the way we eat, part two

My father loves to tell this story.

Apparently, when I was three years old, my father entered the living room, where he saw me sitting on the edge of the couch. He was horrified to see me clutching my head in my hands, firmly.
“Shauna, do you have a headache?” he quotes himself.
He swears that I looked up at him and said, “Does it ever stop?”
“Does what stop?” he asked me, confused.
“My brain. Does it ever stop working?”

Now, I don’t remember this, but it resonates. All my life, I’ve been thinking, hard, about everything that happens to me. Most of my life, I was over-thinking. Spinning, my friends and I call it, when ideas whirl around in there like a jangling top, threatening to topple over at any point. That thinking? Useless. After learning how to meditate — and particularly after falling in love with the Chef — I have found a stillness I didn’t know I was seeking.

Thinking, however? That still goes on all day long. And for the past few days, I have been thinking about a post I wrote last week. Innocuous and sweetly sly in the writing, this post took on a life of its own. Eventually, it reached its tentacles into the farthest reaches of my mind.

* * *

The personal attacks? I hadn’t expected them. I didn’t publish the worst of them, but they have tugged at my memory, of course. The internet seems to breed a certain pernicious malice — people feel they have the right to bash and smack and sadden the people who are trying to write their lives. And then they sneak away, safe under the moniker of “anonymous.” However hurtful the comments were, I tried to remember the paucity of life of anyone who writes long, vitriolic attacks on the mind and body of someone he has never met. This happens to everyone on the web. I set those aside.

The letters that poured in, urging to me to keep writing in spite of the nasty comments? Those were dear to me. They also surprised me. Stop writing? Banish the thought. No matter what happens, I’ll be writing here, in some form. Who knows what this website will contain a year from now? All I know is that it will remain here, steadfast.

One letter, in particular, however, moved me to tears. This is what I have been thinking about most, these past few days:

“I am not much of a cook but I have always had aspirations of at least improving upon my very basic skills. My boyfriend moved in with me, from out of state, a little over a year ago and I began to test new recipes. We were cooking together and experimenting with new vegetables and spices. I was eating less and less pre-packaged foods. I was beginning to really enjoy my time in the kitchen and was feeling healthier than I had felt in some time.

But the secret that I will share is that my boyfriend also spent that time battling (and succumbing to) his addiction to alcohol and drugs. He slid and slid until he became non-functional. So my kitchen time disappeared as I had to take a second job to support us both (plus the dog and two cats). And my food budget has gone from feeding us the healthiest foods possible to the cheapest foods possible. His family has very little to offer by means of financial (or emotional) support and I feel as though I’ve let my family down when I ask them for help.

I felt a need to send a reminder that “obesity in the United States is very much an economic issue.” (Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition in the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine) “It’s a question of money,” Drewnowski said. “The reason healthier diets are beyond the reach of many people is that such diets cost more. On a per calorie basis, diets composed of whole grains, fish, and fresh vegetables and fruit are far more expensive than refined grains, added sugars and added fats. It’s not a question of being sensible or silly when it comes to food choices, it’s about being limited to those foods that you can afford.”

Thanks for letting me share my experience with you. I don’t want you to stop your game. I love anything that brings a couple closer together. The only reason that I’m sharing this with you is because I need for you, or maybe I need the universe to know, that the food in my cart in no way reflects the person I am, or wish to become again. I am college educated, middle-class (or used to be), and very aware of what I need in order to live a healthy life. I also know that right now, I am just trying to live. But my, hopefully, brief “bout” with poverty has opened my eyes to the plight of the poor.

Best wishes to you, and the Chef!”

(The above passage is quoted with the author’s permission.)

I have to admit this — since we read this letter, and discussed it for days, the Chef and I have not been able to look in other people’s carts and make disparaging comments.

* * *

I don’t know much, in the end. As compassionately as I try to behave in this world, I have never truly gone hungry.

Good food — sadly — is a class issue.

We try to buy organic, from small farms, free-range, cage-free, well-fed, local, fresh, in season, and consciously. As much as I believe that buying good food, in whole form, is cheaper than all those boxes, I may be wrong. I have never tried to live within the food budget of someone on welfare, for example.

If you read this story, which appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week, you might start thinking for days too. Read, particularly, about the woman who has diabetes, and knows how she should be eating. However, all she can afford are those tv dinners that cost 10 for $10.

How many kids with celiac are living on frozen fish sticks and remaining sick, because their parents cannot afford specialty gluten-free foods? Or even fresh fruit? (I won’t even go into the inequity in health care here.)

Not many people keeping a food blog, and very few who read them, lives below the poverty line.

As one of my friends wrote to me, after reading this piece: “It’s easy to think that just by shopping smarter/healthier and eating less (as Pollan suggests) that you
can get by, but that comes from a pretty privileged point-of-view.”

* * *

So many readers, last week, commented to me about my transparency, how much of myself I share here. Honestly, I don’t know how to write any differently now, as I wrote about in this post.

But I also realize it is a choice. I am choosing to write this, now, with the permission of the Chef, rather than penning something political and removed from myself.

You may believe, if you read this blog regularly, that the Chef and I live outrageously well. We do, in love and presence, but not in cash.

The fact is, we have decided to follow our grand passion. It so happens that good food is essential to us both, one of the fuels of our relationship, as well as one of the ways we connect best with the world. In order to eat as well — and play with our food the way we like — we have to make the conscious decision, every day, to spend most of our disposable income on good food.

And maybe we should. If those of us who can afford it insist upon the best food supply possible, maybe good food will become more ubiquitous, eventually.

However, we do choose, consciously. Some might call it sacrifices instead of choices. We buy all our clothes at Goodwill and Value Village. We drive a ten-year-old car, kindly donated to us by my parents as an engagement present, because the twenty-year-old car I was driving was pronounced a hazard to the road by the mechanics. We don’t go to the movies, even though we both adore them. Most months, we limit ourselves to the two-dvd maximum on Netflix. We rent, not own. We have little in savings. Whatever we do put aside at the end of the month goes toward future travel. Since we met, we haven’t bought any new electronic equipment or furniture. We allow ourselves one new book or cd a month. I haunt the libraries of Seattle for new favorite cookbooks. We only go out to eat about once a month, perhaps more if we are really feeling flush or celebrating. Almost all of our kitchen equipment has come through hand-me-downs or thrift store finds from Brandon.

And my beautiful engagement ring? I bought it for myself, a year before I met the Chef, at a thrift store. It called to me. It cost ten dollars. I hoped I would need it some day, because it looked like an engagement ring to me.

He was utterly thrilled that he didn’t have to buy me a diamond.

But I have been mystified by the numbers of female friends who have insisted that he should.

Don’t feel bad for us. That is not the point of this writing. We are gloriously happy. And we agree — we don’t need things to make us feel happy. We prefer to live more simply, as close to the ground as possible. A decent apartment, lots of light, a computer for me to write on, a camera to take photographs of the food we make, and each other. Mostly, each other.

And even though in archetypal American terms, we don’t have much, we know that we are blessed. Contrasted with a huge sector of this country, we live like kings. And in contrast with most of the rest of the world, we live embarrassingly well.

We are blessed. And even though I wrote about the little snarky habit we have, sometimes, of being horrified at processed food, most of the time we are counting our blessings. It’s hard to look down at our grocery cart full of food and not feel blessed.

* * *

In the end, it’s about bounty. How much we have been given, and how much we can give back.

potato leek soup

POTATO-LEEK SOUP

Living with the CFP in London taught me, most viscerally, how sickening too much money can be. They threw away their money in fistfuls, always demanding truffle oil and caviar flown in from Russia that morning. And yet, they were desperately unhappy. A little dead inside. Simply having the money — and the snottiness of a “foodie” — to buy the best food in the world did not nourish them.

One of the best foods I ate when I worked for them doesn’t cost much to make. Christa, the cook in New York, made the best potato-leek soup I had ever eaten, up to that point in my life. Madame CFP thought it a bit dull — there was nothing in it that demonstrated she had money — but Mr. CFP couldn’t eat enough potatoes. He requested that Christa make a big pot of this every Saturday, so he could eat bowls of it on Sunday. Usually, there was just enough left for me.

