Wednesday food post! (The first of many)

I’ve decided to do a weekly post about food! I’m so fascinated with food and eating well (if you couldn’t have guessed already). From the seed to the table, each step it takes to bring each bite of food to my lips is gratifying in its own way. I think it might be a good practice to share my experiences with you all- as a way of documenting my progress (and my failures…), and also in the hopes that one of you might catch the foodie bug like I have and have some fun with it yourself. I figure some weeks I’ll focus on what we’re eating or what I’m working on, and some weeks it’ll be more "food theory". It’s amazing how philosophical one can become when thinking about what’s for dinner!

Jeff is reading this book right now called "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work". We talked about it a bit the other day, and his description of it really resonated with me. I think once he’s done I might have to read it. Basically the book seemed to be about how we’ve lost the art of our trades, and as a result we’ve lost some of our connection to physical reality. In losing connection with physical reality, we damage our spiritual ties to certain aspects of the real world. I could illustrate this in a number of ways, but I think food is a great example of the truth of this theory. 

It wasn’t that long ago that each of us had a connection to what we ate. We knew when food was in season, what conditions it took to grow it properly, how to keep healthy animals, how to rotate crops for soil health, how to save and store seeds for the next year, etc. We knew how to preserve food for the winter, how to prepare our meals from scratch, how to ration food when it was scarce, and how to appreciate the wealth of food that was only available during certain times of year. As silly as this sounds- there’s a spiritual connection there. I started a small garden a few years ago only to wake up one day and find that the hands-on dirty work of it all had transformed me. The closer I got to my food, the more of a relationship it forged. The more of a relationship I had with it, the more I cared about every piece of the puzzle- where the food comes from, its quality, the quality of my health, all of it. It just made sense to respect it. Whether or not companies like Monsanto are doing away with seed diversity matters to me now. If something is convenient but rooted in cruelty (and not even good for me), why would I choose it? Now I see the ways in which our mindless eating has really hurt us. Sometimes I’ll hear a comment about the work involved in dealing with food in this way. I struggle to gracefully deal with comments like this, because it’s clear to me that I now have a fundamentally different perspective than most people I know. It’s not all about my benefit anymore. I’m in a relationship. So this way of eating takes a little work and thought… so what? That’s what it takes. Losing our relationship to the things that help to sustain us- losing our view of the process of it all… well, it really does damage. We don’t care about what we can’t relate to, and if we can’t relate to the things that we need, where does that leave us?

I’ll always remember the story of my brother- the pickiest eater in the family. He would routinely whine and complain and refuse to eat what was served, and it drove us all crazy. He would especially protest when it came to vegetables or fish. One year my mom dug up a small portion of our yard and split it into four sections, one for each kid. We each chose what to plant and helped to care for the little garden, and we all had fun. One day at dinner, my mom announced that some vegetable (I wish I remembered which one, but it was one that my brother HATED) came from his garden. He gobbled it up like it was his favorite thing in the world. We were all sort of annoyed by him, but that image has been burned in my brain as a result. Now it makes sense to me. He had forged that sacred bond- the bond that tied him to what sustained him. Regardless of whether or not he actually liked the taste didn’t really matter in that moment. He was grateful for the food, and proud of it, and that was enough for him (one of the stubbornest people I know)  to enjoy it.

I want many things for the future. One of the things I want the most is for people to have the experience that my brother did that day, on a larger scale. I want us to reconnect with our physical world, and get to know ourselves a little better in the process.

 
Gracie
Gracie

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Comments (30)

  1. prophetsong

    Great post! I totally agree. Even though I currently have no garden I’m really trying to encourage Zakary tp take an interest in the herbs and sprouts we’re growing in our appartment and in the tomatoes and peppers my parents grew for him in their garden last summer so that he can start to understand the value of the life cycle of our food.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      That’s so cool that you are growing what you can and keeping him involved! He must be so big now!

      Reply
  2. david_anderson

    I have no doubt that your brother started eating the veggies because he grew them, but it might have been the taste that kept him eating. There are a lot of veggies that I love from the garden, but I still don’t like when it comes from the store.

    As much as I care about the health of my food, the flavor matters even more. Pigs and chickens that live in the sun and get exercise taste better. The same thing goes for fruits and veggies that mature on the plant, and go onto the plate the same day.

