in glass which if broken and not in plastic would make an irreparable mess.

As convenient as they are small plastic bags are not necessary. You can get rid of them entirely, along with plastic wrap and here’s how you do it.

Buy cotton and silk bags for storing produce in the fridge.

I used to store lettuces, herbs and produce wrapped in paper towels, in plastic bags. Over the years, I learned that plastic was death to vegetables in the fridge, but paper towels, used with plastic bags were my saving grace. Eventually, I found the kootsac etsy store where you can buy the best cotton and silk bags for produce storage. Etsy store owner, Morgen, sells the silk bags for bulk dry goods, but I recommend them for lettuces, greens and herbs which are best stored in the crisper. For sturdier produce, like carrots, broccoli and scallions, I use the cotton bags, also purchased from the kootsac etsy store. I wash my bags by hand with dish soap (which in my house is Dr. Bronners) and I dry them on the fridge using rust resistant magnets.

Buy mason jars and a canning funnel to fill them.

I suggest you buy a wide array of sizes including the classic quart size, the pint size, the half-pint size, and the half-gallon size jars. They are very inexpensive and when the lids get rusty you can easily replace them. The small ones work well for snacks and lunches and the larger ones are great for storing soups, stocks and leftovers of all kinds. I recommend the wide mouth jars because they are easier to clean and fill, and I also recommend investing in a five-dollar canning funnel for filling though it’s possible to live without it.

Buy glass food storage containers with lids.

You can find sets of Pyrex storage containers with plastic lids all over and you can often find them on sale. A couple of these sets will give you enough to store things in the fridge that you would otherwise store in plastic bags. When you go to the farmers market, you can bring these containers with you for easily squashed items like berries and figs. The vendors are usually happy to take back their containers and there’s no better way to store berries in the fridge. You don’t need any paper towels and as long as you don’t overfill the container, your berries will stay fresher than you are used to. I’m particularly partial to Pyrex because it can go from the fridge to the oven. I don’t own a microwave so I reheat leftovers frequently in the same Pyrex containers I use in the fridge.

Use wax paper to wrap sandwiches and snacks.

To keep the wax paper closed you can use a small piece of tape or you can wrap the package in a cloth napkin. You can wrap sandwiches, pastries and breads which stay plenty fresh in lunches when wrapped this way. I also use wax paper to wrap and store cheese though I have to say it some cheeses have a shorter shelf life in the fridge when they are wrapped in wax paper. The softer cheeses seem to fair better in wax paper but the harder cheeses like cheddar can dry out if left for a long time. I tend to use cheese pretty quickly so it’s rarely a problem.

Stop using the plastic bags at the grocery store and the farmers market.

Get in the habit of bringing your cotton and silk bags with you, along with your reusable shopping bags. Tons of people will ask you about them and tell you that’s such a good idea and then you can tell them about the kootsac etsy store I mentioned  above. I bring mine to the farmers market and the coop and I keep enough of them on hand so I never run out. I’ve had some that were less durable but I have every single kootsac bag I’ve ever bought. They have never frayed or torn even though I have stained them over the years with things like beets and half cut red peppers.

You can also bring your mason jars to the grocery store and farmers market for buying dry goods in bulk. You can go to the cashier to get a tare weight on the jar so you don’t pay for the weight of the jar and then your dry goods are ready to put away when you get home. Since I buy the majority of my dry goods in bulk, my cupboards are filled with mason jars which stack well and which look beautiful.

Use non-disposable storage containers around the house.

When I decided to finally face my plastic bag addiction, I had to admit it had spread beyond the kitchen. I realized I had Ziploc bags all over the house, storing all kinds of things – from panty hose to extra bars of soap. And when I traveled it was even worse. So I gradually started replacing the plastic bags with different kinds of storage containers that could serve more than one purpose over time, and for traveling I re-appropriated some of my cotton food storage bags which where fraying and not holding up so well (the ones I didn’t buy from the kootsac etsy store). In order to quell my fear of toiletries spilling in my suitcase, I wrap my toiletry bag in one of my chicobag reuseable shopping bags. They are made of nylon so they are more or less water proof, and come to find out, my toiletries don’t leak nearly as often as I worried they would.

If you bake your own bread, buy a large glass bowl and a plate large enough to fit under it.