This recipe is from the Chef. He makes it in his restaurant, where customers and wait staff alike moan a bit when they taste it. But look at the ingredients: it doesn’t cost more than about $10 to feel like you are living in luxury.

¼ cup good-quality olive oil
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, rinsing in cold water
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Bring a large stockpot to heat on a burner of the stove. When a drop of water sizzles on the surface and evaporates, add the olive oil. When the olive oil runs around the bottom of the pot as easily as water, add the onions and garlic. Cook them for a moment, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not burn.

Drain the leeks, pat them dry, and chop them, roughly. Add the leeks to the onions and garlic cooking in the stockpot. Peel the potatoes, then quarter and chop them. When the onions and leeks are soft, add the fresh herbs to the mix. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes. Cover with cold water by one inch.

Cook on high heat until your paring knife will slide right through one of the potatoes, which might take about fifteen minutes. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches. Strain each batch and put it back in a pot. Repeat until you have pureed and strained all the soup.

Add the cream and butter to the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer the soup for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure that you stir the bottom of the pot, because that is where the soup will burn. When the soup has reduced to the point of being as thick as the soup you want to eat, take the soup off the burner and serve immediately.

Of course, it will taste even better the second day.

Serves six to eight.

70 comments on “the way we eat, part two

  1. sonya g.

    shauna,
    i read your post from last week but not the comments, so i can only imagine the nasty commentary. as a freelance artist living in new york city (read: not wealthy) for whom eating whole, healthy food is a priority, i can fully appreciate where you’re coming from. i am an organizer of a neighborhood CSA and we are in the process of doing outreach to low income members — a process which is giving me a small taste of food politics and issues of food quality vs. cost and the accompanying inequities. i realize it is a privilege to eat good food and i find it rather appalling that healthy food has become a class issue in this country. i do hope you will continue to write “transparently” — you tell it like it is in a way that is so damn enjoyable to read.
    best,
    sonya

  2. Shelly

    I think that I have to argue the point that the relationship between poverty and food has a lot to do with the variable of geography as well. I grew up poor until my early teens. My mother made our clothes or found them at garage sales. We bought things in bulk when on sale and we had good coupons that could be doubled (like toiletries and small luxuries like a soda.) We entertained ourselves for the most part. But food? My parents grew their own vegetables and my mother canned them for the winter. We had fruit trees that my parents transplanted from other trees at orchards and “rejects” from the nursery. My mother could make one pound of ground beef stretch for over a week. And most everything was organic. We also grew up in rural Missouri.

    I think that one of the things our culture truly lacks are food initiatives for the poor that don’t just throw money or money alternatives at people and send them off to the discount grocery to buy foods full of god knows what. What we do as a culture, as a nation, reminds me a little too much of The Jungle sometimes. What we really need are more initiatives that grow–and encourage others to grow–fresh, good food.

    Sorry, off my soapbox now.

    As for the nasty comments…I hope you won’t let them get to you too much. The way you write your life is inspiring and a joy to read. It reveals to us another world outside each our own and in turn makes us a little more human.

  3. Clare

    Shauna, I am a relatively new reader, and you’ve earned my respect. You are thoughtful and caring… and this soup sounds wonderful! I also did not read last week’s comments, but I can imagine how pointed some people may have been. Just remember that for the majority of those types of comments (the exception being the one you quoted), it’s all about them and making themselves feel better. However, that’s not a very enlightened way to live, imho.

    We have many of the same lifestyle choices in common, with good, healthy food being a priority. Keep up the good work!

  4. Kate

    I feel compelled to comment about the “snob” thing. I get so, so tired of people wanting to label me as a snob because I’m into food. I recently decided to put my microwave into my basement, so that I could have more counter space, and one of my friends reacted with, “OH MY GOD YOU’RE SUCH A SNOB!” No! I just have a tiny kitchen!

    It’s just so silly. Everyone has something they’re passionate about, that they’re “snobby” about. Whether it be music, films, or art — we all have something that we like to be opinionated about. It’s just too bad that we have to be called a nasty name because we don’t eat hydrogenated oils.

    I also wanted to mention that I was very touched by the woman who wrote you. I’m glad she shared her experience because so many of us do forget these things.

    I hope you keep writing honestly, Shauna, it never ceases to move me.

  5. Anonymous

    Please keep writing honestly and from the heart. You are such an inspiration to me, the way you nurture yourself with food, your relationship, and reflecting that nurturing spirit back to us readers. It’s a shame that there are always nasty negative people in the world who are threatened by positivity. I enjoy reading your thoughts, and can’t wait for your book!

  6. L-M

    Lovely, thoughtful and a wonderful openness to exploring the issues. I love your blog because of your “transpareness” and willingness to share. The recipe looks wonderful, I think I’ll try it for some friends coming over tomorrow night.
    L-M

  7. Alison

    Wealth should not be measured by the fullness of a bank account, but by the happiness in your heart. Obviously you are overflowing with wealth. Keep up the good work, you are truly an inspiration for eating well.

  8. patrice

    Shauna,
    It’s your blog and you have the right to say whatever it is you please — free speech is a wonderful thing, we’re fortunate to have this privelege. How I felt about the aforeentioned post isn’t important (not that anyone is asking of course). I do think that there is also etiquette that goes along with free speech — in short, be nice. I’m dishearted to see how you were treated, especially on your own blog. I come here mainly to visit the food (I should mention that I haven’t eaten meat in nearly 15 years, so even though some of the recipes don’t appeal to me, pretty much all ones without meat do). I enjoy your foods’ presentations. Your genuine adoration for what you and the chef prepare is contageous. I’d like to delurk for just a moment just to ask a little question…how much butter in the soup? Take care.

  9. McAuliflower

    “the food in my cart in no way reflects the person I am, or wish to become again”

    amazing letter– I’ve glad you were able to share it with us.

  10. melanie

    Thank you for posting this. I commented this week that I was just diagnosed with celiac and thanked you for being here, and I know that having a blog invites sometimes the worst of people (I’ve had this experience myself). So thank you again for keeping up in spite of that. You are a fantastic writer and I’m really looking forward to making your recipes.

    It is all about choices, I agree. Priorities. I have 10 month old twins and not a whole lot of time and money to experiment with different gluten-free things, and your blog is probably going to be invaluable to me. So once more, thank you so much for being here.

    :)

  11. Shaune

    Dearest Shauna, I was glad to read your post today because although I hadn’t read the comments on the earlier post and couldn’t imagine the firestorm it apparently inspired, I must admit that after a year of reading your blog and basking in your big heart, that post (more specifically, the beginning) was the first one that left me feeling a little disappointed. I’m going to take it as a reminder to metaphorically keep my eyes in my own basket (unless the reason I’m looking in somebody’s else’s basket is to see if I can add something to it)!

    I suspect the reason so many people responded negatively is the principle that we perceive and react to the qualities in others that reflect the lessons we ourselves need to learn. I know that I sure need to practice being less judgemental and it’s a lot easier to sit at my desk and think, judgementally, ‘Boy, Shauna sounded a little judgemental there,’ than to go out in the world and practice kindness.

    Thanks for the opportunity to see my own reflection and learn.

  12. nika

    No surprise Shauna, I am one of your supporters. Cant help it, your writing makes you more real and lovable than many RL people I know :-).

    Do your best to shrug off the blue meanies. Remember, beauty is only skin deep, ugly is to the bone and people who have to write comments like that are ugly to the very center of their marrow. Better yet, its ALL on them and not you.. you live a life of abundance (which you do not need to justify but sharing your frugality was wonderful because so few Americans understand abundant frugality) and they live narrow minded hateful moments.

    If you are one of those commenters and feel thats unfair, just ask yourself what you were thinking writing vitriol when you could have just gone on and surfed some other site that was more in line with your world-view and attention span.

