baby, fellowship, food, & photos

the baby: Is either sick with his first minor cold or teething really early. To wit: he’s stuffy, but no fever. He wants to suck on everything, and even to chew a little. He’s drooling like a mastiff puppy. He can’t get comfortable enough to sleep very long. He only wants to nurse, to be worn, and to listen to Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans. The child will listen to anything (seriously, he was jamming out to some polka on Prairie Home Companion yesterday), but he has his preferences. Lots of strings. Big orchestral numbers delight him. And Sufjan Stevens seems to be his first favorite musician. He also adores a board book we have full of Matisse paintings (which is making me notice Matisse in a new way – how incredible is that? my son is teaching me about art!) and Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. Red seems to be a favorite color: when he sees it (especially on book pages) he just kicks and grins, grins and kicks (which is how he responds to almost every book page, but he does so with more vigor if there’s red on it). He lights up around his little baby mirror: he loves that little baby, whether or not he knows it’s him. He’s started to like zerberts, but only very gentle ones, and only if after you’ve given him one, you look up at him and laugh. Then he’ll laugh too. And he started rolling over last week. It is the cute cute cutest thing to watch his face when he realizes he’s suddenly on his back.

the fellowship: I got it (one of the three I applied for)! I got a full year of dissertation funding through my university. This means that as soon as I’m done teaching this class (in five weeks), I can focus exclusively (work-wise) on my dissertation for ONE WHOLE YEAR. No teaching for a full year. I still can’t believe it. The freedom this gives me to spend lots and lots of time with this baby is indescribably great. It’s just a dream. And the time to immerse myself in my project is thrilling. I need to finish by May of next year. The next twelve months will be full of hard work, but it’s work I WANT to do. I can’t tell you what a privilege this is. I really am over the moon with gratitude, relief, and excitement.

the food: So the story here is that J has had to give up dairy, gluten, and soy to get this boy’s rash to go away. This has meant some changes in the way I cook/we eat, but we’ve used the opportunity to make a shift we’ve been heading towards for years. I have been dogmatically vegetarian for a long time. For my first five years, I felt righteous in the knowledge that I ate (lived) ethically because I didn’t eat animals. A few years ago, I started to think about non-food products – soap, shampoo, make-up – and we began to eliminate things that were tested on animals from our household. What good is not eating meat if you buy from a company that, for example, coats a rat’s eyes in mascara? Isn’t that even more cruel? Then I started to avoid factory-farmed dairy. Especially as we neared the TTC period of our lives (and began to think about breastfeeding), I stopped feeling comfortable buying diary that came from animals that were kept for years on end in tiny box stalls being milked by machines all day, This is worse, I would argue, than eating meat because at least beef cattle have a shorter period of suffering. I still believe in all of this. To my knowledge, we buy no (or very few) animal-tested products. But here’s the piece I didn’t get until now. Not eating meat for so long led me to incorporate more and more fake meat products into my diet. Tofu. Tofurkey. Tempeh. Veggie burgers. And when I started thinking about THESE products, I felt troubled. We’d done so much work to eliminate anything but whole, real foods from our diets – to learn how to cook using single ingredients – but fake meat products are full of ingredients I can barely pronounce. And their status as vegan doesn’t tell us anything about the ethicality of manufacturing them. Because they’re mass produced, I can only assume they’re made in assembly line conditions, by factory workers. How well are those factory workers compensated? I don’t know. How far must the products be shipped to reach my supermarket shelf (i.e. what’s their carbon footprint)? No idea. What’s in them, really; I mean, what ARE all those ingredients? I don’t have any idea. This is something J and I have been discussing a lot lately. She’s been eating fewer and fewer of these products and more and more local, ethically-farmed meat for the last year or so. And now I’m finally on board. So here’s what we’re doing. We’ve stopped shopping at the huge regional-chain grocery in town and joined the co-op. If we can’t find it there, it probably isn’t something we need to eat. And for the record: so far it hasn’t cost us any more money to stock up there than it did at the chain. We’ve started to buy local meat that we can trace back to a farm here in town. We could go visit this summer if we wanted to. There’s very little packaging on our groceries now, which means we’re cutting down on the waste products we produce. I still eat a very small hunk of local, ethical (the cows are pasture-raised and hand-milked only twice a day) cheese each week, which feels like such a delicious treat now that it’s rationed. I’ll still eat gluten if we go out, but at home, I’m cooking with lots of brown and wild rice instead. And it’s delicious. I no longer believe that vegetarianism is the feather in the crown of ethical living. I think it’s too tempting to conclude that you’re being conscientious just because you don’t eat meat. I know I felt that way for a long, long time. Now I’m trying to understand the full effects of what I purchase. What I put in my body. Even if animals don’t die to make a particular food, are they mistreated? If so, I shouldn’t eat it. How are the humans who are a part of making a product treated? If I don’t know they’re treated well, I probably shouldn’t eat it. Who’s ultimately profiting off of my food choices? If it’s a farmer, great. If it’s a corporation getting rich off of genetic modifications, I’m not interested. Or at least not regularly so. Because that’s the other piece here: letting go of all-things-dogmatic. Because anytime we think dogmatically, we think un-critically, right? I mean, that’s sort of the point of dogma. This is true of religions, and it’s also true of political stances and movements like vegetarianism. But what I want to teach our son is to make decisions thoughtfully, not based on black and white conclusions he’s drawn up ahead of time. If I’m out celebrating, and I want to eat dessert but it’s been made with conventional butter, I want to do it anyway, and I want to do it guiltlessly. Then I want to come home and eat only local/ethical dairy for awhile. I want to support my community’s farmers most of the time. I want to impact animals and workers alike as positively as I can manage while still staying joyful and unobsessed. So that’s how we’re approaching this new no-soy, no-dairy, and no-gluten diet. And on that note, if anyone has recipes that might work, I’d love them! I’ve almost never cooked meat in my whole life, so this is all new to me. So far, I’m mostly eating chicken and wild caught fish. Tell me what to do!

