December 10th, 2007

I've been replaced by Crunchy Woman

I'm not entirely certain how this got started, so I'll start telling the story in the middle and go from there. R. and I were discussing how nicely the waffles (whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour and buckwheat flour) had turned out. We were also talking about baking soda and baking powder replacements that do not involve sodium bicarbonate. This led into a discussion of how tricky it was finding bread that had the right mix of grains, a texture we all liked/were willing to put up with, and were not ridiculously high in sodium. And from there, R. did some moaning about how expensive the little sacks of organic flour are.

Now, the low-sodium baking soda/powder stuff came up partly in conjunction with _Twinkie Deconstructed_ (about which more later, when I've finished it). I knew about Featherweight, having bought it in the pre-potato starch days when it tended to turn back into the rock from which it came. I had recently seen it in a store I don't normally shop at and bought it again. Ener-G makes a baking soda replacement that was a pain to track down and charged exorbitant shipping. There was some moaning on my part about how irritating it was to pay more for an upstream component.

Anyway. Long story short, we got to discussing whether it might be possible to get 50# bags of wheat berries shipped to us. We don't want whole wheat flour, because we'd have to buy a freezer to keep it from going rancid. However, wheat berries will keep indefinitely at room temperature and our basement is (we believe -- we're going to find out, I feel sure) pest-free, solving the storage problem. Assuming we could get that stuff for a non-crazy price with non-crazy shipping, we would then need a mill to convert it to flour, and we'd want a good one that could produce a range of fine/coarse flours. After establishing that (a) such things do exist, and apparently quite good ones for < $300 (after some debate about the WonderMill formerly known as WhisperMill vs. Nutrimill, we opted for the Nutrimill) and (b) Eden Organics will send 50# bags of wheat berries for reasonable shipping, I started ordering stuff. Eden doesn't sell spelt berries, but Bob's Red Mill does, for reasonable shipping. While I was at it, I tried again to find black eyed peas online and this time I succeeded with Sun Organic Farm.

Really, we're doing this for a good reason. We're tired of paying ridiculous amounts of money for tiny bags of flour. And, because they are so tiny, having to buy some nearly every trip to the store. And the black-eyed peas required a trip to a store I don't ordinarily go to, and I _really really really_ want them so I can make those damn fritters I got hooked on at Cafe Flora. It's not like we're crunchy people on purpose.

More by accident.

Sodium

I remember when I was a kid, my mother and all her age-peers did a lot of complaining about how they couldn't eat a variety of things. Onions. Garlic. Salty food including deli meat. Etc. At the time, I thought how sad not to be able to have onions, garlic, etc. because of indigestion. But while they were all busy saying how life would get so much worse for me when I started retaining water, I kept going, I don't know, it's already pretty bad.

I also used to say this about some joint pain I had.

I think the joint pain and the water retention are indeed getting worse these last couple of years, which either means I need to get more regular exercise, or the age thing is indeed going to make things worse and boy, howdy, that's not pretty to contemplate given where I started out.

I've done a variety of things over the last few years to try to reduce the aggregate sodium in my diet, which is tricky, because I happen to really like ketchup and low-salt ketchup is not ketchup and that stuff that Heinz makes that subs potassium whatever for some of the sodium is unspeakably weird tasting and completely intolerable. I was even making my own ketchup for a while, and I'm starting to wonder if I really should include cloves in the recipe even tho I _hate_ cloves and suspect I'm allergic to them. Which might in fact explain the mysteriously addictive qualities of ketchup for me. I mean, after the crab debacle, I'm a little suspicious of anything I have that much momentum on (but I'm not giving up chocolate. or grains. At least not without much stronger evidence of a problem).

I commented in my earlier post about turning into Crunchy Woman that I found Featherweight again, which has helped with the baked goodies. Since B. showed me it was possible to make apple crisp with oil rather than hard shortening, I've been steadily adjusting every baked goodie recipe I use to get rid of solid shortening (which is salted) and replace it with oil (which is not). I've found low sodium peanut butter. I've found no salt added Ezekiel bread. I've become quite expert in finding hamburger buns and other bread products with not-too-insanely-high sodium numbers. I've tracked down the lowest sodium beef and chicken broths on the market and usually make my own chicken broth anyway. It really does make a difference, as in, a two+ ring size difference. It's a little bizarre that this has been in no way connected to blood pressure problems (altho I suppose if I let it go for long enough it might turn into a blood pressure problem).

We've even developed a really good General Tso's Chicken, because that was one of the few things I didn't know how to cook that I regularly lusted after. Of course, even low sodium soy sauce has around 700 mg/Tbsp (altho I recently discovered Angostura has one that's 300 or so), which limits how low a dish that involves soy sauce can reasonably be expected to go.

Given how hard it has been to do this, and how even eating a couple meals outside my ordinary routine immediately affects how much water I'm carrying around (meaningfully, like, I don't wear my wedding ring), I have to say that anyone whose motivation for reducing sodium is more life-threatening than mine (like, say, someone with CHF or whatever) is basically screwed. Unless we do something collectively to require food processors, restaurants, etc. to cut back, this is going to be an increasingly difficult problem. Sure, some items have drastically reduced the amount of sodium in them (frozen peas, apparently, used to be loaded, and aren't any more. And as bad as canned chicken soup is now, it was apparently once worse). But the fraction of our diet that gets loaded up is probably higher now than it was a few decades ago (altho, to be fair, this is probably an improvement over the Bad Old Days before refrigeration).