The Canning Manifesto

A lot of people look at my canning projects and they shake their heads.  “Why would you work that hard when you can just go to the grocery store?”

The list of reasons is long and distinguished.

Most of all, I want our food to actually be food.

I don’t want to serve food-like substances, concocted in a factory after being created by chemists who throw around words like “mouthfeel” and “sodium ethyl parahydroxybenzoate”.  I don’t want to eat something that was chemically created, based on a little diagram of a wheel of flavors, to taste like another item, but offered in the altered form because it gives a higher profit margin to Kraft or Kellogg’s.

I don’t want to serve genetically mutated organisms that were begun in a petri dish at the labs of Monsanto.  A vast percentage of the foods at the grocery store, even those in the produce aisle, are the end result of a genetically sterilized seed that was also altered to contain pesticides and mutations that allow it to grow bigger, faster and more brightly colored.  GMO foods were not thoroughly tested before being rushed to the market by Monsanto in their desire to create a world food monopoly.  Laboratory animals in independent studies that are fed a GMO diet, develop multiple organ failure, sterility, greater allergic responses, high rates of offspring mortality and premature death. (And for those who think GMOs are A-OK and want to talk about how that study was debunked, read this article debunking the debunker.)

I don’t want to serve items processed from the genetically modified corn and soy that infects more than 80% of the food in the grocery storeWith factors like cross-contamination and the food chain itself, almost 100% of grocery store foods are tainted with genetic modifications.

I can’t afford to hit the health food store for every bite we put in our mouths.  This is the source that comes to mind for most people when they think about “organic” or “natural” foods.  But for most of us this is financially out of reach. I can save money by getting locally grown foods when they are in season, cleaning them carefully and preserving them myself for the winter ahead.  This allows room in my budget for weekly grocery items like organic hormone-free milk.

Eating seasonally and locally provides nutritional benefits.  I grow as much organic produce as I can on my small urban lot.  I supplement what I grow with produce from a couple of local farms, where I have been lucky enough to forge a relationship with the farmers.  Our food does not come from thousands of miles away, picked while green and left to ripen in a box.  It is picked and home-processed at the peak of its freshness as often as possible, conserving as many nutrients as we can for the winter ahead.

I refuse to consume the growth hormones, antibiotics and other medications that are given to factory-farmed meat animals.I spend a little bit more money and buy our meats in bulk from a local Mennonite butcher shop.  They do not use any chemicals in the farming of their animals and the livestock is fed what livestock naturally eats – grass, hay, bugs and seeds.  Furthermore, the animals are farmed humanely, reducing hormones like cortisol that are released when any animal (two-legged or four-legged) is under stress.

Home-canned food is the fastest “fast food” around.  By preserving entire meals in jars, I can get a healthy and delicious meal on the table in a fraction of the time it would take to take the truck to a McDonald’s drive-thru and get the food home.  Quite literally, a pot of homemade soup is steaming in a bowl in less than 5 minutes.

Meal preparation time averages out to a very reasonable amount of time. The hands-on work that I put into cooking our food for the rest of the year during the growing season is probably less hands-on time than I would take producing the same meals throughout the year, one meal at a time.  The reason for this is that I produce 8-16 meals at a time – perhaps 2 hours of preparation time and 2 hours of processing time when I am doing other things.  That is an average 20 minutes per meal, with half of that time NOT being spent in the kitchen – that time is spent just waiting for the food to cook.

This choice might not be for everyone.  It might not be for every meal.  If you don’t have a lot of interest in where your food comes from or what it contains, then it is definitely not the option for you.  But as someone who firmly believes that our nutritional choices are the basis for our overall long-term physical and mental health, as the parent of a child with allergies and chemical sensitivities, and as an activist who refuses to support the food monopoly and toxic practices of companies like Monsanto and Dow chemical, this is the choice for me.

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