Someone Else’s Shoes: An Interview With a Former Vegetarian

Don’t you love taking a peek into the life of someone else? If you said yes, I’d say you are not alone. Just take a look at all of the ‘reality’ shows on TV (okay, I have to say I don’t really think those are ‘reality’ but hey, that is how they are marketed).

At Real Food for Less Money we’ve been trying to have our own peeks into other’s lives. Earlier this month, my family had an experience week in which we lived in Someone Else’s Shoes for the week.  This first experience was Working Full Time and Real Foods. Next month we will have another experience also showing how Real Foods can fit into a different scenario. I’m not going to tell you what that experience will be just yet, but I will tell you this will be a monetary challenge of sorts.  I think you will really like it!

As a partner piece to my families experience weeks with Someone Else’s Shoes, I’ll have periodic interviews with real people. We’ll learn about these people in their actual shoes! Real food enthusiasts on their own journey. These journey’s will look very different from each other but have many similarities (I suspect).

I’m very excited to introduce you to my first interviewee, the fabulous Erin from Homestead Host and Homestead Geek.  This is a busy week for Erin with the OFFICIAL GRAND OPENING OF HOMESTEAD HOST (did you enter the giveaway in honor of this event?) so I’m very honored that she fit this interview into her busy schedule.

Erin's Actual Shoes

Life in Erin’s Shoes Let’s Begin!
Millie (Real Food for Less Money):  “Can you describe for us your “typical” day?”
Erin: My typical day now is so much different from what it was only a few months ago. Until recently, I would stay up until 2am or 4am, and get up anywhere from 11am to noon. I lived that way for years, but recently decided I wanted to try a more conventional schedule. Now, I’m usually up at 8am or 9am at the latest (without an alarm, which is pretty amazing for me!)

I work from home running my web hosting company, Homestead Host. Working from home is far more relaxing for me, and the flexibility lets me prepare foods throughout the day, take care of the house,dogs and chickens, and in the summer, work in the garden. These days, I’m usually in bed by 10pm. Hard to believe I’m the same person!

Millie: Do you or could you attach a label to the way your eat? Real food, whole food, traditional food, paleo, gluten free, etc… Or possibly a cross between several?

Erin: I don’t typically think about our food consumption with a label in mind – perhaps that might help in the future – apart from gluten-free. Indeed, it was my being diagnosed with a severe gluten allergy that really kick-started us down this path full-bore. Prior to the diagnosis, I “tried…” but not very hard and not very successfully. Our jobs facilitated a very unhealthy lifestyle – eating junk food, sitting at a desk all day and staring at multiple computer screens.

Prior to being diagnosed with the gluten allergy, I was vegetarian, so I was used to reading labels, but I had to learn another language for gluten. Being a compulsive label-reader really helped me on the gluten front, though, and helped me once I started reading for more than just meat or wheat products.

We’re very fortunate to be able to afford mainly organic foods, and I’m so thankful for that. In the summer, our garden provides most of our produce, thankfully, and that really helps. Thinking about my goals, I guess the driving thought in my mind is “mostly healthy.” I know that sounds generic and weak, and looking at it here on the page, I want to form a better plan – thanks Millie!

Over the last two years, we’ve really switched to a healthier, more whole-food-oriented diet, though, and I’ll keep improving on it.

When I was vegetarian and other people would remark, “there’s no way I could do that,” I would say, “we all just do the best we can.” I apply that to my current situation – it’s not an all-or-nothing thing. I can’t always do three home-cooked meals from scratch everyday, but that’s no reason to throw up my hands and surrender to a commercial frozen dinner. I do the best I can and improve where I’m able – none of us have enough hours in the day, and we have to be kind to ourselves wherever possible.

Two years ago, when I was trying to come to grips with eating meat again, I tried on various labels, because I was so used to having a
food-oriented label for myself: Vegetarian. I was proud of that label, as it symbolized putting aside my cravings for meat to spare some
animals the torture of going through brutal factory farms. Giving that up was really hard psychologically, as it was a big part of my identity. Even though I’m only eating meat from one local farm, where all the animals are pastured, and are raised and slaughtered humanely, I am still not 100% comfortable with it. I know humans are omnivores, and I don’t think eating meat is inherently wrong; I feel the way big business treats our livestock is horrific and inhumane. See this book for more details: Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy 

 

Going back to labels, though, I tried out “kindavore,” but it’s not very kind to kill and eat another living being, as necessary as it might be. I tried out “locavore,” but a somewhat significant percentage of our food still comes from far away. In the end, I became comfortable with not having a label for myself as I relate to food.

Food is something I enjoy a great deal, and trying to find a label that fit was stressing me out more than anything. Gluten-free is what
I’m stuck with now, but that’s not so much a choice as a medical necessity. Thus, I am kind of floating around between labels at this
point, and I’m comfortable with it. 

Added by Millie: Check out this great post where Erin shares some of the medical changes she experienced of late.

