Yea or nay: Are you taking the unprocessed challenge?
Are you ready to go unprocessed?
L.A. blogger Andrew Wilder over at Eating Rules has thrown down this challenge: no processed foods for the month of October.
Can you do it? Should you do it? Will we do it?
I've signed the pledge, and I'm enlisting the help of the L.A. Times Test Kitchen: I'll Twitter recipes @latimesfood -- #unprocessed -- that will help you eat well and stick to the rules of the challenge. (That part shouldn't be too hard: You can see by our online recipe collection that we put a premium on fresh, seasonal ingredients. As for my ability to stay away from white sugar, white flour, diet soda ... we'll see.)
This challenge has led to lively discussion: What, exactly, is a processed food? We all know that a cellophane-wrapped snack cake sitting in a box on a supermarket shelf is processed. (Twinkies, I miss you already! See you in November!)
But what about corn tortillas? Cottage cheese? "All-natural" potato chips -- or anything with a label that says "all-natural." Veggie burgers? Soy milk?
Wilder said he has been fielding such questions and comments non-stop as more than 200 people have joined the challenge and many others have inquired about it.
"It's not all black and white, there are gray areas," he said. After all, he added, "anything beyond pulling an apple off a tree and eating it, there's some processing involved."
So he has offered up a few general guidelines, but it's largely about the labels, people. Here's his post on this topic. Wilder said he is not trying to be a food cop. He just wants people to stop, read labels and think about what they are eating.
"Nobody's perfect, myself included," he said. "This is just all about trying to raise awareness about what we're eating and where it came from." He hopes that people will become more knowledgeable about their food, feel better and maybe even lose some flab.
RELATED: D.I.Y. ricotta cheese. Check out this photo gallery guide to cooking through the seasons, recipes includes. And David Karp's weekly Market Watch report -- it posts every Friday online at www.latimes.com/food -- giving you the inside track on what's fresh at farmers markets.
Wilder did something similar last year, and chose to do it again this year in October because it's the ramp-up to Food Fest, a.k.a. the holidays.
"There's so much food at Thanksgiving, Christmas, the holidays, and it actually starts with Halloween."
Wilder said he hopes that something else will spring from the challenge: When he did it last year, he found that he grew closer to his "like-minded" friends and shared potlucks and dinner parties.
He hopes to create that same sense of community around unprocessed foods, and a sense of joy in discovering new foods that are not just healthful but delicious too.
"Food brings people together. Let's do that with good food."
Although the challenge officially begins today, Wilder says everyone is welcome to join at any time and start their 30 days from that point.
But you're also welcome over at Eating Rules even if you are just curious or looking for inspiration to take a few small baby steps toward cutting back on eating processed foods.
-- Rene Lynch
Twitter.com / renelynch