    Poverty is inherited, so are foodways. If one inherits an impoverished foodway (class and income doesnt always relate one:one to impoverishment of foodways, rich people eat crap too) then they simply never learn the skills and awareness to stay away from crap food. Even in the worst of urban decay there is sunlight and water. Tomatoes and herbs and other vitamin sources can be grown on a stoop. If you visit Boston you will see little islands of gardens all over the place. Where I lived in the South End the gardeners were from all walks of life (and few were skinny.. eesh.. that comment about looking in the cart and seeing crap food and it usually correlating to a fat cart driver.. come on and look at my cart and tell me to my face (my fat face) that my healthfood doesnt match my body). The closer you got to chinatown the more asian gardeners you would find. They would always have interesting gardens because they grew different things and used different methods. These people were not rich, many of these gardens were near projects.. but people understood that a garden is about more than food; its about greenspace, promise, community, and hope that what we eat is something we can control.

    An impoverished foodway is a hopeless deprived one. It is multigenerational, it is hard to counter. Until public schools are allowed to teach radikal ideas like hands on cooking and nutrition and gardening/horticulture to all kids at the elementary school level (along with music and art, all gone in many schools) those impoverished foodways will strengthen and further weaken our children and our future.

    Its bigger than what you put in your cart today.

  13. kim

    Thanks for this post Shauna. I’m really glad you featured the other writer’s words. I too had read the PI story and felt such a sense of dismay; we as a culture can do so much more to make healthy food the norm. Yesterday I noticed a new column on grist called Ask a Brokeass: http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/2/5/164512/7486. It may, in time, suggest ideas for healthy (and green) eating on the cheap. One of the comments suggested buying beans in bulk for soup–or whatever. So healthy! And speaking of soup: the Chef’s potato-leek soup is going to be our dinner tonight. Thanks again.

  14. Shannon

    Good, healthy, organic food does cost more, without a doubt. I am currently embroiled in (and loving) a food challenge I have imposed on myself right now in which I am eating nothing but “real” food. I love doing it, I feel great, but man, has my grocery bill skyrocketed! It should not be this way, healthy food as a class issue, as Sonya G. pointed out. I am rooting wholeheartedly for the work she is doing with outreach to low income members. Healthy food should be a right, not a privilege.

    I’m glad you had this follow up post, Shauna. Thank you.

  15. Marce

    I read your post last week and some of the comments and saw how things were starting to get ugly.
    I know it´s hard not to let them get to you because they are personal and uncalled for, because it´s very different to have an exchange of ideas than to attack someone just because you can.
    But anyway, I can totally relate about making good food a priority… but it is definitely enlightening for me as well to have to stop and think about it from the perspective of a poor person, which can be drastically different (though luckily here in Argentina it´s not as common to rely on processed foods so cheaper food is healthier than cheaper food there). Thanks for reminding us not to take food for granted, in any possible way, and for sharing that eye-opening letter from your reader.

  16. Lisa

    I totally get where you’re coming from. My boyfriend and I are both following our passions (I’m a writer, he’s a musician) and as a result, we don’t have the cash to buy a house, or nice cars, or for him to buy me a fancy engagement ring, but we’re so happy and blessed. We have money to go to the doctor if we need to, buy healthy food, pay our bills, and that’s all we really need.

    A friend of mine works as a sales rep for a software company, and he offered me a job doing the same thing he does, which would probably pay double what I’m making right now, but it would take me away from home non-stop (and wouldn’t involve writing). I explained to him that even if it seems like my boyfriend and I need more, we really don’t, and the most important thing is that we’re together. We already have everything we need.

  17. Lisa

    I just had to publish another comment, in my last I mentioned that we’re following our dreams and are therefore not completely rich. I can’t really afford organic veggies, so this summer, I’ll be growing my second balcony garden. I’m going to start my tomatoes in March and hopefully they’ll yield enough to feed us until next November (we’re in LA). I’m also thinking of planting cucumbers and arugula, along with the basil, rosemary and thyme that I grow. Anyway, just wanted people to know that you can grow organic veggies yourself, even if you only have a tiny city balcony like me!

  18. Nicola

    Shauna,
    take some small comfort in knowing your letter writer gets “the mission” — however impossible for her right now. she gets that real food is the goal, and that economy and circumstance are treating her very cruelly. dammit.
    I’m a blogger, and for the last couple of years have hovered about the poverty line — aka freelancer. and Steve and I live very similarly to you and chef.
    but still…I think the majority of people still don’t get it — those far beyond the poverty line — those who can make a difference. they’re still trading convenience and “time saving” for true eating. And I think it’s only just starting to scratch at the surface of their consciousness and maybe even conscience.
    makes me a snob? no i don’t think so. or rather, i hope not. on a mission? oh yeah. trying to help us all eat better, smarter, think about food differently, as pollan says, “the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world.“
    look how many of us are there with you m’dear.

  19. Allergic Girl

    shauna, thank you for your thoughtful examination of the very real economic discrepancy in our country regarding real food.

    i keep thinking wouldn’t it be great if everyone who’s read your post got together and wrote their local elected officials demanding better food for everyone: high fructose corn syrup is over if we want it.

    PS–nina planck wrote an interesting op ed piece i thought you might want to see: http://www.ninaplanck.com/index.php?article=poor_real_food

  20. Slacker Mom

    Beautiful.

    I believe that good food is expensive, I see it on my grocery bill, everytime I go. And, even before going gluten free, I would shudder at how much I was paying.

    But, I live frugally, even with some things I don’t have too, but not with food. Thank goodness my husband agrees with me.

    And, the more people who can afford to buy this way, and do. Then hopefully things will start to change and things will become more affordable.

    In our country, money talks.

  21. another

    There are so many issues in this letter that need addressing, thanks for allowing me to communicate to the author of it through these comments.

    While a nutritionist may be correct on the calorie/cost calculation, the part missing is the stripping of other vitamins and minerals from the body due to eating refined food and the hypoglycaemic roller coaster this food philosophy causes. Fish is expensive but (here in Australia at least) legumes and most grains are not. I spent 7 years at university and 1 or 2 more in the middle backpacking in Europe. I have to say that the poorer I have been, the healthier I have eaten. Not having a budget to eat much beyond the house meant living in communal situations where we shopped at co-ops, markets or directly from farmers, made sourdough bread from scratch, soaked beans, canned our own fruit (the bottles and kit from a thrift store, fruit from trees we offered to pick). I’ve even lived with chickens in the middle of London, fed on kitchen scraps.

    But I don’t think this is the real point the writer of the letter is trying to make. She wants you to acknowledge her victim status and Shauna you have done that admirably.

    The real issue is she is co-dependent and has developed tunnel vision. I know. I (briefly) fell in love with an addict – and before I let my friendships slide and slip into total isolation, I got their concern for the situation and pulled myself out. Its tough, this fierce kind of love, you can feel for an addict. But honey, he loves the drugs and alcohol much more than he loves you. Go on, martyr yourself with poor nutrition, a second job and misery (it is Valentines day this week after all!) but you are the reason you no longer eat well – not Shauna, not the people who look in your shopping cart and not even your boyfriend.

    If your friends and family cannot help you, I am sure you know of organizations that will provide the support you need.

    Good luck, be strong, believe in yourself.

  22. Lacey

    Thanks so much for posting this! I was considering blogging something similar. See, I call myself a “foodie” or “epicurean,” but don’t really equate with how the “scene” is a lot of the time in the States, that for people with money and such. I adore Europe, for the fact that there is just a love of food and community. I always say it is where gourmet grows on trees… it is afforadable and a way of life there, not a snobbism. Sometimes when I talk about my gourmet food passion, I get comments of being some sort of elitest. If they only knew, I am such a minimalist, hardly owning a single possesion, but believe in quality ingredients. So, when I do have a few cents, it will go to the artisanal and not the processed. I, do, happen to scoff at processed food and watch in amazement as people eat McDonald’s in their car– and it is not to judge, it is more a recognition that we have a lot of work to do, there is a lot of education needed– and thankfully, your blog does just that!