    Broccoli from the store = yuck
    Broccoli picked from the garden right before it flowers = heaven

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Totally true. SO true. I’m really spoiled for some things now because I know what they can taste like. And actually, my brother is no longer picky at all- I think probably most of his issues with food when he was younger had to do with stubbornness and not so much actual taste, although I suppose you can grow tastes for things.

      Reply
  3. pithy_epigrams

    I have a question. As someone who has never felt connected in any way to the food I eat, this idea is somewhat foreign. It’s something I can’t quite grasp onto. How do you propose that someone like me, someone living in an apartment with zero garden space, fulfill this lifestyle. I want to, in many ways of my life I am an activist, but I feel empty when it comes to food. I want more. I don’t know how to achieve it. I mean, and sorry to drag on for so long, but I eat organic, and fair trade, and as much from the local farmers market. But I still feel disconnected. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    1. pithy_epigrams

      And sorry for all the grammar errors. :/

      Reply
    2. david_anderson

      Give your food your time and attention.

      When you go to the farmer’s market, talk to your farmers. Find out if they have farm tours. Learn about the issues associated with growing your food. What goes into growing your food? Many local chapters of Slow Food arrange farm tours and tastings.

      Pay attention to your food. Taste the difference between the vine ripened heirloom tomato from the farmer’s market, and the supermarket tomato. If you can find a farmer that lets their chickens roam a large open area, try those eggs and compare them to the organic ones you get from the store. Try some chicken, beef or pork that was raised on pasture. Pay attention to how all these things taste, and how you feel afterwords. You can literally taste and feel the health that comes from healthy food.

      Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and/or Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as good places to start learning about getting connected to your food.

      Find out if there are community gardens in your area. Cook more. If you buy bread, make bread. If you already make bread, try some different grains. If you already eat different grains, grind your own flour. If you make your own flour, make your own pasta and spaghetti sauce. Learn to make your own cheese to put on the pasta.

      You don’t have to do it all the time, but each part that you get to know and love, the more connected you will be.

      Reply
      1. pithy_epigrams

        Wow. Thanks for all of the suggestions! I gather, you are foodie and gardener? 🙂

        I am going to make a conscious effort to become more connected with what I eat.

        Reply
        1. david_anderson

          A big “yes” on both counts.

          And don’t forget to connect that food to other parts of your life as well. Food is social, political, spiritual and sensual. You mention being an activist, spend some time thinking about how food relates to those issues you care about.

          Reply
          1. pithy_epigrams

            Thanks for all your imput. It’s really kind for people to take their time to help me understand something. It makes me very happy.

    3. cknk

      I started connecting with my food while I was still living in an appartment with no garden. For me connecting happened while I was cutting out all the processed foods and learning how to make everything from scratch

      I started making soups from bones I bought at a small butchers shop. Even just going into a small butcher’s shop and learning how to ask for meats rather than just pick up what trays look good meant learning quite a bit about food.

      Then there was learning learning to mix my own spice mixes, render fat into lard, and bake my own bread… buying a grain grinder allowed me to connect first with whole grain companies and later directly with grain farmers. Flour is no longer something from a factory but something that results from a particular farmer’s harvest, and each new load takes a bit to adjust to the particular characteristics of it, since different growing conditions can result in grain that absorbs more or less water and has more or less protein.

      Buying unhomogenized milk from a smaller milk company has let me notice the changes of taste in the milk throughout the year. Buying cheese from a small company that doesn’t add preservatives makes cheese a more fragile product. I know it is real cheese and goes moldy easily.

      A membership in a CSA (Community Supported Agricultural program) meant I got vegetables directly from one farmer. I couldn’t choose which vegetables, I just recieved a large rubbermade bin full every week. It let me learn about vegetables I’d never used before, about how to store and make use of everything, and about what is in season when. Without having a garden or farm myself, I could see how harvests differ from year to year, and hear from the farmer about the weekly challenges he was facing.

      Reply
      1. pithy_epigrams

        I think a lot of it is laziness, on my behalf. I feel so empty and exhausted that I don’t know how to dedicate myself to another cause.

        But I know I should. Little steps. Little steps.

        Thanks to everyone for your comments.

