Self-sufficiency, even the tepid, amateur type Kevin and I practice, has lots of disadvantages. You have to get up early, do heavy work, subject yourself to the vicissitudes of nature, and get used to having insects absolutely everywhere. You eat a diet heavy on kale and light on mangoes. You’re a slave to your heavy equipment.
But it should have one unequivocal advantage: you stay thin. Pioneers and peasants are lean, mean, self-sustaining machines. If, come January, you can’t zip your jeans, you know you are neither.
Sad to say, I am neither.
While it is one of the lessons of this lifestyle that to everything there is a season, no one ever mentions that winter is the season for indolence and baking.
If we were true pioneers, we’d undoubtedly have a slate of winter chores like carding wool and repairing fences which would keep us off the couch, but we’re dilettantes, so we don’t. Instead, we have a house that we keep cold enough that a nice pot of slow-cooking stew or a crusty loaf of long-baking bread sounds not just tasty, but practical. Warmth! We have eggs that are calling out to be turned into muffins and puddings. And we have a half-year’s supply, at least, of meat.
This is not in the pioneer spirit. Not only did we not raise this meat ourselves (we bought it, in one fell swoop, from Blood Farm, an off-Cape slaughterhouse that handles the animals from the small farms in a wide vicinity), but neither did we smoke, cure, can, or process it ourselves. We simply stuck it in our non-pioneering 13-cubic-foot Energy Star Kenmore upright freezer.
And this is why I weigh ten pounds more than I ought to. Instead of being outside doing food-related jobs, I’m inside reading food-related blogs – most of which encourage indolence and baking. (Particularly diabolical is John at Food Wishes and his Boston cream pie post – “where New Year’s resolutions go to die,” he says, unapologetic.)
Playing in to the winter weight-gain dynamic is the Wholesomeness Paradox (explained in exhaustive detail here), the seductive idea that a locally grown, lovingly raised, whole food must be good for you, even if it’s pig jowls. Our home-grown tomatoes are fine and healthful, and we eat them raw all summer. In winter, though, the ones we put down in September just beg to be stew or chili. And stew or chili, even if it’s made with grass-fed beef from grass-fed cows who were, until very recently, grazing the verdant fields of northeast Massachusetts, isn’t the stuff that weight loss is made of.
To make matters worse, there’s some evidence that cold weather makes us conserve calories, which would have been a neat survival strategy back in olden times when food was scarce in winter. But, when the survival strategy for scarcity meets our overflowing 13-cubic-foot Energy Star Kenmore upright freezer, you get jeans you can’t zip.
I am taking steps. Now that there’s no snow on the ground, I’m running more. We just got two cords of wood delivered, so I’m trying to be less parsimonious with the heat. We’re attempting to go alcohol-free a couple nights a week. I’m reading Denise and Lenny at Chez Us, who have gone public with their commitment to lose ten pounds in as many weeks.
I’ll really get serious as soon as that Boston cream pie is gone.