7 March 2017

Happy Eating

Maggie May - Happy Eating

I love food.

I do, I really do - I love buying ingredients, cooking, baking, eating out at restaurants, trying new cuisines... You get the idea. I had a bit of a reputation whilst I was at school as I wouldn't share my snacks with anyone - I like to think that I'm a bit more generous these days {Unless it's chocolate. There's no way I'm letting ANYBODY get their paws on my chocolate.}

Mr Maggie May and I have always prided ourselves on the fact that we eat pretty well; there are plenty of vegetables in our diet, we don't touch ready-meals or processed stuff if we can help it, and we're lucky enough to have fairly slim builds.

But actually, we realised a few months ago that there were plenty of changes still to make - changes which could affect us, but could also have an impact on others as well as the environment.

It started off when dairy farmers hit the headlines, and news of the whole industry being at risk made my ears prick up; there have been dairy farmers in my family for generations {including both my parents!} and so this was something I felt we couldn't ignore. Instead of picking up our bog-standard 4-pinters, we began opting for the slightly pricier 'For Farmers' options in the supermarkets when we bought our milk and cheese, with a small portion going back to the dairy farmers. This kept us happy for a while.

Maggie May - Happy Eating, Country Kitchen

When we moved from our city flat to the Cotswolds, I was sure we'd be able to source all of our food staples locally. I had dreamy, romantic visions of me cycling along a country lane, my bicycle basket filled to the brim with milk still warm from the cows and sausages from the pigs oinking in the fields next to me {even dreamier when you consider the fact that I can't cycle for toffee.} Within a few weeks, I'd discovered a local dairy and was satisfied that we'd be able to buy all of our produce from here. Filled with a slight sense of smugness, I was again happy for a while.

But then the word 'organic' was mentioned one evening as Mr MM and I had a relaxed after-dinner discussion. What does organic actually mean? Is it the same as free-range? Was the milk from our local dairy organic? So what if it wasn't? Was buying milk from a local dairy actually benefitting the dairy farmers we had been so worried about in the first place? What if the local dairy was in fact an evil giant {and yet local} corporation, giving farmers a pittance for their beautiful produce? We had so many questions.

I can't bear it when people start to get a bit bossy with their views on certain diets and lifestyles, trying to push their ideals and beliefs on others. Therefore there is no way I am going to tell you where to buy your food, what diet to follow, and what the ultimate answer is to all of these questions {mainly because I don't even know the ultimate answer myself, yet!}

Maggie May - Happy Eating, Organic Food

All I can say is that I would encourage you to spend half an hour having a read online about these different terms used on our produce, so that you're more familiar with what they all mean - for example, up until recently I had always assumed that free-range and organic were basically the same thing {and they're not!}

I can also share with you what changes we've made, and our current foodie decisions:

> We only buy organic milk - And organic cheese, butter and cream where possible {for some reason, I've found these to be less widespread in supermarkets than organic milk}

> We're still eating meat, but only if it's organic - Although Mr MM is still umm-ing and ahh-ing about this one, I have made the decision that I am happy to carry on eating meat in my diet, as long as it is organically farmed. This raised a few questions similar to those from our dairy debate - if you buy meat from a local butcher, is the meat automatically from a good source? Is it organically farmed? {Answer - no, not necessarily!} Whilst this has meant saying no to the odd thing like pepperoni pizzas {I sobbed a bit over that one} and pre-packed salads or sandwiches, gorgeous organic - and free-range! - chicken breasts, beef joints and sausages are still making appearances on our dinner table. And because they're a bit more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, it feels like a bit more of a treat when we have them! 

> I'm limiting my wheat-intake as much as possible - I've talked before about doing this, and again I'm trying to say no to wheat-containing products in a bid to reduce bloating and IBS symptoms. Although I haven't stuck to this religiously {I simply had to have some Bakewell pudding during our recent trip to Derbyshire - I am a foodie, after all!} I have swapped regular bread for rye, and opted for gluten-free biscuits and snack bars to keep me going through the day. So far, so good!

> I'm also trying not to drink as much milk... Ironic, I know, considering that the main bulk of this post has been about dairy farming. But partly due to IBS, and partly due to my skin having a particularly bad flare-up recently, I'm now making my porridge with almond milk - so lovely and creamy - and trying to use dairy-free spread or oil in my bakes. But I'm not waving goodbye to dairy completely...

> Our vegetable and fruit consumption is unaffected - As I said, we've always been pretty good at getting our five-a-day, and for now we're happy with buying our veg from supermarkets and local greengrocers - with no need to seek organic at the moment. We do try and buy Fairtrade bananas though - purely because I heard some horror stories as a child about certain global banana importers...!

> We only eat eggs if they're free-range. Need I say more on this one?

> NO palm oil - Unless it's specified as being sustainable. We've been hot on this for a while now - again, if you're not sure what the whole debate about palm oil is, have a quick read online so you're up to speed. {Although I hate pushing particular resources on people, this page is quite useful as a starting point} Essentially, it's a type of oil which is used in a lot of everyday products, and has a link with causing damage to the environment in the way it's produced. Until a few years ago, supermarkets didn't have to disclose whether it was in their products - favouring the term 'vegetable oil' instead - but these days, you can quickly assess whether a product has palm oil in it, and whether or not it's been sustainably sourced.

This may all change. We're constantly learning new things, talking about what works for us {and our bodies} and re-assessing our decisions. But this is our current approach to what I like to call 'happy eating' - let's steer clear of words like clean for now! - and it's certainly making us happier.

Thank you to The Cotswold Company for letting me use their lovely images. Apart from the first image - that's just one of little ol' me!
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