October: A Month Unprocessed?

Incredible Berries at IFBC Breakfast

IFBC Breakfast: Now THAT's how a raspberry should taste.

UPDATE:  I’ve created a new page for the October: Unprocessed Project.  Please go there now, and take the pledge!

The International Food Blogger Conference was a game changer for me. I connected with so many wonderful, passionate, hilarious, friendly foodies people, so instantly and so closely, that I’m still flying high.

I’m inspired, invigorated, and feeling like I can actually make a difference.  I haven’t felt quite this way since 1993, when I flew home from Chicago — sobbing the entire time — because I had just left the most incredible and inspirational summer theatre program in the world.*

I’m astounded by how I can feel so much gain and loss at the same time.  But mostly gain.

So.  Now that I’ve worked my way through the box of tissues, it’s time to change the world.

I’m hoping that my IFBC friends — and many, many others — will join me in a little experiment.

Last October, I was struck by a simple idea:  What would happen if I went for an entire month without eating any processed foods?

Chickpeas and baby octopus

Chickpeas and Baby Octopus
Photo Courtesy of Lemon Basil

This question would have been laughable (rather, nonsensical) just a few decades ago.

What’s happened to our food supply in America is pretty scary.  Obviously this is a huge topic, but for now, let me just say this:  It seems that almost every food that comes with an ingredients list on it is likely to be laden with extra sugar, fat, and salt.  And preservatives.  And flavorings.  And artificial colors.

I’m not okay with this.

So I tried it, along with a few good friends.  It was revelatory.

My expectations and sense of taste were “recalibrated,” so to speak.  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.

We took turns hosting small dinner parties, and shared our stories and experiences.  It brought us closer together.  Funny how real food does that.

I want to do this again, and I want to share this experience with as many people as possible.  Not just my experience, but our experience.

If I’ve learned anything this weekend, it’s that it’s not just my audience that makes the difference.  It’s all of our audiences.  Collectively, the voices of the people in that chocolate factory influence hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of people.

Together, let’s see how many people we can get to eat no processed foods whatsoever during the month of October.

We could call it “A Month Unprocessed.”  Or perhaps a “Processed Food Boycott.” 

And then let’s find out what happens.

Tomatoes at Pike Place Market

Tomatoes at Pike Place Market
Photo Courtesy of Poor Girl Eats Well

Of course, this begs the question:  How do you define “Processed?”

Obviously there’s a wide range of implications in that word, and we will probably each define it for ourselves.  My current working definition is:

Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.

If you pick up something with a label (and if it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably not processed), and find an ingredient you’d never use in your kitchen, it’s processed.

So let’s do it.  31 days, many blogs.

Every food and health blogger can contribute something to this project. Maybe you simply encourage your readers to try it.  Maybe you take the challenge yourself (and write about your experience, natch).  Maybe you come up with a recipe in the “unprocessed” theme?  Maybe you write about ingredients, or ingredient substitutions?   Maybe you write about food politics and farm subsidies and how they relate to processed food or food additives.

There’s a way to tie this in to your blog, even if you write about the most decadent frosted, deep-fried cupcakes.  I’m sure of it.

Email me (andrew@eatingrules.com), twitter me (@eatingrules), comment on this post, send smoke signals from your backyard grill, whatever just let me know that you want to play along and we’ll go from there.

* That would be the National High School Institute, or “Cherubs.”

Menu Mondays will return next week with a review of Hardee’s — in honor of James Oseland’s IFBC keynote speech.

UPDATE:  I’ve created a new page for the October: Unprocessed Project.  Please go there now, and take the pledge!

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Allison Jones

I’m in! But you already knew that… You should come up and we can cook a 100% unprocessed meal. Like, uh, most of the meals one cooks… anyway, yes, yes, yes.

Eating Rukes!


Great idea! Count me in and I’ll put it on the next podcast, too. I eat mostly unprocessed, but I expect I’ll learn lots. Also, I might have to beg for exclusion on my new box of Rose City Vegan Chocolates that just arrived – but they might be considered unprocessed. Let’s dig in and see where it takes us. Again, great idea. Good to “meet” you on Twitter. I’ll so be at the IFBC next year!
— Veggie Val

Amber Stott

I’m in! Can’t wait! Way to be proactive in bringing us all together on this.

jan sailus
jan sailus

Jan Sailus A MONTH UNPROCESSED…what a fun and healthy challenge, you can’t lose! Most of all, our bodies will thank us. Thank you and Good Luck Andrew!

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” T.S. Elliot

Katie @ The Small Boston Kitchen

I’m in, representing Boston! Love this idea!

Yoly - YNR Live
Yoly - YNR Live

This sounds like the challenge I’ve been looking for to kick start my eating clean habit. I know it won’t be easy but count me in!


Andrew, I’m in too!. I was at the conference and I’m still processing the data overload. How will it change how I blog? How will it change my approach to food? Or photography? Or life? Will it change anything? What remains constant is the on-going challenge to myself to eat a better way.