Millie: What is your biggest obstacle to your food journey?

Erin: Usually, my problem is planning ahead sufficiently. There is a part of me which rebels against meal planning (at least historically,) because… what if I don’t WANT spicy chicken on Friday? Well, boo-hoo if I don’t – planning ahead has not only freed up a lot of time and energy, but it helps to keep me on-track, organized, and feeding my husband and myself healthier foods.

Millie: How do you overcome this obstacle?

Erin: This is another obstacle I’ve been working on lately, and I’ve found an online meal planner is a HUGE help. I use Plan to Eat  - I like the style and the ease of use. This one little thing has changed my whole food world and schedule for the better!

Millie: My family strives for a ratio of 85% real/whole/traditional foods. Do you have a ratio that you strive for in your family?

Erin: Right now, I am not striving for a ratio – I work toward “doing the best I can.” Compared to two years ago, though, we are eating SO much better! Previously, we would have really greasy, deep-dish pizza at least once a week, we’d eat a lot of fast food on the drive home from work or at lunch, and ate a lot of meals out of boxes from the freezer.

When I was diagnosed with a severe gluten allergy, all of that had to change for me. Happily, my husband is extremely easy to feed, and he is content eating gluten-free at home. We’re fortunate to have really good grocery stores nearby with excellent (if expensive) gluten-free options. I’m very thankful to have had my eyes opened about the junk we were eating previously – it’s literally nauseating to think of now.

Millie:  What is your one Standard food? The “must have” that you always keep on hand?

Erin: That’s a really tough question to answer! While I always, always have piles of beans and other legumes around, we don’t usually eat them more than once per week. Go-to dishes are spicy honey-roasted chicken, curried lentils, Millie’s modified Chicken Divan, homemade mac and cheese… we have a pretty diverse menu, as both of us enjoy a wide variety of foods from around the world. The Plan to Eat site really helps me to keep things fresh.

Millie: In your own particular food journey, do you consider yourself a novice, intermediate or advanced?

Erin: Two years ago, I would have said “novice,” despite being pretty informed about diet and nutrition, and a fairly good cook. My blind spot was just how bad for us processed and packaged foods are – I had been hoodwinked by the “health-oriented” marketing all over the place. Now that I have two years’ experience being utterly appalled by what our society calls “food,” I would say I am an intermediate. I’ve only just begun meal-planning, and I have a lot to learn about stretching our food dollars even farther. There is also so much to learn in terms of fermenting, cheese-making, making our garden produce more in the available space… I’m fairly sure it will be years before I’m an expert, but I’m working hard toward that goal!

Millie: Do you have any final tips or tricks that you would like to share with Real Food for Less Money readers?

Erin!

Erin: When I first began cooking, I was terrified – honestly. I had no faith I’d ever know when something was done versus under- or over-done. What the heck is a pinch? A dollop? What does a “curd” look like? I had to really practice to begin trusting my own judgment. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in terms of when something in the oven is done is just this: “Your nose knows.”  My exact response to that was, “the heck it will!” But it’s true – there’s that browned, lovely “done” aroma coming out of the oven when the foods are finished that’s not really possible to describe.

With all that in mind, I suppose my best advice is this – experiment, play around, try new things – even things that scare you. Perhaps don’t do it when you’re expecting guests for dinner, but try it at other times. Building up confidence in the kitchen, developing a palette of flavors, is key to developing your own style and finding just the right flair to add to your dishes that makes them special and delicious.

Millie: Would you share a one day food journal with us?

Erin:

  • Breakfast: Baked oatmeal with apples & pears; almond meal pudding with cut-up apples (1 serving, split between us)
  • Lunch: Sweet and sour lentil soup
  • Dinner: Cinnamon-thyme chicken breasts; green beans; garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes; homemade vanilla bean ice cream
  • Snacks: Homemade beef jerky; fresh mozzarella; hard-boiled eggs

Thank you Erin!  I loved reading about your journey. I especially like your advice to “experiment, play around, try new things- even things that scare you”. Words to live by :-)

Would you like to be featured in this series of interviews for Someone Else’s Shoes?  You do not need a blog or website. You can be brand spanking new to this journey or an ‘old hat’ (I’m not calling you old…), I’d love to interview you!  Email me at realfoodforlessmoney at gmail dot com.

Before we go, how about a round of applause for the fabulous Erin? And stop by one of her websites and tell her hello. Homestead Host or Homestead Geek. Thanks again Erin!

Reminder, only one day left for the current Giveaway!  

 

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Hi and Welcome! I'm so happy that you have found your way here. I hope that you will find useful information in your real food journey. Our real food journey has changed over the years to include a small two acre farm with a larger 20 acre farm in our future. I'm excited to share our busy, and sometimes crazy, adventures as we learn new things. We're also working hard to be completely debt free so you'll find information on finances and general frugality along with various family adventures plus the occasional 'odd' category depending on what's going on in our world. Thanks for joining along! ~ Millie

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