So I’m slow off the line on this one. We’re nearly a third of the way through the month and I’m just getting around to reminding you about Unprocessed October, something I’ve been doing for the last 5 years. To be fair, I’ve been a bit buried, both literally and figuratively. My house is a maze of laundry; dirty, clean, folded and unfolded. My kitchen and dining room are piles upon piles of ingredients from consulting projects I need to organize in some way. There is a half open suitcase in my entryway that’s been there for two days and rather than unpack it, I’ve been stepping over it. I just can’t deal with that right now. I’m a traveling whirlwind and the Cubs are in the playoffs leading to extra innings and 3am bedtimes. But even with all that, I’ve been pretty good about sticking to my Unprocessed vows. With one notable exception. I was in Palm Springs last weekend and driving back to LA to catch a flight, we had to stop at In & Out Burger. We had to. We were tired, hungry and c’mon. It was In & Out. I console myself with the fact that the fries start in the restaurant as actual potatoes and the burger patties are hand formed right there. Can I make that burger at home? Kenji says I can so I’m saying it’s ok. A stretch but whatever, I’ll take the pass.
So the challenge rules going forward are simple – avoid processed food for 31 days (you can read up on the whole deal here). The easiest way to think about this is that if you can’t make something in your own kitchen, don’t eat it. Read labels; you’ll be surprised. Things sneak up on you.
A few years back, a quick perusal of tortillas knocked me on my butt. My favorite corn tortillas, from a local factory, were pretty straightforward: corn, calcium hydroxide and water. The calcium hydroxide sounds a bit alarming but it’s a natural ingredient used for centuries to treat the corn to release more niacin. Grind that corn up and it’s masa harina. Good to go. But the flour ones. Geez. Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Fully Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Contains 2% or less of the Following: Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder (Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Calcium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Vital Wheat Gluten, Monoglycerides, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Propionate and/or Sodium Propionate, (Preservative) Fumaric Acid, Dough Conditioner (Sodium Metabisulfite, Corn Starch, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Dicalcium Phosphate).
Interesterified? Good lord.
The gist of the month, for me at least, is to get back on track after the loosely goosey eating patterns of the summer and before the excess of the holidays kicks in next month. My eating habits are horrid. Cooking so much for other people leaves little time to cook for myself. Popcorn is a standard meal. Too much take out, too many drive thrus, too many deliveries. For October I try to get more whole foods into my diet but what it really does is make me pay attention. Often in the race to make it through the day, I pay little to no attention to what I eat. Ironic, isn’t it?
So here we go again. Here are the rules. Give it a go, won’t you? If you’re starting late, no worries. Just extend the month into the first few weeks of November to make up for it. But I have to warn you … Halloween candy can be a terrible distraction.
past Unprocessed October Challenges: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011
seven years ago: Ratatouille, Peach Crostada
six years ago: Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Turnovers, Chicken Sour Cream Enchiladas
five years ago: Plum Kuchen
four years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
three years ago: Spiced Honey Maple Roasted Pears
two years ago: Pumpkin Hummus
last year: Easy No Knead Olive Bread, Cotija Cumin Shortbread