    Ciao
    lace

  23. Kristi

    Hi Shauna ~ I love your writing and your thoughtful, joyful approach to life. I just wanted to share that I understand deeply the visceral reaction you mentioned having to seeing packaged foods. See, I react that way to pizza now that I am also allergic (violently) to garlic. Pizza can be made with whole ingredients or cheaply from the frozen section — it doesn’t matter to my senses. I react the same way each time — my gut turns and knots up. I also feel very thankful whenever I see certain fast food commercials and pizza commercials on tv that I no longer eat that way BECAUSE I found out that was what was stealing my life from me. This is in no way a judgment of those who chose to eat these foods. It is a personal response to foods that I know will make me sick. This is what I read in your first post about your reaction to other people’s carts at the grocery. It isn’t a judgmental thing — it’s a THANK GOD I know what to eat to make myself healthy — and thank God that also happens to be whole fresh, vital foods. I eat so much healthier than I did before my diagnosis because those choices were taken away from me — unless I had a deathwish I was trying to follow through on!

    Anyway, I understand that some people don’t get this sick before they get a food allergy diagnosis. And some people aren’t allergic to anything. But, as someone who can completely feel the pain before(and the JOY after) the diagnosis — I just wanted to say that I read no judgment into your prior post. I understood your feelings to the core of my being.

    We also make similar budget choices. We sleep on a crappy old futon mattress on the floor and waited 10 years to buy furniture to sit on in our living room. People sometimes feel sorry for us, and I kind of laugh. What for? This is all about choices. And, my husband and I chose to live meagerly in order to have great, healthy food and be able to go to the doctor of our choice with the treatments of choice. It is not easy. It is not the simple, quick choice. But it is most certainly the right choice for us. I feel like I’ve met a soul sister in you! Stay well and keep writing. I think it keeps the spinning in check. :)

    There is too much judgment and not enough love to go around in this world (I’m guilty, too!) — so thank you for sharing your loving words with all of us.

    Kristi

  24. Madam Chow

    Shauna,
    I love your blog, and I found this post and your post from last week to be very interesting, indeed.

    I agree with Shelly who said that geography plays a big role in how people eat. My mother grew up in the depression, and when we were kids my parents were on a tight budget for a number of years. We were fortunate that my parents did not believe in “junk” food every day, and we had the space and knowledge to grow almost all of our own fresh vegetables.

    Which brings me to another point: perhaps more than because of their economic class, people eat poorly because of ignorance. Nutrition is not taught in schools, and many people don’t cook any more (and this trend started in the late forties, early fifties). So they don’t learn about food, and they don’t teach their kids about food. Hopefully, with the help blogs, community groups, and volunteers, this trend can be turned around.

  25. cornucopia

    “‘The food in my cart in no way reflects the person I am, or wish to become again.‘[…] Since we read this letter, and discussed it for days, the Chef and I have not been able to look in other people’s cart and make disparaging comments.”

    I am glad at least one thoughtful reader was able to craft the tone and words necessary for you to hear what all those harsh, critical posters likely meant at the core of their anger and vitriol.

    And how honest to post the progression of your thought processes.

  26. Tammy L

    I loved this post! Someone recently pointed me to your blog. :) My family and I live on very little income, but we’re blessed to be able to eats lots of homemade from-scratch foods (I’m a stay-at-home-mom!) and while we would qualify for welfare, WIC, and lots of other things, we prefer to budget and live within our means. :)

    I suppose not many people living below the poverty level have food blogs, but we do. We don’t consider ourselves poor though. I guess “poor” is more a state of mind than a financial situation in many ways. The creative mind can find ways to be frugal and resourceful, giving depth to even a meager lifestyle. :)

  27. Christan = )

    Honestly, I giggled when I read that post about looking into other people’s carts. I do it all the time, but I now do it for very different reasons.
    Before, I was always looking for more ideas on what people cook. (I used to work in a grocery store) Now, I look because I want to tell everyone about how terrible the food is that they are buying. But my food journey started for reasons completely different than most. My son. After watching him struggle with different foods and researching all that I could, my opinions on food have changed.
    I want to tell the world, but I’ve also realized that I want to keep my friends and most of my friends don’t want to know what I know.

    At this time, I truely cannot afford to live Gluten and Casein free, but we do, for my children. It’s very difficult (and embarrassing) to walk into a Whole Foods and know that I am paying with food stamps and I have to watch what I’m spending. But I’m glad the system is there for when I need it.

    I’m glad that you can and will continue to write about your life and thoughts. There will always be another side to the story and that should never make you feel bad about who you are or what you say.
    We all make our choices about food, good or bad. With the internet so readily available, ignorance is now by choice, not cirumstances, IMO.
    Keep up the good writing!!

  28. Shauna

    Thank you, everyone, for this conversation. As I had hoped, your comments were spirited and enlightening. I would love to comment more, and I will. But…

    The Chef and I are leaving in a few moments for Tucson (the “future travel” I alluded to in the piece; we have been saving up for this.) for his father’s 80th birthday party. There will be family, laughter, and food.

    I won’t have internet access for four days, so don’t be dismayed if your comments don’t show up! Continue to send them. I’ll publish them on Wednesday, when I return.

    Thank you.

  29. P. Schembri

    I almost resisted the two-day urge to write — but, my impulse has gotten the better of me.

    Let me just focus: damn the unknown critics!

    I never offer advice, but, as a teacher (school librarian), author and celiac, I love this blog — and the positive spirit it emanates.

    When your book does come out — resist the temptation to read what the critics say.

    People tend to write about who they are — not what the book (or blog) is.
    I was taught very early — “if you believe one critic — you have to believe them all.”

    So, it’s all a matter of turning inward.

    You’re doing what you think is right — what comes from the heart touches the heart.

    Unfortunately, some hearts are completely clogged with hydrogenated vegetable oil, it makes them difficult to be reached…

    Keep doing what you do. I just bought the ingredients for the soup. Ahhh, sage…

    Best, Pamela Schembri

  30. Anonymous

    Honestly, reading your post last week reminded me of what it was like before we had kids. Even though my 3 year old son has celiac disease and as much as possible, to save costs, I cook with whole foods (and often try to buy locally grown and/or organic food) as much as possible, because of time constraints I sometimes have to go with the pre-packaged, processed foods (like Dora The Explorer Stars cereal for breakfast for the kids). But it is true what you said about cost of food. I have relatives that even getting clothes at Goodwill (if they even get clothes) and buying nothing new ever can only afford to eat at In-N-Out once a day. It’s tough in this country to eat healthy unfortunately. And I feel that is very wrong.

    I enjoy reading your posts — keep writing!

  31. Gluten Free Momma

    Shauna,
    Thank you for your eloquence and insight. I too have lived on a food stamp budget. Remember feeling judged about my food choices at the store as I used food stamps to purchase the organic and whole foods for my babies. I actually had several people point out that I could have purchased so much more if I chose canned veggies instead of organic fresh.
    I thought your game was fine. I am so saddened that people wrote hateful things.
    Thank you for that amazing letter from the woman going through so much. It helps to keep all our choices in perspective.

  32. Mike Eberhart

    Shauna,

    Wow! I follow your site regularly, and would never have guessed that anyone would attack you for the things you write. I always find your writing superb, and inspiring. You write from the heart in a way I will probably never able be able to. And, for that, I definitely admire you.

    I have not experienced any “attacks” or negative comments on my own blog yet, though I also do not have the readership you do yet. I guess it’s inevitable though — since sooner or later we all are bound to have an opinion or observation that others will disagree with. Disagreement is fine, and I even welcome it if well presented. But, if people do want to write something negative, they should certainly also have the guts to not hide behind the identifier of “anonymous”.

    I totally agree with the cost discussions when it comes to getting healthier diets to those that are most in need of them. It is certainly something that needs examined on many levels.

    But, contrary to your hopeful statement that “If those of us who can afford it insist upon the best food supply possible, maybe good food will become more ubiquitous, eventually”, I look at the situation from an economic supply/demand perspective as well. What I mean is that, according to the laws of supply/demand, if more people demand better food, the costs of those foods will only increase, unless supply somehow outstrips demand.

    I’ve contemplated more than a few times how, if there was a mass move to organics, the prices would skyrocket. And, I have recently blogged about how the supply-demand issues surrounding corn are affecting gluten-free baking budgets (Ethanol production demand in particular — and how it is affecting the price of some basic baking essentials like eggs.)

