I used to eat my dinners in ignorance, blissfully unaware of the evils lurking in my kitchen.  I would shop for ingredients in the centre aisles of the supermarket, with nary a glance at the ingredients or origin of the product.  I would come home, pop dinner in the microwave and my mealtime dilemmas were solved.

Since reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma two years ago, I have been on a whirlwind ride down the rabbit hole.  In that time, I have learned how modern industrial food systems have changed cuisine with adverse impacts on our health, our environment and our entire relationship with food.  Until last month I had avoided watching the film Food Inc. because I knew that, unlike merely reading about the subject, seeing those horrific images would leave nothing to the imagination.  And my suspicions were entirely accurate: these days I can’t pop a meatball in my mouth without picturing a cow meeting her miserable fate on an industrial assembly line.

I have lamented about our North American food crisis with several parents over the past few months.  Where do we begin?  How can we possibly afford to shop the organic section in the supermarket?  How can a generation of parents raised on Lucky Charms and Chef Boyardee become instant connoisseurs of the slow food movement?  And the answers to these questions can’t wait: here I sit at noon, with about 15 minutes to sate my appetite before Tess wakes up and I have to feed, change and dress her and have us out the door in time for swimming lessons.

In my quest to dispel the devil in my kitchen I found a solution that is delightfully simple: pare it down.  Alice Waters and Deborah Madison‘s works reassured me that with a few simple quality ingredients I can prepare a delicious, sustainable and conscientious dinner for my family. No one is expecting me to prepare a crowned rack of organic lamb for dinner each night:  I can easily whip up something delicious with fresh tomatoes, basil, ricotta and home-made bread.  And when it comes to my daughter, I am happy to puree a fresh sweet potato before I reach for a jar of instant baby food.

The process of preparing simple meals is even more satisfying than the product.  When the season is right, I can completely escape the confines of the supermarket and walk down the street to our local farm stand.  Better yet, I can reach for ingredients in the vegetable garden steps from our back porch.  Our kitchen smells sensational and I can truly take pride in a compliment paid at my dinner table.

I am so proud of my family’s transformation.  While you may still find us scarfing down burgers and fries while we are on the road or popping something in the microwave when we are ill, you will more often find us buying from our local grower, turning the soil in our vegetable garden or in the kitchen making a family meal together.  And, far from the ignorant bliss of my former dinners, I have found happiness in the knowledge that our menus are making a difference.