A grassroots movement, October Unprocessed, challenges people to a month of eschewing any foods that couldn't be made in a typical home kitchen.
I recently found out about a grassroots campaign called October Unprocessed, the brainchild of Andrew Wilder, who blogs at Eating Rules. In 2009, Wilder decided to go a whole month without eating anything processed – no small feat in our current food climate of sugar-saturated, sodium-bomb, preservative-filled, fake-colored foods.
“It was revelatory,” he writes. “My expectations and sense of taste were recalibrated. I started to identify individual ingredients in the foods I ate. I didn’t crave those salty snacks. I found myself often in the kitchen, excited to see what I could cook next. Above all, I simply felt better.”
That first experiment lead to issuing the challenge online on a yearly basis, and it’s taken off: 415 people in 2010, more than 3,000 people in 2011, and more than 6,000 in 2012.
Interested? Here’s the free, official guide to October Unprocessed 2013; whether or not you sign up, I recommend it for a wealth of unprocessed-food info, including how to read food labels and stock your unprocessed pantry.
Of course, at Delicious Living we've been champions of real-food eating for about 30 years, so we've got a fantastic array of recipes (including these wonderful fall soups and easy snacks) that fit right in to this challenge.
Here’s what Wilder says when asked how he defines "unprocessed":
Obviously there’s a wide range of implications in that word, and we will probably each define it slightly differently for ourselves. My definition is this:
Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.
I call it “The Kitchen Test.” If you pick up something with a label (if it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably unprocessed), and find an ingredient you’d never use in your kitchen and couldn’t possibly make yourself from the whole form, it’s processed.
It doesn’t mean you actually have to make it yourself, it just means that for it to be considered “unprocessed” that you could, in theory, do so.
So that means if you could grow or create that ingredient in your own home, it’s on the good list (yay for peanut butter, lentils, and salads!). But if it’s something extruded from a machine (here’s looking at you, PowerBar), or if it has ingredients on the label that you couldn’t make yourself (what is soy protein isolate, anyway?), it’s time to just say no.
I think October Unprocessed sounds like a fantastic way to help all of us simply to think about what makes up our food. “This is an exercise in awareness,” Wilder writes. If a month just sounds too daunting, try it for only a week or even a day, he suggest. No matter what, you’ll increase your understanding of what goes into your food, and you’ll likely feel better in the process. And if you go whole-hog with the challenge but just HAVE to have that PowerBar, don't beat yourself up; at least you'll be eating it intentionally. As Wilder says, “It’s about making an informed, conscious decision, in advance, about a particular food.”
If you give it a try, let us know how it goes! Tell us on Facebook or in the comments below.