Let’s talk about food. Everyone loves food. Eating food. Cooking food. Trying new food. Growing food. It’s all good when there’s a little love and attention to detail involved.
When I was a kid though, I was picky. Like really picky. Like my Granny Bev would have to make a pot of macaroni and cheese at family gatherings and no one was allowed to touch it until I had my share because it’s all I would eat. My parents would have to bring me food to school or I wouldn’t eat at all. No veggies, nothing remotely casserole like, no red meat. Just give me a pizza and let’s move on with our lives.
When I tell people that now, I get expressions of disbelief. Because today, I’ll be the first person to try something new. I vocally resent the way our agricultural system has developed into something of a machine. I regret not complying with my parents attempts to give me more healthy food. And almost obnoxiously so, I’ll try to motivate others out of their food comfort zones.
Today, I love talking about food and trying new things. Here’s some of my favorite food experiences.
1. The first time I really started to be excited about preparing food and using healthy ingredients was during a summer when I was 15 in California with my sister. We would go to the farmers market in town, and seeing food in the markets with the person who grew them right there in front of my own eyes made it a more authentic experience.
Things about food just started to make sense to me. Green beans are not supposed to come in a can. There are other kinds of tomatoes than those flavorless beefsteak ones that make it into chain grocery stores. Nothing is better than buying a homemade jam directly from a little old lady in a frilly apron.
It wasn’t so much that my tastes changed or that I just grew up but that I was really connecting with the food system. The magical elements of food had been awoken for me.
2. While I was in Thailand, I spent a good amount of time in the Northern countryside. One of my favorite food experiences of all time happened right outside Pai, a small town about three hours north of Chiang Mai, when I stopped at a stand advertising Roselle juice.
When I ordered the juice and sat down waiting, I was greeted with an entire spread of beautiful fruits and vegetables from the farm. Apparently this was typical of the farm but it came as a shocking display of very authentic Thai hospitality to me. You can read more about this experience on a guest post I did for The Culinary Travel Guide.
3. During the past two summers, I worked on a taco truck that toured the US music festival circuit. The company is called Peace Love Tacos and it was one of the most fun work experiences I’ve ever had. We were completely gluten and dairy free which made us one of the few options of that sort in the music festival scene.
I don’t know how many times I had to say, “Sorry, we don’t have sour cream or cheese,” to disappointed faces. But the number of times I was able to convince people to try kale (yes, our tacos had kale) for the first time resulting in surprised but stoked faces was way more memorable. Being a customer trying kale for the first time at our truck would receive actual cheers from our staff. Every. Time.
4. While I was living in Hawai’i, I worked at a restaurant in the harbor called Bite Me. We served nothing but local, fresh fish caught by local fisherman.
I will forever remember when I got an 8 year old girl to try raw fish for the first time. I told her about my buddies who were fisherman and sold fish to us. We looked out at some of the fishing boats coming in and saw the excited faces of people who had luck that day. And after a short time, she was trying multiple types of sashimi and enjoying it. It was nothing short of amazing watching a young person make the conscious decision to expand their experience like that.
5. Also during my time working at Bite Me in Hawai’i, the staff befriended a couple guys who were visiting from the other side of the island. They were staying on a friend’s boat in the harbor and visited us every day, sometimes twice a day.
They returned to their side of the island and then came back about a month later bearing all kinds of beautiful goodies to share with us. All food they had grown and picked just for us. Try and tell me this picture doesn’t give you the biggest smile.
6. One of my favorite movements right now is one that works to get kids involved with the food system—particularly by getting gardens into school curriculums.
A good friend of mine from college founded an organization called Earth Rebirth in Norman, OK that focuses on solutions to our food, energy and water problems.
Their main food program is called Garden Your Own Growth which is working on getting gardens into every school in Norman.
I couldn’t be more proud of a community in the middle of Oklahoma, a place that most would consider non-progressive, supporting this movement right here at home and getting kids excited to grow and eat their own vegetables.
I feel strongly about reconnecting our lives with our food system because it’s the ultimate representation of how detached we’ve become from nature.
Eat well, be well. 🙂