Recalibrating flavour – kicking the packet

After the trip to the supermarket the other day, in the naive hope I would find the answer to my local needs, through buying things we don’t normally buy, I have to concede we’re on the right track anyway with only a few minor adjustments.  We aren’t obsessive about what we do.  We are just a normal – well normal-ish family trying to make our way through life as healthy as possible.

Before when we lived in the city we lived a fast paced life full of instant meals, torn from a packet and dished up with little thought.  We were young, hungry and bombproof.  Aside from a brief season as a vegetarian to avoid Mad Cow Disease while living in the UK.  (Even so I still can’t give blood here in NZ because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that’s ok, I hate needles!) Health was the least of our concerns.  With the arrival of kids, being healthy entered the radar, but kids are a demanding lifestyle in a completely a different way and so food in a hurry was a blessing.

With chillies you can  have it as hot as you like.
With chillies you can have it as hot as you like.

It wasn’t until I received the life altering diagnoses “You have Multiple Sclerosis” that we actually began to take a long hard look at our lifestyle.  We sold up our city life and moved to a fresh new existence in the country.  Aside from growing our veggies, we took a close look at the contents of our pantry and decided the packaged, processed food wasn’t too good for my health.  So we ditched them all.

We aren’t strict about it as that would be just as inconvenient as having as having MS.  So you may find the occasional packet of chippies or takeaway pizza box lurking at our place.  An easy life is just as important as a good one when your energy tanks are mostly running on three quarters full.

Old fashioned food like rhubarb can pack a huge flavour punch
Old fashioned food like rhubarb can pack a huge flavour punch

So we made the leap to a whole food diet, with most of the cooking done from scratch.  It’s not difficult, it is how my grandmother would have done it, but I have the advantage of a food processor.  It can be a bit of a pain to come home from a hard day to find nothing instant to eat, but some meals are cooked extra-large deliberately to be frozen in advance for days like these.  With less ready to eat food to be found in the cupboard, snacking is seriously restricted and hungry kids are told to pull a carrot or eat an apple, and if that doesn’t appeal then they’re told “you’re not really that hungry”.

The switch was quite interesting.  Our palates were more used the strong robust flavours delivered with the assistance of flavour enhances and other things to assist and disguise the presence the ingredients added to ensure the food is safe and has a reliable shelf life.  Removing this kind of food in exchange for plain ordinary food seemed a little boring.  The flavours were subtle and to be honest dull.

These jars are much nicer than the ones in the store because I know what is in them.
These jars are much nicer than the ones in the store because I know what is in them because I put it there!

It was a little like my time in the UK.  When I first arrived, the accents were amazing.  Every time someone spoke it felt so different to my ears.  A walk through London would be a sensory delight as the voices of a thousand cultures blended into a magnificent auditory feast for the ears.  It was so powerful, I couldn’t actually hear my own accent, and as a kiwi, apparently it is pretty interesting in its own right.

After a while I got used to the voices and the magic of listening to others speak began to fade away.  It became my new normal and I just assumed my voice was blended into this normal too. Then one day I began to notice my own accent, in all its wonderful antipodean twang.  You don’t often get to hear your own accent as others hear it.  However this was short lived as it began to evolve and pick up the nuances of the sounds around me.

The crunch of an apple straight from the tree is incredible
The crunch of an apple straight from the tree is incredible

Ok so this relates to food because the powerful and strong sounds are the  everyday foods most people eat, with flavours from far flung places often enhanced to make their presence felt in your diet.  The more simple food (not saying I’m simple – but work with me here) with its subtle flavours can get drowned out, lost in the intensity of it all.  But we quickly get used to the strong flavours and don’t think of them as strong, but normal and without them it can seem like something is missing.

But in order to notice these more simple flavours without their flashy embellishments we have to change the way we eat, and remove the bold processed flavours from our diets. It can be a bit of a shock.   It takes some time to adjust to what can seem plain and dull on the palate.  But persevere and your tastes buds will recalibrate a new normal and suddenly these ordinary foods will take on a completely unexpected flavour profile that will delight you at every mouthful.

Flavour from unexpected places  Nasturtium flowers for a peppery kick.
Flavour can come from unexpected places – even flowers. Try Nasturtium flowers for a peppery kick.

