A SOLE Food Challenge is something I've been thinking about for ages now, just haven't had the time or energy so far this year, and really, I still don't. In an attempt to reduce the pressure I might put on myself by calling it a challenge, this is just about making the changes to our shopping and eating habits that I've been wanting to, and so far, have done in limited ways. Calling it everyday SOLE Food is recognising that I am not a contestant on Masterchef, cooking fancy-schmancy dishes, I am living a real life with constraints on my time, energy, finances and sanity. But if I start blogging about the changes I am slowly making, it's a good way to get motivated to do more. These blog posts are going to be cross-posted at my local Canberra region blog, everyday eco in the A.C.T. because that is the 'local' in my SOLE! You might start to think about SOLE food in your own area too, and I'd love to hear about any changes you've been making and challenges you are going through too.
What is SOLE Food?
SOLE stands for Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical... simply put, SOLE food is good for the planet & creatures, good for the people, and good for your tastebuds! You can read more about Eco-eating here.
- Sustainable - this applies not just to the farm or production methods, but the least negative impact possible from the processing, storage, distribution, and packaging options, as well as energy efficient when it comes to home storage and cooking too.
- Organic - grown and processed without nasty chemicals, may be Certified Organic or In Conversion, or perhaps just state they are chemical-free
- Local - depending on where you live and how strict you want to be, anything grown within Australia is a good start, and then the less km's away from you, the better! Try this interactive map on the 100 Mile Diet website, just type in your town & country, and it will show you a red circle that covers a 160km area, just to give you an idea!
- Ethical - this can be such a grey area, because everyone has different ideals, and it can include any criteria you feel strongly about, including free range, fair trade, animal welfare, vegetarianism, veganism etc..
How did I come across the SOLE Food concept?
I've been thinking about & making changes, on & off over the last few years really, since I learnt about the Locavore Movement, Ethicureans and the 100 Mile Diet (160km). I like the acronym SOLE, though, because it sums it up nicely, and sounds cool! (In the UK, they use the term LOAF, which stands for Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fair trade, but I think SOLE food is a bit sexier, don't you!). I first heard the term 'SOLE' a year or two ago when I was directed to a blog & forum called SOLE Mama, I believe via the Progressive Dinner Party blog.
What have we been doing already?
As I said, I've been aware of these concepts for years now, though we haven't been very consistent in making and sticking with changes. More recently, we've been trying to only buy Australian grown & owned; to buy Fair Trade and Organic where possible, such as chocolate, and coffee; avoid products made with palm oil, and to increase our awareness of food issues. Other things we try to do include eating in season produce, using up leftovers, limiting our meat, dairy and seafood intake, reducing packaging, having energy efficient appliances, and putting waste into worm farms and compost bins. I believe in supporting local, small businesses and farmers. We are also trying to set up an urban homestead, to grow a lot of our own organic produce, and planning on chickens soon & hoping for bees one day too.
Why SOLE food? What do I hope to achieve?
I believe this is a good way that I can take action to improve the condition of the planet, which is where my family and I live. By incorporating as much food within the SOLE guidelines into our diets as we can, I hope to reduce the pollution, waste, energy consumption, and use of resources. Read more here, WWF, David Suzuki - Eat for a Healthy Planet, FoodWise and LoveFoodHateWaste. It feels good knowing I am doing the right thing by the planet, the people & creatures, and of course, my family & myself. I believe this is better for our health, and their future, with food security always in the back of mind. I don't expect to achieve 100% SOLE food, but to make as many improvements and changes as we can afford, have time for, are within my means and without sending myself into exhaustion!
Is SOLE food realistic? What challenges are there?
I believe it can be done, but like all changes, it takes time and effort... especially at the start, when you are researching, learning new skills & recipes, creating new habits, and working out what works and what doesn't. It also would take sacrifice to be eating 100% SOLE food, which I am not against, I am just realistic about how my life is!
- Stress, Time & Convenience Unlike The Urban Chef, I am not doing this as a business or for my livelihood, but still, being a busy parent of 2 little kids, who also works part-time, with a hard working husband, doing a lot of gardening and some community work, there are times that convenience & saving my sanity, wins out! Of course, there are ways to save time and effort when cooking more from scratch.
- Affordability SOLE food can cost more, and at the moment we are Frugal Frolicking but it can be done, as I talked about here, and also, Frugal Eating ideas here. Eat less of the expensive items (meat, dairy, speciality foods), eat more seasonal produce and Aussie grown legumes, have simple but tasty & healthy meals, reduce 'convenience' items... I will attempt to do costings on the recipes I post about.
- Fussy Eating Kids & Special Dietary Requirements I have them, do you? Lately they've been better at trying new things and eating what they are given, esp. as they get nothing else to eat (def. no dessert) if they don't, and we try to wait until they are actually hungry, not just eat at set times of the day. We explain why we are doing & eating certain things (or not) too. Here are some other Tactics you can try too. I am also cooking gluten free, and cows-milk dairy free at times too.
- Staples The trick will be all those items I use all the time, like flour, sugar, herbs & spices, flat breads, plus the other items we buy for my husband and my son's dietary requirements, like dairy-free margarine, dairy-free cheese, gluten free pasta. Right now, I am focusing on using SOLE meat, fruit & vege's, dairy and coming up with recipes for using what is available in my area. Then I aim to tackle finding SOLE food staples and alternatives, as well as making my own tortillas, pita breads etc. We already use honey in place of a lot of sugar, and I would like to experiment with Australian grown spices too.
- Treats I'd like to think I am strong enough to not want treats, but I do, my kids do, and what's life without some indulgences once in a while!? Can I find treats within the SOLE food guidelines... I hope so!
What does mean to you, dear blog reader?
I don't know, maybe nothing! Maybe you are a SOLE Food Mama or Papa already, eating within the guidelines and feeling like a legend! I guess I am hoping that like all things on this blog, that I can be helpful, or I can inspire others to think about this, or at least entertain you with my ramblings and failures! I will be sharing recipes that can be adapted to the local produce in any area, as per the season you are in... simple things like vege fritters, meatballs, quiches, pies, salads etc. Gluten free, as always, and in some cases, dairy free too. Please let me know of any recipes, ideas, challenges or links you've come across too!