    My family, like yours, makes conscious decisions to eat as good of foods as possible, though not necessarily organic since it just outrageously priced around here. And, if the gluten-free status didn’t make things enough of a challenge, our daughter is a vegetarian. I have repeatedly told her how, due to the price of vegetables and quality produce, she if going to have to make a rather good living just to eat well. And, I’m quite serious when I tell her that.

    Shauna, it sounds like we have a lot in common… in the ways our brains are “spinning” constantly, and in the way we think about quite a few issues. We sure share some common ground on the conscious choice to focus on good food and health over other material items. And, it sounds like we are in agreement that all the posessions in the world will never make one feel truly happy. It’s wonderful reading such a heartfelt reminder of this fact. Thank you.

    And, by the way Shauna, if you want a copy of my book — send me an email with your shipping address to mikeeberhart AT hotmail DOTCOM. I don’t think you’ll find it at your local library, and I’d certainly love for you to have the chance to enjoy it even if your budget otherwise does not permit it.

    And, before I forget, the soup sounds wonderful!

  33. astillac

    When I uncovered my gluten intolerance, I was living off of my GI Bill, going to school with a double load so I could cram more schooling in before it went away. I was living in a shitty two bedroom apartment with a roomate that had spotty employment. Regular groceries were enough of a hardship — but to add in all the speciality foods? I couldn’t do it. So here’s what I ate: Mission tortilla chips. Seriously, that’s about it. Sometimes I’d have cheese with it, or, if the roommate was having a good run of employment, I would make vegetarian chili (with off-brand, frozen veggies and sometimes Safeway had 1 for 1 sales on canned beans and tomatoes). But more often than not, I would cheat. I was just too hungry. So then I would get sick, and the cycle would perpetuate itself. I hated food. I have a memory of sitting on a bench on campus, chewing a sandwich slowly, tears pouring down my face.

    Imagine my surprise when I met my now husband, who had been there himself (a true Ramen and hot sauce connoisseur). He sat down with me, budgeted out our two meager incomes, and said, in no uncertain unterms, that I wasn’t posioning myself any longer. Things took a twist when he wasn’t paid for a few months, but he just took on a new credit card and didn’t even blink. That’s how we survived for a few years, living almost entirely on credit. It’s a bad place to be.

    Things are better now. He’s graduated, gotten a raise, and we’ve paid off all but one of the credit cards. (We’re not even ready to think about the student loans yet.) But gluten-free foods are still a stretch sometimes, and organic foods are too far away to even think about. We still eat food I’d really rather not, but what can we do? I just try to make things with love and appreciation, and I’m hoping that will get us through until we can get all organic, free-range, sustainable foods.

    I don’t even know why I felt compelled to tell you all this; it’s not particularly insightful or useful. I guess I just wanted to tell the story.

  34. Anonymous

    Shauna,

    Thanks for another awesome post & recipe. We hope you two have a wonderful trip. Yes, it is amazing how food pervades our lives & evokes such emotional responses. It just reinforces how food is not just about nutrition but about health, finances, and fulfillment of social and emotional needs. My husband & teenage son want to continue to eat gluten while we (mom & teenage daughter) are Celiacs. We eat for health– food as medicine. For 13 years Toni (the daughter) was on tranplant medications before Tami
    (the mom) was diagnosed. We have embraced the lifestyle, but my husband will complain that we are going over-budget on our groceries. It’s sad that this has been a point of contention. Tami’s a teacher with a Master’s Degree & is married to an engineer.
    You’d hope that we could afford to eat as we need to.

    We appreciate the source of inspiration & grace that you are to us.

    With love,

    Tami & Toni for So. Cal

  35. ljallbee

    Amen! I’m so glad that the bad manners of some lurkers is not going to change this blog. I read this to get a taste of the Gluten-Free Girl, if they don’t like it they can start their own blog and say what they like about whatever they like, after all this is still America! We also shop Goodwill and spend a good part of our income on food, because we realize that our health is more important than keeping up. Bless you!

  36. Colorsonmymind

    I just found your blog last weekend and I am in love.

    I want to share that my mother raised me alone on welfare until I went to school.

    It was a priority to her that we eat healthy fresh food.

    Now she passed away 5 years ago so I can’t ask her exactly how but I can say that we were vegetarians-so that right there saved cash.

    She made fresh almond milk for my (allergic to milk)cereal in the morning-we ate fresh whole grain bread-alot of fresh roasted peanut butter sandwiches-with honey or bananas or sprouts.

    Snacks of fruit and dinner always included a huge fresh salad-potato or pasta with beans and veggies.

    So I don’t know if it is harder today than 20+ years ago but I do know that some sacrifices were made by my mom (probably a lot calorically:) so we could eat fresh.

    I am saddened that people have to suffer hunger, and feel for them, but if someone has a cart absolutely piled high with junk I tend to notice too.

  37. Rebekah

    Hi Shauna,
    I read your post, and loved the Pollan article (in fact, I have forwarded it to everyone I know). Your blog is beautiful, and sensitive. I agree with other posters that it is expensive to eat well. As a graduate student, I certainly have to watch my budget…However, like you said, eating well requires a commitment. Some of us who have found that the very nutrients that should help them thrive in fact are causing them detriment, and causing their bodies to break down, are forced to recognize this. Others, must come to this in another way. Yet, and perhaps I am very naive in this assumption, I cannot imagine that basic rice and beans (something I enjoy quite a bit) is more expensive than frozen meals.

    Please keep writing in the same stream-of-consciousness, free-form, intimate way…echoing many of the other posters, you have helped me, even if in just creating an online community of celiacs (so necessary when eating outside of my kitchen is so fraught sometimes).

    Thank you.

  38. Lucy

    One of the things that I love most about this, and the previous post is that it sparked discussion. We should all be angry that refined foods are far more affordable than the real thing — how did this happen? Who decided, on our behalf, that ‘fast’ food is ‘good’ food?

    Shauna, you are a shining example of someone who has taken control of her health and unexpectedly found a passion for good eating along the way. That you can also have an (informed) opinion is to be celebrated!

    My only wish? That I could eat at the Chef’s restaurant, though there is not much luck being here in the bottom half of Australia…still, you never know! Lovely soup recipe. Thank you for sharing it.

  39. Karen

    Hi Shauna,

    I recently started reading your blog and have really enjoy all your writings about your journeys in food, life and love! I was surprised at all the remarks stemming from your post “the way we eat…” I, like you, commonly peer into other people’s food carts…maybe to get a glimpse into other peoples’ lives. I don’t think that makes us snooty/critical. Growing up, my parents and I didn’t have alot but my dad always managed to put healthy meals on the table. He would go to different stores to compare prices, go to farmers’ markets, bought in bulk and stuck to basics to makes budget stretch.…so it’s not impossible to eat healthy and still stick to a budget. I agree that eating organic is more expensive, but eating “whole/healthy foods” is not necessarily more expensive then highly processed foods. In any case, love reading your posts; keep up the great work!

    Karen

  40. Jenny

    I do not have a lot of money either, but I still have never been at poverty level so I really can’t say that I know how it is. But I do know that food shopping is my number one priority now and that fruits and vegetables are just as cheap, if not cheaper than packaged foods. I’m not judging, just saying that even on my limited budget I manage to eat healthy no matter what. The other night I was in the grocery store and I happened to glance at a woman’s cart and noticed she had a bunch of healthy food and then a bunch of processed junk to go with it and I laughed to myself and thought of you and the Chef. I didn’t even notice the woman, just her cart and I realized that I also do this all the time. It has nothing to do with the person pushing the cart, it has to do with the habits of our culture. Anyway.. just letting you know I’m a supporter.

  41. Krista

    Oh Shauna, you’ve got my crying again. I wrote only a few days ago of my French grandma’s soups, and how I never got any of the recipes because she was always cooking in restaurant size portions. I miss her cream of potato and her french onion. She died last summer and as I wrote the other night, I realized I would never have her soup again. Now I have a new recipe to try, and hope. Thank you.