        Reply
        1. david_anderson

          You know, it doesn’t have to be one of your causes for you to feel connected to your food. You can simply support yourself by connecting to your food. It is the source for your energy, not a sink for it. There are plenty of food activists, it is fine to be a quiet supporter, by simply connecting with your food and feeding yourself well.

          Reply
          1. Gracie (Post author)

            I agree with this, totally. I think that in some ways you may just gravitate into activism, but it may be sort of a secondary thing which comes more naturally once you start. If you only have the room for those little steps, that’s fine. You’re doing a lot of good in other areas too. 🙂

    4. Gracie (Post author)

      I love David’s response! Yeah, I do think it’s hard with our way of life to reconnect in all the ways that we need to. We just have to try to do what we can, and some of his suggestions below seem great. There’s also lots and lots of grassroots organizations that are focused on food/localizing that have lots of people who are in your same position. They get involved with farms, community gardens, or just educating themselves about where their food really comes from.

      I also think that if you have a good sunny window, you could grow some stuff in your apartment! I recently saw this and thought it was cool:
      http://www.windowfarms.org/

      Think about our potential! There’s just so much out there for us. I’m still learning, so I’m hoping with this weekly food thing we’ll be able to toss around ideas and share experiences and just continue to grow. 🙂

      Reply
      1. pithy_epigrams

        What I really want to know is, how can a full time mother, with another one on the way, who plants and maintains a HUGE garden, commits serious time to her family,is a dedicated activist, who is constantly challenging herself to learn something new, have TIME for all this?

        I mean really. I sometimes justify my neglect in matters that I care about by saying I don’t have the time. And I honestly feel like I don’t. I really don’t know how you do it. That’s why I call you Wonder Woman.

        Reply
        1. Gracie (Post author)

          Haha, how funny. Um… I definitely don’t have time for a “job”, that’s for sure. And you’d probably be ashamed to learn how much I slack on the internet and let my house look like a tornado hit it… The other day I was so zoney and reading some article that next thing I knew Vera was telling me all about her drawing, which happened to be all over the fridge and counter and one of my cutting boards, not to mention her face (thankfully it wasn’t permanent!). Or the fact that my tub is really in need of a crazy scrub down (It’s yucky). Or that there’s this basket full of junk that I haven’t gone through in like a month. I just put a sheet over the top of it when I got tired of looking at it. Wonder woman… nah. I mean, I only show you the good stuff.

          I will say that over the past few years I haven’t really let my doubts stop me from trying something (like the big garden or whatever). It’s a very moment to moment kind of thing, and I just try. If I feel burned out, then I watch a movie or zone out for a few days. I definitely have had to postpone massage school a couple of times already (and now I’m looking at another year until I can go… and even then we’ll see. It depends on baby #2 and what he/she needs at that point). I don’t have much in the way of mental images of “success” or “failure”, because I just don’t see what I do in those terms. I think that really helps. Anyway. You’re very sweet, and for what it’s worth I look at your life with lots of ooohs and aaahs all the time. I always wish I could hear you sing! 🙂

          Reply
          1. pithy_epigrams

            You are always so humble!

            I still think you are wonder woman. Dammit.

            And, I love to sing for people. Maybe someday I can get savvy enough to post a video or something. 🙂

  4. pagangoat

    I’m looking forward to your food posts:)
    I tried your black bean burgers a few days ago,(slightly modified, I added fresh cilantro,mmmmm, and a different combo of seasonings)and they’re so yummy! I think they’re going to be a staple. I even gave my mom the recipe to try, she thought they sounded so good:) So thanks!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      That’s awesome! What different seasonings did you use? I’d love to have a different variation. Oh I bet they were just awesome with cilantro… I can’t wait until I have fresh herbs again! I have been thinking more about growing stuff more intensively in the house, and herbs are pretty top of the list there. 🙂

      Reply
      1. pagangoat

        A little bit of everything:dried oregano, thyme, parsley, rosemary, cumin, garlic, chili, I can’t even remember what else. Lemon, tons of fresh cilantro, green & purple onion, and I cooked the rice with lots of finely diced mushrooms and yellow onion, in veggie stock.
        My sister used to grow herbs in her kitchen window, but it was a basement suite, so didn’t get a lot of sun, especially in the winter.She put a grow light in, instead of a regular light bulb, and it made such a huge difference, those things were just flourishing! So lovely to have fresh herbs all winter long, they just make anything and everything better:)

