Real foods, to me, are pure and unadulterated. They are foods in their natural state, or with all natural ingredients. They are foods made with ingredients that an average person could grow or make for themselves, if they chose. Real foods do not contain ingredients that require a complicated chemical process or patent to make.
Artificial foods are the opposite. The ingredients are things one can't grow for themselves, and probably can't even be pronounced if read off the label. These are things that have been developed by science, through chemistry or other processes, like powdered coffee creamer or high fructose corn syrup. The lines between real and artificial can get a little fuzzy because some things can be found naturally that are altered considerably when they become food or food ingredients. Carrageenan comes to mind. It is often listed as natural and does in fact, come from a natural substance, seaweed. It requires a process to extract, however, that is not do-it-yourself.
Live foods might also be called raw foods. They have not been cooked or processed in any way, such as raw fruits and vegetables. Milk too, if we're fortunate. These still have the vitamins and enzymes which are otherwise destroyed by heat, light, or irradiation.
Dead foods. Artificial foods can come under this category, but I think more of real, raw foods than have been sterilized, irradiated, bombarded with microwaves, or chemically treated to kill every living thing in them including the vitamins and enzymes our bodies need to function properly. This is done for the sake of so called food safety, and it does increase shelf life in the grocery store.
Living foods are not only real and live, they are alive. And growing. If not properly cared for they will die. They must be given an environment conducive for growth and they must be fed if they are to be kept alive.
|Milk kefir grains|
I have three such foods living in my kitchen: milk kefir grains, water kefir grains, and sourdough starter. Keeping them alive seems simple enough, just feed them, or maybe it's just remembering to feed them. Even so, each has its own challenges.
As do all living things, living foods respond to their environment, particularly temperature. They do their job and grow faster in warmer temperatures than cool ones. Refrigeration, for example, will slow them down. It's also why time frames for making these products are given in ranges. If one's kitchen remains at a steady temperature, one can fairly well anticipate when one batch is ready and it's time to start another.
The biggest challenge for me is that my kitchen is never a consistent temperature. During winter, it is often in the 50s F (teens C), especially at night or when I'm not at home to keep the wood cookstove going. In summer, my kitchen is usually in the low 80s F (27° C). My living foods are continually responding to these. As the temperatures rise, I find the various batches mature more quickly. I have to keep an eye on them, looking for clues to tell me they've reached that point. With milk kefir, the milk eventually separates. With water kefir, I'm less sure. The water tastes less sweet and bubbles arise when I wiggle the jar, but I'm still trying to find the balance between done and overdone.
I've written about my sourdough starter a couple of times ("Accidental Sourdough" and "Problems With My Sourdough"). Also milk kefir awhile back, "Sustainable Cultured Milk", but I haven't mentioned my water kefir so far. Kris, at Melissa Majora and I traded kefir grains several months ago. I sent her milk kefir grains in exchange for water kefir grains. She dove right in and got a handle on milk kefir, while I'm still puzzling over my water kefir.
The real attraction to me with the water kefir, is being able to make "soda": a deliciously fizzy and not too sweet substitute for commercial soda pop. Because of the chilly spring temperatures (including my kitchen), it's been pretty hit-and-miss in the fizzy department.
|Water kefir grains|
All of this points back to living with them and gaining knowledge through experience. It's like having a relationship; I need to respond to what they tell me if I want them to thrive and grow. It's a learning process, one that I'm still deeply involved int. I figure that as long as I don't kill them off, I'm making progress.
Living with Living Foods © May 2013