  42. nectaryne

    Last week’s post was the first time I read your blog and it made me want to read more. This post made me cry. Thank you for writing.

    I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost three years ago and it has changed my life. Until recently, I haven’t made much effort to replace the foods I “lost” — I’ve just been eating more fruit. With the new year, one of my goals is to be more proactive about my food and finding your blog came along at just the right time. Your quest for good, healthy and responsible food is inspiring to me.

  43. Megan

    Hi, Shauna, I’m a new lurker here and this is my first comment to you.

    I read last weeks post, and laughed, because secretly, I do this in my head. No, I don’t do it all the time, but when I see some one overweight, sick and obviously in pain and their shopping cart is full of Little Debbie’s, Soda and white bread, I get a little self righteous. I have mentally berated myself, saying shut up, Megan, you don’t know their life, but it’s hard not to fight your first reaction. I am a health food enthusiast (short description). I try my hardest to eat as healthy and earth conscience as possible, but I have been known to stack a Trans fat laden donut on top of my organic carrots. No one is perfect. But that’s not why I’m writing.
    This economical argument only holds water to a certain point. I understand that you have to buy Ritz instead of Kashi, or that you can’t afford organic, but HEALTHY can still be there. I know from personal experience that depression can trick you into making poor eating choices that you can find an excuse for. (That person in the letter could have been me 7 years ago, in fact I wonder what that dead beats name is)
    How much money can a person save by not buying soda? A loaf of white bread cost as much as some wheat. Put back the popsicles and cookies and chips and you can buy 100% juice and whole wheat pasta. Frozen veggies are cheap and actually have more nutrients than fresh. Most (not all) people who argue money for their choices simply are taking the easy cop-out. I can’t always choose organic beef, but I can always choose 97% lean.
    I don’t mean to be preachy, but you have inspired me to come up with a weekly shopping list for <$80, and it will be healthy. (I’m talking about obesity here, not gluten-free or organic).

  44. Melindy

    Shauna–

    Truly, buying good organic food is a choice that we have become committed to making. Of course, our whole foods discount helps quite a bit– I think that this problem of being able to eat healthy is a grave one in the world today. I think that discussion is the first step in being able to right this problem. I appreciate you putting yourself out there. I will try and do the same.

    Thank you

  45. cristin

    I just came across your blog because I’m always looking for recipes. I am not a cook. I can follow a (simple) recipe and make something taste good if it was meant to be based on ingredients. I can not impovise on cooking. Anyway, I thought your potato soup matched my criteria for cooking (simple recipe, easy to find ingredients and a food that I would enjoy) so I dragged my kids out this morning to the grocery store and came home to make this soup. Can I just say that it is friggin delicious?! Seriously. Is it legal to marry soup?

  46. jenA

    shauna,
    I, too, am more fond of whole, minimally processed foods than I am of prepackaged — and since my wheat allergy diagnosis 3 1/2 years ago, I readily admit it has put a strain on my budget to try and eat the right diet.
    I will say, though, that even in my extremely poor college years, I managed to spend far less on food than my peers and actually bought more. My secret?
    Education.
    The truth about better food and poor families not eating it is that they lack the education needed to make the right choices.
    Those eligible for certain programs have their staples covered — it does mean boxed cereal and large jars of regular peanut butter, but it also means milk that isn’t as tainted as most would believe and cheese (real cheese) as well as shelf-hardy staples like tuna, oatmeal, beans and rice.
    Here in Texas, fresh produce actually can be quite cheaper than other states, because of our climate and proximity to Mexico.
    What public health advocates and food assistance representatives need to teach low-income consumers is that the most popular foods aren’t the best, and more can be had for their children for 88 cents than a box of macaroni and cheese.
    they also need to know that better eating requires effort.
    I can’t afford to eat organic food 100 percent of the time, nor could I ever afford to buy the most expensive products on every trip to the store.
    I can, however, plan meals, store food properly, and buy what’s on sale or in season.
    There’s no shame or snobbery in choosing what part of your life to apply the most financial care to. Some choose their vehicles because their job requires travel, and others choose their clothes because they work in the public eye.
    Love your food, and don’t feel bad for feeling bad that others don’t know how or simply can’t. At least you feel something for them — that much they need.

  47. listeningfordirection

    I will admit that I laughed at your game when I read about it. I wonder what people think about my cart. :) I agree with the person who commented that part of it is education. My mom cooked high calorie, major carbohydrate, meals with lots of cheese. I grew up eating that way so when I was on my own I cooked that way.
    Eating gluten free and searching for food ideas has lead me to my kitchen. Yes, some things are much more expensive but I find that a pot of soup can feed me for meal after meal and actually save me money.
    Your blog is inspiring and I can not WAIT to buy your book!

  48. Katie

    I completely relate to the thought-“spinning” you write about. You’ve inspired me to get back into my yoga practice and have helped me remember to slow down and properly taste and view my world. I’m far from the inner stillness I strive for; however, I’m now jumping in leaps and bounds towards it. Sometimes part of that is observing others in order to help you better know yourself. You were just honest about your observations.

    I really admire how you handle yourself, with honesty, conviction and a non-confrontational assertiveness. You truly love and know yourself and it shows. You’re a role model for how to treat yourself, and I hope to reach your level of self-acceptance and awareness one day.

    Now that I sound like a 13-year-old infatuated with a rock star, I’ll let you be. :)

  49. Cordelia

    Shauna,

    I am a Certified Nutritionist in Toronto, Canada, and have been reading your blog for some time (I have a link to you on my blog http://www.lemonholistic.wordpress.com). I was very moved by this post, and can totally relate to your feelings, and the feelings of people who commented. I myself am living a very scaled down existence, and do not have a lot of disposable income, and I would not spend my $10 on microwavable prepackaged dinners because of one difference — education. The subject of informing people on how to eat frugally but nutritionally is an extremely important issue, and I am looking for ways to get more information out about this through volunteering positions, etc. A lot of people have not been exposed to for instance the benefits of beans and brown rice, both of which can be bought cheaply, are a great source of vegetarian protein, plus have many other nutritional benefits. People also may not know how to prepare these foods easily and quickly due to the pressures of modern society. I became all fired up again about getting the message out after reading this post, and I thank you for your honesty and determination to continue. I would love to keep in touch with you, as I am also very interested in gluten-free recipes and cooking since there is such a huge population of people with this issue who need help.

    Keep up the great posts and thank you.
    –Cordelia
    http://www.lemonholistic.com

  50. Melody

    I came here today to ask if you’ve tried a certain rice pasta, and of course have been sucked into your eloquent words.

    I’ve got the evil celiac, and I have absolutely lived poor on it. And when I was a kid, my parents were certainly below the poverty line. We lived off of frozen breaded meats, mac and cheese, pb&j sandwiches, the whole bit.

    Once I became an adult, and responsible for my own diet, I ended up living off of rice and beans, meat and vegetables. There is no gourmet to it, but it is possible for a poor person to do it, and a child can eat healthfully if the parent only knows.

    Honestly, it’s all about having the time to prepare dishes from dried goods that gets in the way. I still eat today like am super poor, except for my occasional splurge on my favorite brand of rice pasta spaghetti, and the monthly loaf of my favorite GF bread.

    One things for sure– celiac is no picnic for the time challenged.
    –M

  51. Melody

    Oh, and ps–

    http://tinkyada.com/ If you haven’t tried, soooooo worth it.

    I know you’ve gotten tons of people supporting you and dissing you, so this is going to be an other one of those sort–

    I’m a harsh critic, always. I read that post about the shopping carts, and I totally knew exactly what you meant. I also got that you weren’t judging the person themselves, simply the cart. I totally do that, too. It is intensely interesting to see what other people buy, especially when you know you can’t really ask.

    You’re in a serious figure head position, and we’re hanging on your every word, waiting for the recipes, waiting for the slip ups, waiting for everything.

    Don’t lose yourself. You’ve got talent, you’ve got heart, and you’re amazing for putting yourself out there for us, for better or worse.