I know this doesn’t apply to most people, but storing bread was a serious barrier to entry for me to the no-plastic-bag-lifestyle. I used those non-reclosable food storage bags to store left over bread every single day and I couldn’t very well just leave the bread on the counter for days. I tried wax paper but I had to use a ton of tape given the width of the roll, and it never worked well. So I took my largest straight-sided glass bowl and turned it upside down on a dinner plate. It fit perfectly, provided better next day storage than plastic, and that’s how I’ve been storing my homemade bread ever since.

Stop buying plastic storage bags and plastic wrap.

Once you’ve done some re-equiping of your kitchen, just stop. Anything you’re missing in your kitchen to make it work will reveal itself over time and don’t feel guilty about using up what you’ve already bought while you’re in transition.  If you’re concerned about the cost of making the transition, think about how much you’ll spend in your lifetime on Ziploc bags and Saran Wrap if you don’t kick the addiction now.

Appreciate the extra space in your drawer or cupboard.

There was a time when I purchased and stored: large ziploc bags, medium ziplock bags, small ziploc bags, non-resealable plastic food storage bags, regular  saran wrap, that new fangled saran wrap that sticks to itself, aluminum foil, wax paper, and parchment paper. Now, I only purchase and store two of those nine modern conveniences. My one role of wax paper and one role of parchment paper fit easily and conveniently in one of my kitchen drawers and I’m no longer addicted to the other seven products which humans make in factories, ship to stores, and purchase in bulk for a lot of money, even though they don’t really need them. I weened myself off aluminum foil eventually too and it’s a wonderful feeling.

Good luck!

Giving up things like plastic bags and paper towels is a relatively big adjustment for any household but you’ll be surprised what you can live without if you try. Humans lived for thousands of years without Ziploc and Saran, just like they lived without aluminum foil, paper towels, pasteurization or industrial preservatives. For me, it’s about reversing the process and getting the factory out of my pantry which is a never-ending adventure.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


My First Steps Towards Real Food

mason jars with dry goods

So far in my reversing the process series, I have talked about my mission to get the factory out of my pantry and I have defined real food, which does not include all of the edible food-like substances we regularly call food. I explained how this process was the most positive kind of slippery slope, so now I will explain how I got started on this journey, more than a decade ago.

It was 2003 and I was living with my husband and a close friend in the Catskills. We lived for almost a year in this small town called Andes, an hour outside of Woodstock where we had moved in 2001. We had a beautiful house on a hill in the country and I was spending more and more time in the kitchen. My grocery lists at the time included things like: E.L. Fudge cookies, white bread, Velveeta macaroni and cheese, bullion cubes (the green chicken ones and the red beef ones), ramen noodles, Tropicana orange juice, and Entenmann’s pastries. My grocery lists also included their fair share of kale, root vegetables, lentils, quinoa, free range chicken stock, and organic dairy products, because I had already been living in Woodstock for more than a year and that town was on the cutting edge of the organic, whole food movement.

Even before my first ah-hah moment, my grocery shopping habits were already telling a tale. By 2003, I was splitting my shopping between a big box wholesale club, the local grocery store chain, the local butcher shop, and the local “health food store” which was what we called coops back before Whole Foods was a ubiquitous brand. And while I was buying more and more each week at the health food store, I was still making a separate list for those family favorites which were not available at the health food store. But the difference between the products from the different stores really started to bug me.

At that time, what was really bugging me were the artificial colors and artificial flavors, so I sat down one day to discuss this with my husband and roommate. Had I been living alone, I would have just stopped buying those things, but when you are in charge of feeding more than one adult, you can’t just change the whole routine without getting some buy-in. The guys had to admit they didn’t realize what they were eating, and on principle, everyone agreed artificial colors and artificial flavors are not good. We agreed to gradually stop buying a lot of things but we also agreed to not go crazy all of a sudden.

That was really how it started, with the personal rejection of artificial colors and flavors and from there each subsequent change to our food life was a natural extension of the last. Over the years, we’ve stopped buying a lot of things and we’ve started cooking a lot of things entirely from scratch. We’ve stopped shopping for edible food like substances and we’ve started shopping for ingredients to make real food, which is delicious.