        Reply
  5. ladyfaith3

    I love this post! It’s so encouraging! I found some organic seeds and supplies at a local store I am going to start learning about when to plant. I can’t do a lot but I can grow some of my families favorites, green beans, tomatos simple things. I look forward to learning. I agree that there is a connection, not only to the food you grow but the earth, where you grow it. My grandparents always had a garden, small live stock and they just seemed to understand the weather, the season and were keenly aware of time. I thought it was so natural to know, you see how the light changes outside, hear the different birds at different times of year and know the season is near. It should be very much a part of everyone. My Grandpa once looked up at the sky and told me “those clouds are the kind that bring snow” I though he was kidding. the next day we had 2-3 inches of snow on the ground. Sorry this is such a long comment but I absolutely agree about being connected and how important that once was and probably will be again.
    Trish

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yay! I really hope you’ll document some of your gardening adventures on the blog. That’s such a cool story about your grandpa. I am SO interested in stories like that… we seem so removed from it all but the knowledge is really not far behind us.

      Oh, and as the queen of long comments- please, write as much as you like!

      Reply
      1. ladyfaith3

        🙂 ok will do. I try to have blog posts that don’t always revolve around kids or pregnancy but I end up not able to sit very long or think very much.

        Reply
  6. 93_millionmiles

    I’d like to make a food topic request. <3

    I just got a sprout garden–I think it’s the same 3 tiered green one that you have and I’d love to hear all about your experiences with sprouting.

    Reply
    1. cknk

      I second this request. I’d love to hear how the sprouting is going.

      Reply
    2. Gracie (Post author)

      Yay, a request! I’ll totally do my next one on sprouting. 🙂

      Reply
  7. cknk

    I kept your story about your brother in mind today as I started to work on supper. Merritt tends to want to eat the same few foods every meal, and it is really hard to get him to eat what the rest of us are eating. I was making soup today and knew it would be a hard sell, so I asked Merritt’s help. He didn’t want to, until I asked if he’d like to help choose what spices went in it. So then I had both kids up on chairs next to me as I worked and I would shake a bit of each spice into the palms of their hands, let them taste it, and then add it to the soup. Merritt was so excited. Afterwards he made me write down the “recipe” and raved about how wonderful it was.

    As for the issue of the work involved in preparing natural homemade foods… I’ve forgotten what it was like to do anything different. Some days I do meals that require a lot of little detail, but lots of times I can make a meal very quickly and simply. It takes so little time to leave a pot of bones and water simmering on the back of the stove, or beans, or whatever. There’s time doing the gardening, but I don’t count that as cooking. Putting away food….? Its a seasonal job. It is part of life. I love that I spend less time grocery shopping now. Taking two kids into the grocery store for a weekly grocery trip, I can normally keep my list to six or seven items and that makes it all very fast and easy.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I just LOVE that your boys responded that way. I love it. What a great story.

      I completely relate to that. I guess I just don’t really see it as being hard, it almost seems like kind of a trade-off. Now, like you said, I don’t spend a lot of time in the grocery store. I spend a little more time thinking about food at the beginning of the week/day/whatever, but then a lot of it is really really easy. I’m starting to think it’s just a shift in perspective. There’s a little more thought involved and some prep work, but so much of what I (and it sounds like you) do is just letting something cook or soak overnight, or something like that. Yeah, and the storing of food in the fall- well I won’t lie, that takes time. But you’re right, I think of it as seasonal work and then it’s like my trip to the grocery is just right down my stairs the rest of the year. 🙂

      Reply
  8. purerandomness

    Weekly food posts will be awesome! 🙂 Lots of recipes, please!

    I am sort of depressed looking at your photo of the new growth, though. WHEN will it finally be spring and things start growing again? I can’t wait for that time. I’m really excited about our (small) garden again this year. Ben will be toddling around and (maybe) can help me pick some veg when they’re ripe! It was really hard last year when he was so new, but I think that’s partly because I was a wimp and didn’t wear him in the sling enough.

    Garden veggies: yum yum yum!!

    Reply

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