    Food has been the bane of my existence. I’m diabetic– recently diagnosed with celiac in the last 2 years. I’ve gone through severe depression as a result of “losing” food to both insulin resistance and celiac. I get angry and frustrated when I don’t have time to cook, and I hate the world for not catering to me. I’m learning food all over again, and even if I don’t want to admit it when I’m angry, it really does get easier all of the time. Easier to make your own food, easier to buy healthier foods– easier to make quality foods a priority, even when there is no money. Food is the one thing we need every single day, and the quality of the food we put in our bodies dictates our energy, attitude and abilities on an ongoing basis. For someone like me, like you, it’s impossible not to put it at the forefront.

    I don’t mean this to be posted– I just want to reach out to you who speak to and for so many, and let you know that I appreciate you, what you do and how you do it. Celiac can feel like a prison sentence, and the entire experience is easier when I can watch someone else go from stumble to walk to run.

    Yours,
    Melody

  52. E-lease on Life

    One of the pitfalls of sharing yourself so wholly with the world is backlash and scrutiny. While most often comments force us to be introspective (as you often are), occasionally under the guise of anonymous people feel an unbridled sense of power to ‘share their feelings’ and this causes unexpected pain to the writer. I hope that people expressing their opinions through comments, will show you to continue to say how you feel, and to continue to think about it (as I am certain you will do based on your described personality type). But, please don’t think too much. The rawness of your writing and your honesty about your feelings is the one of your virtues. I hope that this experience doesn’t deter you.
    Those who commented, and tried to right your wrongs, are as guilty of being judgmental as we all are in our private and occasionally public thoughts and comments.
    That is the very nature of human beings-right or wrong.

  53. Diane

    I have never lived close to the poverty line (but I am very frugal), so everyone should take this with a BIG grain of salt…

    I find personally it is cheaper to eat healthier. I have seen this in my grocery bills. Yes, organic costs more than non-organic, so people may need to sacrifice that. But raw fruits, vegies and grains are indeed way cheaper than processed foods. I hardly buy any processed foods, and my bills are tiny, tiny. I eat well, and I cook from scratch. I also don’t eat a lot of meat. Menu planning is also key, as is buying things in season. Much as I would love to buy asparagus or strawberries now, I feel they are too expensive for my budget. I will wait for spring.

    I do think there are two big political/sociological things at play here as well as just food costs:

    1. Lack of availability of good fresh foods: Often poor neighborhoods do not have great markets. They have a lot of 7–11’s or liquor stores, but not many farmers markets or produce stands.

    2. Lack of time: Working (sometimes two jobs) can leave people feeling they have no time to cook from scratch — thus the lure of “convenience” foods. These are usually more expensive, but people find them easy.

    It is so sad that bad fast food is easier/cheaper than whole foods. But I think smart planning and shopping (and that doesn’t always mean organic, just fresh whole foods) is critical.

  54. ByTheBay

    The lack of availability of healthy, fresh foods at reasonable prices makes me so angry. THat’s why I try to give $$ (when I have it, which is rarely) to Peoples’ Grocery (www.peoplesgrocery.org) which is a group in West Oakland that is all about access to healthy, organic, locally grown food for low-income inner city families in a neighborhood of Oakland that doesn’t even have a grocery store (just liquor stores). Really cool economic and nutritional justice work.

    BTW next week I’ll be posting a massive article about shopping gluten-free on a budget — I am hoping to get a chance to e-mail you before then to get some of your feedback.

  55. Toni

    Well, this is the first time I’ve been to your blog. When I read that you had gotten nasty comments, I immediately thought about what Mimi of French Kitchen In America said in one of her posts. She was responding to the mean-spiritedness of some people who leave comments: .…“It’s about being kind and open and tenderhearted, like being the first one to post a comment on a new food blog to encourage the new blogger.” Apparently she has gotten some nasty comments, too, but she said “People who post comments here on a regular basis are very, very warm and kind people. There have only been a few times that I found comments to be a bit rude and, thankfully, those people commented once and then did not return.”

    I doubt if the people who have kept themselves hidden under the veil of anonymity will keep coming back. They probably sated their appetite for self-righteousness for a while.

    As for the food quality being a question of economics, I would say that in part that’s true. But I also agree with the woman who said that it was also partly to do with geography. I used to live in New Mexico, which is one of the poorer states. People there don’t generally have lots of money, but the ones that don’t have $$ have gardens, and sometimes livestock. And when I lived in NYC and was a potter, I belonged to a food cooperative. I didn’t have a balcony to grow anything on, so I banded together with others who wanted to buy quality food.

    Anyway, having put my 2 cents in, I wanted to add that I love your blog. I’m an acupuncturist who has treated people with celiac disease, among other things. I started my blog because I love great food and I’m interested in the relationship between food and health. I want you to know that I’m putting a link to your blog on mine. Thanks for the great writing, recipes, photos and the terrific service you are doing by being “transparent”. I send you e-hugs!

  56. Crystal

    Shauna,
    I always appreciate anything you post. I am not celiac, but I follow your site. I bake, but I always say that I create food. When I started discussing my allergies in my workplace, I found that there were so many people that could relate. So I started baking. I made tarts for celiacs, breads for wheat allergies, cookies for egg allergies, custard for milk allergies, and ocassionally I made myself something completely vegan (although I am not vegan at all). In doing this, I found that there were more and more people who could appreciate the love that I put into it. I wasn’t doing it to impress anyone. I did it because I love food, and I wanted everyone to be able to eat a cookie. I grew up as the weird kid that could not eat this or that. I did not want my friends to feel that. I wanted everyone to be able to appreciate the same foods that I do. As my tastes and my awareness evolve, so does my love of food. Recently, I began to buy one organic thing a week and slowly I started to taste a change. Now I work more so I can eat organic. I save more so I can buy locally. I am smart about my shopping so I can buy what I want, not just what is on sale. The thing to remember is love. I still buy the prepackaged food occasionally, because sometimes it is what I can afford, but in our house it is more about sharing the food experience rather than what we are actually eating. I love your writing and don’t ever want it to change. Your game has brought awareness to this site. Perhaps it will bring change. Maybe someday everyone will have the choice to buy organic, instead of circumstances dictating they do not.

    Best always– Crystal

  57. Loner

    Shauna — I loved this post, and I have found that as a people, we choose to spend our money where our will guides us. There are certainly cases where folks cannot afford healthier foods, but just as many where people have disposable income and choose to spend that on Cokes and Fritos. What you do here is illuminate the possibilities — and thankfully without the truffle oil and pomp!

  58. Carolie

    Shauna, you’re amazing, and I love the blog. I have no problem with “the game” and have played it myself. But, as you said, none of us know the paths others walk. I did NOT take anything you said in a mean-spirited way, and I admire you.

    But, in answer to a few of the more self-righteous commenters, I’d like to offer the following.

    There are lots of reasons for someone to have processed foods in their cart: finances (a mango is more expensive than a four-pak of Jell-o or a box of fruit roll-ups for example, and if one doesn’t have the financial wherewithall to drive to the grocery several times a week, fresh fish/produce/meat simply goes BAD before it can be used), education (there are still people out there who think the fruit roll-ups are nutritionally equal to that mango), time (an exhausted single mom who knows her 8-year-old has to eat before Mom gets home is more likely to buy one of those disgusting “Lunchables” instead of the fixings for lentil soup…and in most cases is going to be more certain the child will be willing to eat it) and something no one has yet mentioned: ADDICTION.

    To many people, a Twinkie simply tastes better than a mango. A package of Funyons or Bugles is tastier than a steaming bowl of brown rice and beans. I know, that’s not true for everyone, and plenty of people are going to say “but I really do prefer my organic brown rice with baby zucchini hand-raised by Mayan nuns and sprinkled with organic Hawai’ian red salt to Kraft Mac’n’Cheese!” But that is simply not true for everyone. Part of that is educating one’s palate (that’s over and above the convenience factor of ripping open a bag instead of cutting fresh fruit or preparing beans and rice). And lots and lots of unhappy people use bad food as a drug. As one of the one-in-SIX Americans who suffers from a food disorder, I can attest that sometimes, it’s not about fueling a healthy body, it’s about drugging a depressed spirit or broken heart with handfuls of grease, sugar, carbs, etc.