I wish I could give you the exact progression of what we gave up and when, but these were the key milestones along the way, by category:

  • Hydrogenated oils like peanut butter and Crisco
  • Modern, industrial cooking oils like vegetable oil and canola oil
  • Pasteurized milk and cream
  • Dairy products made from pasteurized milk
  • Industrially canned vegetables like beans and tomatoes
  • Prepared chicken and beef stock (and before that bullion cubes and powdered stocks)
  • Industrial raised meat, fish, poultry and eggs
  • Factory-made desserts of all kinds from cookies and pies to cakes and ice cream
  • Pasteurized juices and pre-made drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners like high-fructose corn-syrup and bleached white sugar
  • Prepared breads of all kinds
  • Boxed cereals of all kinds

At this point our kitchen is more or less devoid of all of the above, with a few exceptions. For example, I do break down and buy organic cream cheese every now and then and my husband never gave up pasteurized pomegranate juice. This also all goes out the window almost anytime we eat at a restaurant, but when it comes to our grocery list and the food we prepare at home, we mostly have gotten the factory out of our pantry.

It’s taken more than a decade but only recently did it feel like a mission. For many years, each individual choice was a natural progression and they were simply individual choices which are sadly impossible to order in my memory. We didn’t make changes according to the neat categories above. For example, we stopped buying spray canola oil long before we gave up canola oil entirely and there was a time when I bought half my butter and made the other half fresh. We switched to organic milk before we switched to raw milk. We switched to dried beans years before we started canning our own tomatoes. There were years when homemade ice cream was just a treat, instead of the norm. I do still buy a few cheeses made with pasteurized milk, but less and less frequently, and I do still buy one bottle of light Karo corn syrup per year to recreate the my childhood birthday cake for my own birthday.

Over the years, each change was an individual choice and some changes were harder to make than others but as the small changes accumulated into more obviously categorical change, the remaining more industrial foods in our kitchen started to stand out. For example, the canned tomatoes started to stand out when they were the only thing left in a can I was buying on a regular basis. The canola oil was also hard to defend next to the farm fresh olive oil, the homemade butter, and the beautiful organic pork lard from the butcher shop.

And a lot of the changes were easy to make. Giving up store-bought ice cream really wasn’t that hard once I found the raw vanilla ice cream recipe on page 550 of Nourishing Traditions and the chocolate ice cream recipe on page 26 of The Perfect Scoop. Now, I make all my own ice cream and the vanilla ice cream recipe above is so simple I can make it in less than 30 minutes, including the time in the ice cream maker. And I had a similar experience with bread. I thought it would take years to start making all my own bread but one cook book changed a big slice of my food life in less than a month. With Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, I didn’t need to buy bread, and no one in my family missed the store bought version of anything once I started playing around with the recipes in that book.

Now, the remaining industrial products in my kitchen really do stand out and there are still a few I would like to eradicate. For example, although now organic, I still buy prepared mustard, ketchup and mayo. They look weird to me there in the door of the fridge with their labels and their expiration dates, but this particular category is hard for me to make from scratch because I don’t eat any of them and I gag at the smell of mayo. I did try to make friends with mayo by making it from scratch a while back, but it was an utter disaster and I have not gotten back on that horse since. I will some day but until then, I’ll buy those three things at the coop and I won’t feel guilty about doing so.

I take my food changes one day at a time and one change at a time, and there’s always a list in the back of my mind of the next food challenges I will take on. Next on my list: puff pastry, croissants, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Oh, and this Greek soup called avgolemono, which is a good example because sometimes I take on a particular recipe I’m craving while sometimes I take on a whole category of food change. Sometimes I’m driven more by desire and sometimes I’m driven more by disgust, but each small change makes space for the next small change and quite quickly, they add up to a more nourishing lifestyle which promotes thoughtful living and provides an endless history of traditions to explore.

If you look at my food life now, it’s not a modern life. On the face of it, and if you don’t count the meals I eat out, I have given up all kinds of modern conveniences, but I have also found a new kind of efficiency and rhythm with food which is much less time consuming than you would think. But, you can’t just change your life in a weekend. And I can’t tell you exactly where to start because the changes you choose to make should be specific to your life and your taste.

The good news is, whatever changes you choose to make now will be easier than they were when I started on this path. And I will continue to share my story here with my reversing the process series which will hopefully save you some time along the way. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions.

