Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Canary in the Coal Mine

This one isn't so much a recipe...  well..  it's not a recipe at all.  Just something I've been mulling over.

In my late teens/early twenties, I started getting what I called 'jumpy-jumpy legs'.  It was especially acute on the long drive home from a dinner in Melbourne.  I'd try to suppress the urge to stamp my feet in the back seat only to have my legs jerk about even worse.  It was better if I just kept stamping.  My dad was similar... so I thought it was something about me.  It was just something that happened to me from time to time.  It never occurred to me that something outside of me was to blame.  Having lived additive-free for a couple of years now,  suddenly I notice!!  Sometimes when the kids are in bed, Mr Frillypants and I will indulge in a packet of flavoured crisps.  Mmmmmmm.  Flavouuuurrrrr.  And very soon after,  I will be thrusting my feet, kicking them out.  It's the price I pay for MSG and other flavour enhancers.  If this is what can do to my legs,  what else can it affect?  Other muscles?  The heart is a muscle.  Could it affect the heart?  Yikes!



Now that I am aware of additives, I'm also aware of how much we used to consume.  And anyone (except my in laws) will tell you we had a good, healthy diet.  Everything in moderation and vegies in abundance.  But... now I know better.  I watch people eating and think 'Argh! Don't eat that!!!'  I used to think, 'It's just not okay for Ms C because she is sensitive, but the rest of us are fine.'  Now I realise it's quite probably not okay for all of us.

 In low moments I've often wondered why???  Why Ms C?  Why me?  Why us?  I've felt like there was something wrong with Ms C.  I mean,  we're the ones having to make all the changes, right?  No-one else seems to have these problems, right?  But in even lower moments, moments of sad clarity, I'm coming to think of Ms C and all those other children like her, as our Canaries in the Coal Mine.  Warnings to us all.  The canary has stopped singing!  Get out, get out, get out... NOW!!!

Maybe there's nothing wrong with these kids at all.  Maybe it's the rest of us who are wrong...  blindly believing advertisers,  easier options, not questioning the suppliers, convincing ourselves that surely 'they' have our best interests at heart. Ignoring the silence of the canary.  Even blaming the sensitive canary for being unable to live in a toxic environment.

Putting our kids on special diets without challenging the prevalence of food additives is like putting a special protective cover over the canary's cage. We're still standing there in the coal mine...  breathing in the carbon  monoxide and methane.  Look!  We've saved the canary!!  The canary can now survive.  But can we?

For everyone out there who says they are not sensitive to additives,  I would challenge you to live without them.  Not necessarily ALL additives,  just the bad ones.  The ones known to cause problems.  You cannot know you're being affected by them until they are gone from your life.  At very least, read your labels.  Just know what you're eating and what you're feeding the kids.

I'm not sure I've expressed this as well as I might have.  But the term 'Canary in a Coal Mine' just kept going around and around my head last night and I had to give it an airing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Seafood Adventure

I don't eat seafood.  Neither does Mr Frillypants.  And so,  by extension,  nor do any of our kids.  Well,  except for Fish'n'Chips (with a capital f and c) which I can't really count because,  let's face it,  it's a battered, deep-fried piece of tasteless shark with lots of salt.  Not exactly meeting the Omega 3 criteria, eh?  On the very few occasions I've actually walked into a fish shop, with my nose wrinkled, I've piked it (no pun intended) and gone for the flake.  Well,  that's just Fish'n'Chips,  isn't it.  I may as well go to the local shop and pay someone else to spray oil all over their kitchen.  Much easier.

So, this week I finally ventured into the local seafood shop,  situated, oddly enough, at the local airport.  When I think about it,  it actually does make perfect sense to process the day's catch right there at the airport,  but initially it had that 'Eww,  Avgas flavoured fish!" feeling. 

I told the woman behind the counter that this was the first time I'd bought fish (I'm not counting flake, remember) and cooked it and needed some help.  She was very helpful in recommending 2 there that were 'mild' in flavour: Whiting and...  darned if I can remember it!  The Whiting was quite small and I ended up getting 3 pieces and the other one was a diamond shaped piece about palm sized.  It had a smooth silver side and flesh side, while the whiting was all flesh.

Our conversation went something like:
Me: I really need fish that hasn't been frozen,  it has to be fre...
Her:  Oh, you can freeze any piece here...
Me:  No... I don't want to freeze it,  but I have a daughter who is very sensitive to food chemicals and storing and freezing the fish increases those chemicals...
Her:  None of it's frozen.
Me:  Oh,  ....really?  Great.  Oh...  how about the calamari?  Is that not frozen?  It says it's from New Zealand.
Her:  Oh.  That's frozen.
Me:  *sigh*  thinking 'Why am I always having this conversation?  Is it fresh? Yes... Is this bit fresh? No.'  *My brain hurts*
Her: Oh, so you wouldn't want processed meat then.
Me:  Errrr...no.  Errr... processed???
Her:  The calamari's processed..
Me:  Really?  (confused)  How's it processed?
Her:  Well, it's all bleached and stuff.  It doesn't look like that.  If you want real calamari from here, you can get it,  but it costs about $35 a kilo.  And you have to clean it yourself. 
Me:  *gob smacked*  thinking 'Oh my God!!! They bleach it??? That sounds like reclaimed meat for chicken nuggets.  Ewww'

So I learned something new.  Calamari is bleached.

If you are having a low chemical diet,  you'll probably be interested to know that we can have FRESH:
White fish (Bream, Whiting, Perch, Snapper, Flathead...)
Crab
Lobster
Calamari
Sea scallops
Natural oysters
Mussels

No prawns as they are soaked in a sulphite preservative on the boat and other crustaceans may be in there as well if in the same catch.

Freshness is the key.  Caught, bought, cooked and eaten in one day.  Wow,  aren't I lucky I live by the sea??!?!

I'd count myself even luckier if I actually enjoyed fish!

How'd we go?  Well,  I cooked the fish in the oven for about 10 minutes, after crumbing it in my own fresh breadcrumbs.  I served it with homemade wedges (yeah, they're not 'chips').  I ate the whiting and it reminded me of 'Fish Fingers'.  A little bit 'fishy', but okay with a stack of lemon juice.  Before I got to it,  Mr Frillypants had already said the other piece of fish was 'Not for me.' and pushed his plate away.  Ms D had done something similar and Ms JR was just flat out refusing to touch any of it.  But,  Ms C just sat there very quietly and scoffed the lot.  Ate every little bit... even the silver skin that the rest of us had peeled of while doing some more nose wrinkling.

It was a bit surreal actually.

So,  our first seafood adventure was a bit of a failure,  but something we need to persevere with.   I need to go back,  find out what we had and see if there's not anything even more mild,  without resorting to eating the plastic bags.

Any ideas?  How do you cook fish in your house?  Which fish?