Since making this change to a mostly whole food way of eating we feel better, fresh tastes incredible and we couldn’t go back to our old way of consumption.  When we do stray into the world of the processed, its intoxicating flavours overwhelm us and we feel hungry for more, yet it doesn’t quite satisfy in the same way as a hearty home cooked meal, made from home grown veggies.

Come again soon – daylight savings has ended.  Reduced warm daylight hours somehow make me more productive.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

And once again – join me for our weekly wander through the garden.

16 thoughts on “Recalibrating flavour – kicking the packet

  1. I am sorry to hear you have MS. I hope it isn’t too much of a bother for you on a daily basis.

    Anyway, it was interesting to read your biography. And glad you appreciate home-cooked food 🙂

    1. Hi Helen. Thanks for your kind words. Fortunately I’m well more often than not, but can get tired easily. The garden has definitely helped to stay healthy and had it not been for the MS we may never have moved from the city in the first place and none of this exciting journey would have happened. You have to look for blessings in everything.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  2. I was always a garden and ‘from scratch’ kind of gal. But. similarly, a diagnosis woke me up and a decade ago I took things from ‘healthy eating’ to organic and no processed. We have our ‘cheats,’ mostly organic corn chips, but we are now the healthiest folks we know. I’m pleased to hear that a retreat from the scurrying life to a life connected to the land seems to have been so good for you.

    1. Hi. Sometimes we get these wake up calls we didn’t know we needed that sends us spinning off on a different direction, but where we end up all the better for it in the long run. I am so grateful for the change in our lives – although it can be a bit of a pain in the butt from time to time. Thanks so much for your support, I really appreciate it.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  3. Hello lovely .. A great post as usual. My parents used to preserve all our fruit, make jam pickles, relish and our sauces. Home cooked .. How lucky was I? Plus Mum did all the baking .. Rhubarb, I still haven’t grown it. Am I too late to try? Enjoy your wonderful garden.

    1. Hi Julie. Mum did a lot of preserving too. I remember mountains of peaches that had to be processed quickly. It was sticky and delicious at the same time.
      You can plant the rhubarb in the winter as a crown, and it emerges in the spring- having said that, mine never really dies down. You can get ‘seedlings’ at most garden centres or find a friend who wants to split their crown. Try and find the red stemed one, because the green one while it tastes as nice doesn’t look as pretty.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  4. Hi, as always, I really like this post. And I can relate to it as well, as some years ago, through a health issue, I decided to eat more wholesome and tried to grow a lot myself. I always had to read labels (allergy), but I never cared about all the chemicals and nasty stuff until 3 years ago 🙁 Living in Bluff doesn’t make it easy to grow certain veggies, and I am lucky that my fruit trees are established ones and very hardy 🙂 You inspire me in every way, eating, health and gardening, so, Thank you!

    1. Hi Marion. Thank you so much for your kind words. It really means a lot. I am so glad you are able to live a healthier life. Food choice has a lot of answer for really and seems to be the key to a good life.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Sarah. My sister has MS and has made many modifications to her diet in hopes of improving her symptoms. I like that you’ve striven for a healthier life while keeping it real. It’s hard to do all or nothing in any capacity. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 35 years, but I do eat junk food, even though I know I shouldn’t. I’m currently trying to scale way back on my sugar consumption as a way of feeling better. It’s not always easy.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    1. Thanks Alys. I really do think at this stage the garden is keeping me healthy, I have been offered some medication that will help slow the progression so that should be good.
      This eating local challenge has been quite eye opening in more ways than just local. Food is so often taken for granted yet it is so important. We are really enjoying our whole food diet, and will probably adopt more of it when the challenge ends, but I do miss chocolate a lot!
      Cheers Sarah : o)

      1. I too would miss chocolate, though I’ve given it up from time to time as I feel like it *owns* me if I’m not careful.

        I think eating local and clean makes a lot of sense for all of us. I rue all the bad nutritional habits I’ve allowed into my own diet. It’s a struggle kicking the bad habits of a lifetime to the curb.

        I hope the medication does indeed slow your progression. Sharon has PPMS so that line of drugs won’t work in her case. I remain hopeful for better developments over time. I have a scientist friend who works for Genetech and she says they are working on classes of MS drugs all the time. xox

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