the photos:

B visits mommy at work (and is smitten):

Bram and mama greet spring:

See those active arms? That’s our boy. His legs usually move that fast too! Gods help us when he’s a toddler:

This face:

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9 thoughts on “baby, fellowship, food, & photos

  1. I adore this post! I also particularly love your thoughts about ethics/vegetarianism/etc. I’ve been vegetarian for almost two years now, which is the longest I’ve gone without eating meat. (I tried it before, but only for a few months at a time.) The idea of letting go of dogma, of doing the best you can and making thoughtful, informed decisions, is a fantastic one. I don’t know that I’ll always be vegetarian, but I do hope that I’ll continue to make choices based on the best interests of the producers of my food. I’ve been making my own cleaners for a few years, and I’ve made my beauty routine cruelty free, so it sounds like we’ve gone down a similar path lately. Thanks for your ruminations; they make a whole lot of sense to me.

    As for fish! Here’s the easiest (and tastiest, yum!) way that I know how to make fish. It’s super quick and easy, too: Sautee some garlic (I’ve used butter and olive oil before, but I bet it would be amazing in some coconut oil, too.) Use as much as you want because, yum! Garlic! Then, when the pan is nice and hot, but the garlic isn’t brown (so use a medium heat), add the fish filets. I’ve used tilapia, trout, salmon…it’s really good with all types of fish. Then, squirt that fish with some fresh squeezed lemon. (Again, use your preferences, but I tend to go with a lot. I probably use a whole lemon for two small filets.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then flip it over to the other side when the bottom is opaque and flaky; 5 minutes is more than enough time. Don’t fret about this part; if it needs more cooking, you can always flip it back over. Squeeze the other half of lemon on this new side. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Eat it when it’s nice and flaky and hot. The total preparation is really just cutting a lemon in half and chopping up a few cloves of garlic. Make sure you get all that juice from the pan onto the fish; it is lemony and delicious. Easy, always tasty, and super quick!

    • Thank you for this recipe, Mick! These food ethics questions are reason 976 that I wish we lived in the same town. I would love time to just sit with you and talk through all of this over some Water Street coffee.

  2. Oh so many thoughts about food…I just read a wonderful article in the NYT several days ago about how girls are reaching puberty so much earlier and the factors believed to be responsible. It makes me think about these two lovely little girls I have and what kind of start I can give them. We too are thinking more about what we eat and where it is coming from. Isn’t it amazing how we are pushed to change and really think once these little ones are in our lives? That is one of the parts of parenting that I’ve really enjoyed–my own growth and ability to shift my thinking and actions in a way that I want to have reflected in my children.

    That is such wonderful news that you will be doing what you want over this next year! What a gift for the three of you! Congratulations!

    Great pictures too! I can’t believe he is rolling already–he is definitely going to be an active one!

    • The girls-reaching-puberty statistics are so distressing. But yes: I love the motivation he provides me to do better. And I need to say so over at Tinyblossom, but your newborn photos are just stunning!

  3. I’ll second (or third : ) that I am very inspired by this post about thoughtfulness over dogma. I’m about to go teach on food ethics this morning (with some help from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and Graham Hill’s talk “Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian”) and I will definitely bring up these ideas with my class as well. Love you, MJB

    • Thanks, Madeline! I’ve never heard of the Hill talk; I’ll look into it. And I’d love to know how things went with your class!

  4. Hope B is starting to feel better and sleep more. Two months seems early for teething, but you never know…

    Interesting thoughts on food. We’ve made an effort to do more organic and local foods, but aren’t religious about it. We definitely do better on the organic front than the local, but I’m looking forward to summer when that will be easier. I have a delicious salmon recipe I posted on my blog (tagged as “recipes”) and have recently discovered that maple syrup makes a great substitute for the brown sugar I used to use in it. :)

    • Oooh, I will definitely look for your salmon recipe! It’s tough to do local in our part of the world (yours and mine). P.S. Because I can say it here (and it won’t let me on your blog): Congratulations! SUCH thrilling news!

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