Finally, I would also like to make a note about my mixed use of singular and plural pronouns in this post. That was an editorial red flag for me as I was finishing this post but I decided they were appropriate in this case, and more than that, my use of them reminded me of something I failed to include about this kind of change.

For me, reversing the process has been a personal, individual choice for change, but it has also been a process that my husband and I have gone through together. Sometimes, we take on a particular change together. Sometimes it’s more of a change I tackle myself which we then integrate into our lifestyle. And while I do the majority of the cooking per se, my husband is actively involved in our week-to-week food life from shopping and food prep to actual cooking. For example, I was having trouble getting in the rhythm of making our own whole grain cereal. We would end up running out and I wouldn’t have time to make a new batch for weeks. So, my husband wrote down the recipe I had concocted and now, he is in charge of keeping the pantry stocked with cereal. In some ways, change is easier when you live alone but change is not impossible when you are in a relationship. It does however require some conversation and it will be easier if there is some sort of foundational, philosophical agreement about what is driving you to change.

More about Wanda Shapiro   •  Novels by Wanda Shapiro

Living Without Paper Towels

cloth napkin

As I started reversing the process and started getting the factory out of my pantry, I started to think about all the things in my kitchen which people didn’t have before my grandparents were alive. Coincidentally, as I was having these thoughts, I happened to see a documentary film called Greedy Lying Bastards which connected the Koch brothers with commonly purchased products like paper towels. These two diverging trains of thought finally pushed me over the edge and made me give up paper towels.

That was more than a year ago but I’ve done it. I’ve completely given up paper towels and here is what you need if you want to do the same.

Stop buying paper towels.

You can’t stop until you stop. I tried minimizing the use of paper towels, but the household dependency on them didn’t end until I stopped buying them.

Buy more kitchen towels.

If you want to live without paper towels, you are going to need more kitchen towels. They don’t have to be expensive, but they should be 100% cotton and if you want to maximize absorbency, you should stop using fabric softener. You may want to keep two kinds of towels, one for cleaning and one for everyday use, but I didn’t do that until after the first year or so. Now, I keep one stack of older, more stained, cleaning towels, and one stack of newer, less stained, kitchen towels for every day use.

Create a place to hang towels in use.

This should be near the sink or near wherever people will reach for when they would reach for a paper towel. I have hooks for three towels which are in use and one is generally sitting on the counter below, ready for easy access and use during miscellaneous kitchen tasks.

Create a place to hang dirty towels where they can dry before laundering.

If you don’t want smelly laundry, you need somewhere to hang towels which are too dirty to use, but too wet to put in the laundry. You will need to train the people in your kitchen to put the dirty towels in the right place where they don’t get used again until clean. Towels which have touched the floor, have cleaned up raw meat messes, or which have been used a lot should be hung to dry but should not be used again. I have three hooks in a prominent location for towels in use and four hooks for dirty towels in a more out of the way location.

Buy cloth napkins.

You may want to buy one kind for every day use and one kind for more formal dinners, but either way, you will need enough to replace paper towels or paper napkins at every meal. How many you will need will depend on the size of your family and I recommend 100% cotton napkins for their more natural feel and for their better absorbency.

Use cookie sheets and cooling racks for draining bacon and fried foods.

I didn’t think of this until I stopped buying paper towels, but a cooling rack on a cookie sheet is actually better for draining fried food than a paper towel on a platter. It prevents condensation and keeps the food much crisper than the paper towel alternative you are used to. I tried newspaper once, but the chemicals on the print grossed me out.

Buy cotton and silk bags for storing produce in the fridge.

I used to store lettuces, herbs and produce wrapped in paper towels, in plastic bags. Over the years, I learned that plastic was death to vegetables in the fridge, but paper towels were my saving grace. Eventually, I found the kootsac etsy store where you can buy the best cotton and silk bags for produce storage. Esty store owner Morgen sells the silk bags for bulk dry goods, but I recommend them for lettuces, greens and herbs which are best stored in the crisper. For sturdier produce, like broccoli and scallions, I use the cotton bags, also purchased from the kootsac etsy store.

Use terry cloth towels for washing windows and mirrors.