    There’s a reason mac’n’cheese is a comfort food–it’s cheap, it’s filling, and the sudden flood of carbs is sedating.

    As for the “supply and demand” scenario quoted by a previous commenter… when more people want something, there is more competition in the marketplace to bring them what they want. That’s why MP3 players have continued to get cheaper, for example. If we all demanded organic, more farmers would produce organic, and there would be more market competition and the prices would eventually come down.

    We also spend a smaller percentage of our incomes on food than ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. That says a lot about the lack of importance we put on quality over quantity.

    Sorry, Shauna, for writing my own post! Please feel free to delete if I’ve rambled too long!

  59. Melissa

    Hola Shauna! Loved the new look of your blog—great colors. Are you going to be at the IACP conference in April? Hope you do,…I’ll be there :)

    Un abrazo,
    Melissa

  60. Deborah Dowd

    As a nation, sometimes the largest contributor topoor diet is not lack of money, but lack of time and the lack of someone there to model how to prepare simple and inexpensive meals. There are so many foods that are very inexpensive and very healthy– beans, greens, canned tuna, peanut butter, pasta — but you need to know how to cook and combine them to create a healthy diet and you need time to prepare it. While money can be a problem, it is surmountable if you have skill and time. And frankly poor people do not have the market on poor diet. Just look at obese teenagers who are eating tons of empty calories.

    One of the best things that bloggers can do is reach out to young people and make good food more accessible. That is the main reason I started my blog, because so many of my coworkers and my grown children’s friends don’t have the first idea how to create a meal that doesn’t involve a box or a microwave, and they are afraid to try. While it is important to help provide food to those in need, it is just as important to help them use the food they can afford to create a healthy diet.

    Keep calling it as it is– it is good for all of us to have this dialogue.

    Deborah Dowd
    http://play-with-food.blogspot.com

  61. Shauna

    Wow. I mean — wow.

    I’m so thrilled to see this conversation that I’m not sure I need to add to it. This has been a space for powerful voices and insistent ideas. I have been thinking, wider and wider, in these days since your comments first started rolling in. Returning from Tucson, the Chef and I sat down to read every one.

    Rather than answer or address or dispute any individual comment, I will say this:

    – food does not have to be organic to be healthy. We conflate the two, and some people seem to believe there is no choice between organic and processed. There is.

    – many people have mentioned this, but I want to as well. Rice, beans, tuna, lean cuts of meat, fresh produce — they really aren’t that expensive. And even though the potato leek soup looks expensive, I really did price it, here in Seattle. Just under $10. With creativity and increased consciousness, we could all eat more healthfully and for less.

    – Education is the way. The people whose carts the CHef and I flinched at originally? They live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Seattle. True wealth is knowledge.

    And for the woman who asked if it was legal to marry this soup? I don’t see why not.

  62. Anita

    Shauna,

    You have no idea how glad I am to read this post. When I read Part I, I was immediately turned off. I’m sure (in hindshight) that you meant it in playful “just-between-us-foodies” jest, but even knowing that, it felt snarky and mean — not the sort of enthusiastic, optimistic thought-provoking content I’d come to expect from you. It unnerved me so deeply that I’d actually stopped reading your feed until today. (I never unsubscribed, but I couldn’t bear to click.)

    You and I are on the same side of the SOLE ‘argument’, the same side of the “food is my top priority” fence. And yes, I do often marvel at the things that you see in supermarket carts.

    But I know that eating sustainably is my own particular way of merging my love of food and my concern for the physical world. I’m also sure there are plenty of unmindful, lazy choices that I make that other (more devoted) folks could easily take me to task for — I drive when I could walk, I hop on a plane at the least provocation, and so on…

    I’m sorry that readers felt the need to attack you personally — you certainly didn’t deserve that. But I’m thankful for the comment you shared with us, and that you “have not been able to look in other people’s carts and make disparaging comments” — Hurrah, the Shauna I *knew* was in there after all.

  63. Lindsey

    We prefer to live more simply, as close to the ground as possible. A decent apartment, lots of light, a computer for me to write on, a camera to take photographs of the food we make, and each other. Mostly, each other.

    Hi Shauna.
    I came across your blog yesterday via Orangette, via someone else (I can’t remember now!).
    I’m constantly adding new blogs to my list, but it’s not often that one is struck the way I was when I read yours.
    For so many reasons, I love your blog! Around 5 months ago, I realised I am gluten intolerant (with the help of a clever doctor, haha). I am by no means Celiac but I just FEEL BETTER when I avoid gluten. And, like so many others, I at first felt so limited but gradually came to realise that living gluten-free is wonderful and liberating. I feel I have no choice but to eat fresh and healthy, which is a GOOD THING.
    Anyway, this post and the one that preceded it, they both made me teary. The passion that you express about food, your love, your life… it’s beautiful. You come across both exceptional and accessible. You reflect so much of what I feel and think (but would never know how to express in writing!). Thank you for being honest and creative and motivated by the ‘right’ things.
    The sentences I quoted above are so lovely, and so touching. I feel similarly about my life with my new husband. We have so much compared to many people in the world, but we eschew the standards that the majority of our Western contemporaries, friends, and the media all tell us we must live up to, and I think that makes us even more blessed.

    I seem to be rambling on a bit, so I’ll just leave you with a thank you and please be encouraged; you’re great!

  64. Lindsey

    We prefer to live more simply, as close to the ground as possible. A decent apartment, lots of light, a computer for me to write on, a camera to take photographs of the food we make, and each other. Mostly, each other.

    Hi Shauna.
    I came across your blog yesterday via Orangette, via someone else (I can’t remember now!).
    I’m constantly adding new blogs to my list, but it’s not often that one is struck the way I was when I read yours.
    For so many reasons, I love your blog! Around 5 months ago, I realised I am gluten intolerant (with the help of a clever doctor, haha). I am by no means Celiac but I just FEEL BETTER when I avoid gluten. And, like so many others, I at first felt so limited but gradually came to realise that living gluten-free is wonderful and liberating. I feel I have no choice but to eat fresh and healthy, which is a GOOD THING.
    Anyway, this post and the one that preceded it, they both made me teary. The passion that you express about food, your love, your life… it’s beautiful. You come across both exceptional and accessible. You reflect so much of what I feel and think (but would never know how to express in writing!). Thank you for being honest and creative and motivated by the ‘right’ things.
    The sentences I quoted above are so lovely, and so touching. I feel similarly about my life with my new husband. We have so much compared to many people in the world, but we eschew the standards that the majority of our Western contemporaries, friends, and the media all tell us we must live up to, and I think that makes us even more blessed.

    I seem to be rambling on a bit, so I’ll just leave you with a thank you and please be encouraged; you’re great!

  65. mrs d

    Hey Shauna,
    I’m so glad you’re writing about all of this and the discussion in the comments is excellent.

    I have a confession: for the last few months, Dave and I have been living at poverty level. There are many reasons for it that I won’t bother going into right now, but what I do want to say is that our need to treat food as a necessity we can never splurge on has made it extremely difficult for us to find more than just an occasional moment of joy in the kitchen. We try our best to avoid processed foods and we’ve been good at that. Organic is another matter because it’s just so damned expensive. But the lack of joy — the inability to truly spend the time to seek out the best ingredients and make a spectacular dish — that’s the worst part of it. (Well, that and my longing for fish, which always costs too much.)

    In truth, it’s why I’ve taken a blogging hiatus. I can’t write about food and am barely able to read the occasional food blog because so much of it right now makes me feel like I’m outside a window looking in at a feast I can’t join.

    There are other issues on top off all of this — undiagnosed digestive troubles that are constantly affected by the food choices we have to make — but I suppose what I mean to say is that I hope your post and the subsequent discussion leads to more conversation in the food blogging world about, for lack of a better phrase, how the other half struggles to eat. The love/hate relationship with food at poverty level, and the temptation of the cheap fix through processed crap, is an awful awful thing to endure, and I am grateful whenever I see a post that dispenses with the snobbery and digs into the heart of the matter.

    xx
    –Robin aka MizD