A lovely kindred soul on Tumblr with an awesome name: gravitysmiles sent me a thought provoking message and just like that I was given material for my next post. She asked very sweetly, to give some descriptions of how I manage to live an holistic lifestyle in our modern world and how my husband and I manage to make a living without selling our souls to corporate America. Right away, I knew my answers would be controversial.
When you are vegan, gluten and sugar free, the simple act of grocery shopping can become an emotional burden and a financial strain. Lets face it, good food is not cheap food. I cannot understand why the system works this way today because it is a fairly recent phenomena. The world before 1940 was a place where vegetables were free of pesticides and insecticides and therefore organic. There were no greasy fast food restaurants. No microwave and oven ready TV meals. No convenience food packed with life threatening chemicals and no big corporate grocery chain stores. In some areas you would buy directly from the farmer and if you lived in a town or city there was bound to be a small grocery store, a butchers and a fish mongers at the end of your street. Business was good. Trade was good. These small businesses were able to thrive because they were supported locally. When the supermarket giants established themselves and started cutting prices by selling inferior products, that was the hanging noose for the small family run grocery store that purchased their wares directly from the farms – no freezing or picking before ripening because the journey from farm to store was a short one! People understood the seasons, they did not bend nature to their will. Nobody would want an apple in December anyway. How would you get an apple tree to bare in winter? It was unheard of in those days to eat fruit and vegetables outside of their natural season. I’ve been told many a time by people of that generation, how healthier the general public constitution was. People were healthy because they consumed naturally. Nobody needed a flu shot every year because everyone ate their daily dose of Vitamin C and received Vitamin D from the Sun. Again, no silly sunblock. People enjoyed the feeling of sunshine on their skin and well they should because the Sun was providing them with a very essential nutrient. Another thing, those with gardens took great pride in growing their own vegetables and herbs, some people even kept their own chickens for the eggs.
Of course being Vegan, I’m not advocating on the behalf of butchers and fish mongers – killing sentient life is wrong. Plain and simple. What I am trying to highlight is the simplicity of the pre-war era because living holistically means to live simply with nature, not against it.
After the War, both sexes were able to propel their careers to even greater heights. People no longer had the time or the inclination to tend their own vegetable plots or come home after a hard days work and cook the kind of nutritious meal which included assorted dishes – each with their own health benefits. So came the dawning of convenience. Convenience food which incorporated fast food and freezer-to-oven TV dinners. Because we could have it all, we wanted to have it all. The consequences are what we live with today. Words such as “Seasonal” and “Organic” are now recycled trendy words used by the giant food stores to promote and sell produce which is far from healthy.
So, how do I and my family maintain our holistic ideals in our modern society without selling out? Well, capitalism be damned or not, the way things are right now, one cannot live without the use of money. My husband is a Civil Engineer and he is really clever and bookish. Academia comes so naturally to him. Me, on the other hand, I am an artist. My personal income has always been sporadic but on the plus side, I do get to throw my entire being and all of my unchecked emotions into a project. How many people who are not artists, get to make a statement like this? Not many, I’m sure.
We always do our grocery shopping together, every weekend. We do everything together. Space please! Lol. We shop seasonally, locally and organically, supporting our local farmers and traders via the colourful farmers markets. We are very picky about the quality of the produce we consume and we tend to not to bulk shop. Quality over quantity every time. If for instance we are in bean season and they are going relatively cheaply, I might buy a few pounds extra and freeze them after a thorough wash. This way I always have organic veggies on hand.
I have a deep love for all things that grow and whilst we don’t have the room at present to accommodate the vegetable and herb garden of our dreams, we make do with large terracotta flower pots. Onions, Garlic, Herbs, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Lettuce and strawberries don’t seem to mind growing in confined spaces at all. Once we can agree on where to move – whether to remain in the States or relocate to one of the many countries within the European Union, I guess we can then start the long and magical process of house hunting and I will finally get my garden (and a goat and piglet and a duck and they will become the best of friends)!
Dream Garden via jamieoliver.com
For dinner, I try to aim for variety as opposed to having one large main meal. My table is always a help yourself affair. There might be Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans) cooked and tossed in raw garlic, lemon juice and cumin seeds, alongside an unconventional salad of wild leaves and herbs. Sprouted Lentils raw and flavoured with Tahini and chopped roasted sweet peppers. Vegan burgers consisting mainly of butternut squash and aduki beans. Vegetable fritters – coated in a gluten free flour mix and deep fried in Grapeseed Oil. Seasonal raw veggies, seasonal sauteed veggies. Berries, fruit. Whatever is in season. A bowl of warm mixed nuts sprinkled with Paprika…. Lots of little things. It makes dining a more pleasurable experience and it really helps the family out – leftovers are wrapped and eaten for lunch at school and at the office the next day. And it really isn’t as time consuming as you would believe. If you are able to plan ahead and multi task, you’ve won the time battle. Why so many dishes? Because it is the best way outside of swallowing a pill, to make sure we get our daily quota of nutrients, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and all the building blocks which help sustain life at an optimum level. We eat for health and to be healthy. We don’t binge eat or eat for flavour alone. Everything we place into out mouths, has a purpose.
Organic and 100% natural skincare can be pricey and there really isn’t that much diversity, so I tend to make my own. The ingredients are purchased in bulk and stored in the garage. There are so many places online which sell quality cosmetic ingredients, a quick search and you are bound to find a store which suits your budget. My husband adores my Sandalwood, Vetiver and Ylang Ylang Hair & Scalp Oil, I am sure he would drink it if he could!
Cleaning products. In case you haven’t realised, I am big on cleaning. Of course, everything I use has to be organic and 100% natural. Hydrogen Peroxide, White Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda, Lemon Juice … These are all things I bottle and use to keep my home fresh and clean.
Charity I think begins at home and this idea isn’t limited to the members of my immediate family but also includes the strangers who live around me and who are clearly in need. One can’t help everybody but we do what we can and what is possible within the boundaries of our financial scope. For example, on the weekends on our way home from a fruit and veg buying excursion, we do make sure to offer some of our food to the homeless people along the way. We also have a Valentines Day tradition – instead of fine dining at an expensive restaurant, we dress warmly and pack our car with sandwiches, soup, fruit, little paper boxes containing cooked food and salads and we go out at night and search for as many homeless people as we can and we offer our food, reminding them that they are not forgotten. That they are seen and loved. Giving to others, showing compassion and benevolence and sharing happiness – these are all crucial elements of living an holistic lifestyle. Nurture is not just about what we digest inside our bodies, it can also be the wonderful positive energies we receive from others just by performing an unselfish act.
Well, I hope this sheds a little light on how we live in our family.