Wash off the dirt and mess with a wet cloth and buff dry with a dry terry cloth towel. You can’t get a streak-free clean with a damp towel, but you can buff a mirror or window streak-free with a dry terry cloth towel. You don’t need paper towels or newspaper, and you don’t even need window cleaner.

Use kitchen towels for patting dry meat.

Anyone who cooks meat well knows a dry muscle is necessary for a good sear. So, pat your meat dry with a kitchen towel, just like you would with a paper towel. Hand wash the towel in the sink with some dish soap and hang it to dry with the dirty towels. Red meat will stain your towels but you can keep two kinds of towels to contain the staining.

When you make a horrible mess, sacrifice a towel or two.

Sometimes, you make a horrible mess, and sometimes that means you have to throw out a towel or two. My first real mess after giving up paper towels was a quart jar of sugar-mint syrup dropped from waist-high, right in front of an open fridge. It was horrible, and there was glass everywhere, and there was a house full of people waiting for dinner when it slipped out of my hand. The first words out of my best friend’s mouth were, “I bet you wish you hadn’t given up paper towels now!” I swept up the mess, broken glass and all, with a couple towels and threw them away without a second thought. I did the same when I dropped a jar of honey and I am sure there will be other horrible messes in my future.

Good luck!

Giving up paper towels is a relatively big adjustment for any household, but it is possible. It takes a certain amount of retraining, but humans lived for thousands of years without paper towels, just like they lived without pasteurization and microwaves and saran wrap. You don’t realize how many times a day you reach for a paper towel until you actually stop buying them, but there is something so gratifying about not putting them in your shopping cart ever again. Since I gave up paper towels, I have also given up plastic storage bags and saran wrap and I’ve never owned a microwave. You’ll be surprised what you can live without if you try.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro

Defining Real Food


In my first post about reversing the process, I explained that I’m on a mission to get the factory out of my pantry and I promised to explain what I mean when I say I try to eat as much real food as possible. Like I said before, this is a little hard to talk about because I really don’t want to offend anyone but the commonly accepted definition of food now includes what I would call real food and what Michael Pollan calls, “edible food-like substances.”

Humans have been producing food for thousands of years without synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Humans were gathering for elaborate feasts long before scientists were engineering food in laboratories, and still today when you have healthy soil, you can build a sustainable farm. You can raise healthy animals for food, milk and eggs, and you can grow all sorts of food bearing plants, depending on your geographic location. You can grow food for yourself and if you choose, you can grow food for other people. It’s the circle of life and it includes people and animals and seeds and plants and soil and water.

We give scientists credit for all sorts of advances in food and agriculture technology, but we are presuming a lot when we call each new industrial process an advance. Science has given us synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds, and farms which can grow an enormous amounts of one thing with relatively little manpower. Science has given us pasteurization, hydrogenation, homogenization, irradiation, and shelf-stabilization. Science has given us food that can be mass produced and stored for long periods. Science has given us factories which produce packaged foods in numerous varieties using very few real ingredients which are highly processed and mixed with a lot of different kinds of chemicals. Science has given us food that is convenient, predictable and loaded with flavor, never mind if it’s frequently artificial. Science has given us food which requires no work if you don’t count the dollars you pay for it or the non-communicable diseases you might develop from eating it. I don’t mean to hate on science, but science has given us food our forefathers wouldn’t recognize as food. Science has given us food that is not real food.

Real food is food someone from one hundred years ago would recognize. Real food does not require chemicals or laboratories or factories. Real food is nurtured by real people living real lives on healthy soil. Real food comes from farms that grow more than one thing. Real food does not come in colorful packages with ingredients listed in fine print. Real food doesn’t require any fine print.

Since real food and not real food have been so co-mingled in our lifetime, I have provided two lists below. The first list includes real food, which I try to eat more of. The second list includes edible food-like substances which are not real food and which I try to eat less of. I’ve eaten all the things on the second list and I used to eat them all with regularity. Now, while I make plenty of allowances out the world, I make far fewer allowances at home, but reversing the process has taken me more than a decade and it wasn’t one single choice I made one day.

Gradually, over the years, I’ve started eating and cooking more real food. It’s not as convenient, but real food is not about convenience, it’s about nourishment. Real food is nourishing not just in the ingestion, but in the preparation and each time we make a choice in that direction we are supporting ancient traditions.

