Real Food from Real People

Lee Greene founded The Scrumptious Pantry with the goal of selling “Real Food from Real People.” All of their food items are made in small batches that come from family farms which embrace the traditional philosophies of farming and the importance of growing crops as safely as possible through natural means.

Lee knows all of the farmers personally (and you can read about each of them on her website) and each of their products proudly displays the farmer’s name, showing that they stand behind what they grow and make.

Today Lee share her thoughts on “processed food,” how she’s fighting back against the modern food industry, and where she thinks we’re headed.

If you just discovered October: Unprocessed, go here to find out more and take the pledge. Don’t worry if you missed the start date! You can start your 30 days today, or simply join in for the rest of the month.

Barbara and Fabio Heirloom Tomatoes
Barbara and Fabio enjoying their heirloom tomatoes.

Processed food is a reality — and it is a necessity, too. As a society, we have come to agree that we would function in a system in which every one of us fulfills a certain task based on his/her core competencies, everyone’s best talent. So that leaves us with — hopefully — passionate and talented tailors, doctors, mechanics, IT specialists, truck drivers, and accountants. Everyone is focusing on what they can to best, to the progress of society as a whole.

Now, not everyone is a plant whisperer and has the talent to connect to the soil, hence we have professional vegetable growers and animal raisers (aka farmers). Not everyone has a passion for baking their own bread or roasting their own coffee, hence we have professional food processors and we have professional chefs.

I believe that this system, overall, is a good one for our society. Otherwise we would all still be foraging and doing subsistence farming, swapping the occasional egg for some grain with a neighbor. So, I vote YES for processed foods.

Pressing Olive Oil
Pressing Olives from Cosimo's Winery.

Unfortunately, we passed a tipping point without realizing it. We should have processed foods that taste of real ingredients, tell stories — food that fills not only our bellies, but also feeds our soul. Instead, we have foods that make us sick.

What brought us here was industrial farming and the decline of the ingredients’ quality. If an apple is mass produced, it loses its taste. When it loses its taste, it takes much more work, sugar, butter and cinnamon to turn into a good tasting pie. Then comes the point where it is easier to retreat from the kitchen and to leave the processing to big companies and their (often chemical) toolkits.

As a food producer, it is my responsibility to create processed foods that taste of their provenance, of their terroir again. Processed foods with a clear origin. A specific farmer. A certain patch of land. The culinary history of a certain region.

I envision processed foods that you could have made at home — foods that you did not have the time to, because life is already busy enough without gardening and canning. Let’s call them “unprocessed processed foods.”

I envision “unprocessed processed” foods that meet the lifestyle of the busy consumer in our society. Products that have a convenience character and that allow us to create a delicious meal in 15 minutes. Think dried pasta, a basic sauce, and a sausage made from a pasture-raised, happy animal. You can add fresh veggies, herbs, and spices for your own personal twist in no time.

Nicoletta and Fabio's Rice Farm
Nicoletta and Fabio's Rice Farm.

I envision a society in which we accept the reality of our busy lifestyles, but also one in which we still share stories around a dinner table over a home-cooked meal.

The past year has been quite an experience for me, trying to turn this vision into reality. In this country, we lack the infrastructure to create “unprocessed processed” at a cost which makes them widely accessible. High volume processing facilities that could produce at a lower cost are not allowing me to control my ingredients or — god forbid — bring my own. The processors that will take a truckload of my tomatoes and turn it into sauce are small, highly manual operations. The product tastes great, but is still too expensive to convert a large part of the population to eating “unprocessed processed” foods.

It took us just a second to pass the tipping point unnoticed and get us into this mess; it will take much longer to get out of it. Slowly and step by step, demand and supply will hopefully align. With great projects like October: Unprocessed and all the people passionate about “Real Food from Real People” who have been sharing their stories on this blog so far, I am hopeful that we will make it happen. One palate at a time.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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October 21, 2010 1:46 pm

What a wonderful piece on the balance between processed and unprocessed foods. It’s an interesting discussion as I begin to dismantle my first urban garden and learn to process my own vegetables and fruits for later use.

October 19, 2010 8:41 pm

Great outlook Lee, I completely agree. I admit I am personally very focused on eating foods as unprocessed and home-cooked as possible, but you make a good point that long-term, and for the large percentage of the population, we need healthful, minimally processed foods. Keep at it and let’s get people eating better!