In my next post, I’ll write about my first steps towards real food and my journey down this path, but for now here are two lists which will help clarify what I mean when I say I try to eat more real food. Neither of these lists are complete, but they are a good start and should give you the idea.

Real food includes:

  • Organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains, rices and nuts
  • Meat and eggs from organic pasture raised animals
  • Raw whole milk and cream from pasture raised cows
  • Butter made from raw cream
  • Oils from olives and nuts
  • Naturally rendered animal fats
  • Fresh and dried beans
  • Home canned vegetables and preserves
  • Fish which swam in wild waters
  • Bone broths
  • Naturally fermented foods
  • Cheese and dairy products made from raw milk

Not real food includes:

  • Hydrogenated oils of all kinds
  • Synthetic trans fats like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Hydrolyzed proteins
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Canola oil
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Artificial flavors
  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Natural flavors (which are not natural)
  • Pasteurized dairy products
  • Other pasteurized foods
  • Chemically grown fruits, vegetables and grains
  • Industrially canned food
  • Irradiated food
  • Meat and eggs from industrially raised animals
  • Farmed fish
  • Anything bleached, homogenized or irradiated
  • Cheese and meat products that require the word product because the aren’t actually cheese or meat
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Preservatives like sodium benzoate potassium benzoate
  • Food grown from genetically modified seeds

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro

Reversing The Process

real food on a counter

I’m on a mission to get the factory out of my pantry and I am passionate about where my food comes from. I’m a regular at my local farmers market and all of the dairy products in my fridge are raw, straight from the cow. I make the vast majority of the food I eat from scratch. I even make all my own bread and all my own butter, and gradually, over time, that has become normal to me. I don’t prescribe to any particular school of culinary or dietary thought, but I have become very discerning regarding exactly what qualifies as real food.

I make generous exceptions so that I can continue to live and eat like a relatively normal person in public, but I make far fewer exceptions in my own home and I eat out far less frequently than most urban-dwelling women in their thirties. I bring my lunch to work more days than I don’t and I’m an anomaly around the office with my homemade lunches packed in thermoses, mason jars and waxed paper. To some people, the food I eat is dangerously decadent but I don’t believe in the kind of low-fat American diet which so many people swear by, doctors included.

For me, it’s about real food. It’s about food that was grown and prepared the way food was grown and prepared before the industrial revolution. It’s about food that has not been fucked with by corporations and people in laboratories. It’s about the kind of food my grandparents grew and raised and fed me. It’s about a way of life that existed for centuries before convenience was the driving force in the choices we make during those three times of day when we are supposed to feed ourselves.

For me, it’s about fruits and vegetables which grew because someone took the time to cultivate and care for them, not because the correct balance of chemicals was used to propagate them and mass produce them. It’s about meat that came from animals which ate the kind of food animals were meant to eat and lived the way animals were meant to live, not meat that came from some cow which some corporation kept alive with chemicals long enough to kill. It’s about knowing where my food comes from and what went into it before it gets to my table. It’s about meals which take time but which provide nourishment of many kinds. It’s about keeping alive ancient nourishing traditions which are dangerously close to extinction.

For me, food is not about convenience but that’s not always easy to explain to my peers, many of whom are so conditioned to make choices based upon convenience they have little awareness of such. When asked, depending on the context, I do my best to explain my choices in an appropriately concise fashion, but it’s hard for me because there is no single word that describes the way I eat. People know what you’re talking about, when you tell them you’re vegan or vegetarian or gluten-free, but people don’t know what I mean when I say I try to eat as much real food as possible.

And the hardest part comes when I have to explain what I mean by real food. I don’t want to offend or criticize and I don’t usually have time to explain the whole story of how I gradually slid down a slippery slope away from processed food and towards real food. And the way I eat challenges many beliefs which have become ingrained in the last few generations. It’s hard, for example, to explain what I mean by real food to someone who has been raised to believe that portion-controlled frozen lunches heated up in the microwave qualify as, “being good.”

Unfortunately, at this point, it’s hard for me not to stick out and lately, more and more people have been asking me about why I eat the way I eat and how I cook the way I cook. I think of it as reversing the process and here on my blog, piece by piece, I’m going to try to explain what that means. In my next cooking post, I’ll define what I mean by real food and after that I’ll explain how I got started on this path.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro