{community voices} For The Love of Good Food

I grew up loving food, so much so that I fluctuated between 180 and almost 200 pounds from the time I was 18 until after marrying my hubs at 33, almost eight years ago (we joke that I was overweight and he was bleach-blond when we got married…must have been true love). Much of what I ate after leaving home as a teenager was consumed gluttonously and carelessly, without thought of origin or substance.

A few cherished food memories from my childhood lingered and nudged at me every time I looked a fast-food sausage biscuit in the face…seeing which cousin could pick the biggest, blood red tomato or neighborhood-wide admired zucchini from my “Paw Paw’s” garden, carefully tended every year; gorging on watermelon or pomegranates in summer gleefully with my Dad on our back porch; sweet summer corn slathered in butter, salt and lots of pepper, plucked from the bed of a farmer’s pickup truck on the corner, shucked in bulk by the whole family and boiled or grilled to crunchy, juicy perfection by my Stepmom; the heady smell of my Grandma’s garlic and black pepper fried chicken on Sundays and many an afternoon spent in her kitchen making (and tasting) her divine cakes. These fond food-memories sat on the back-burner for a while, but just wouldn’t leave me alone at night as reports continued to surface about the contamination of factory-farmed/packaged foods and the environmental effects of producing them.

There have been new accounts consistently over the last several (many) years about increased disease levels in the American population (and elsewhere).  Obesity, Diabetes, Cancer…the lists go on and on.  Why do these already bloated rates of disease seem to be happening even more frequently? The night we arrived home from our honeymoon, I felt so sick from eating so much meat and thickly-sauced fish and pastas for a week in theAdirondacksthat I became a vegetarian virtually on the spot (we’ve started consuming responsibly and locally-raised, pastured meats since).  I honestly believe I was getting sick, which had been happening for a while, because of all the fillers and artificial ingredients in the food I was eating. I began to enjoy fresh foods again, thanks to my Chef/husband’s creativity with the bounty our region provides. It took a several weeks, but I began to feel better.

While considering carrying a child in my womb, learning about these alarming themes put me on a concentrated trajectory to learn what is in my food, exactly what’s in it.  I’ve always been the type of person to throw myself into new projects, sometimes to the point of overzealousness, and so began my personal venture into finding out where my food comes from, and how to afford Clean, Real Food on a shoestring budget.

When we began baking for farmers markets, we bought all the fresh produce we could afford. Over the years, we cut out luxuries like going out to eat, the movies or to see bands as often in order to afford more Clean Food. When Nick became the baker at the Honest Weight Food Coop right around the time our daughter was born, we began to delve more into getting to know which foods contained Genetically Modified Organisms, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, dyes, fillers and other artificially produced materials. We bought less packaged goods and more produce, reduced our grocery bill, cooked at home and ate very well, asked questions of everyone we knew, listened to the answers, applied our newfound knowledge in daily life and became food-activists by voting with our forks.

When we joined the Saturday Delmar Farmers Market, we began to barter bread and pastries for pastured beef, pork, chicken and eggs, and REALLY started to get to know our farmers, many of whom are now friends. We visit “Our” farmers Jon & DJ at Farmer Jon’s Produce in Selkirk every week in-season to pick fresh produce right in the fields for bakery lunches and home dinners, which in the summertime often only consist of simply prepared fresh vegetables and fresh fruit for dessert. The sunshine, dirt and ultra-fresh food beat wheeling a cart down a grocery store aisle any day of the week! Plus, our daughter gets to tag along, learning everything the farmers teach us. Aside from healthier bodies, that really is the biggest bonus – our little one is enjoying learning where her food comes from and how to discern what to eat with careful guidance – she even tried formerly eschewed lettuce one afternoon because SHE had just picked it (and liked it, despite it being dirty and undressed!).

I experience a visceral reaction when I smell the dirt and shake it off fully grown vegetables.  I sometimes hug the produce that has been so carefully grown to my chest, my eyes closed with the warm sun on my shoulders, just breathing in the experience and smells. Then we get to bring everything to the bakery and our taste buds are marveled. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to bring this food to the tables of our community.

Our transition has been slow and steady, but now we know what questions to ask the people who produce our food: How is the soil kept healthy? How are pests abated? Are the seeds GMO-free? Is fertilizer used on vegetables or pasture? What kind, how often and under what circumstances? Is the milk/cream subjected to high heat pasteurization? Are the cows and chickens pumped full of hormones and antibiotics or are medications actually used judiciously? How much of the day/year are they allowed on pasture? Does the alfalfa or other feed they consume contain GMOs? Can we come visit the farm? Those aren’t questions you can get answered when buying from the grocery store.  Getting to know our food producers has other beneficial effects: Our community is strengthened through the relationships we develop, and we help support other local families instead of faceless corporations. We actually enjoy our food more now, although we consume less of it. The people we’ve gotten to know and the knowledge they share with us are priceless.

We are trying to provide our dear daughter with long-lasting food memories. I wonder if she’ll remember scavenging for surviving Romas post-hurricane last year, a bundle of them gleefully gathered in her scooped-up dress. Or peeling off their skins in our kitchen after blanching them for preservation. Or the summer-fresh taste of the marinara sauce we prepared and froze, served periodically with her pasta throughout the winter.

I know I will.


73 Comments Add yours

  1. Ona says:

    Beautiful post – thank you for the inspiration and opeing up your personal stories so that we may all benefit. I have been catching on or waking up to this issue, and what you write really hits home and sinks in for me!

  2. Maria B says:

    great post! I found the list of questions particularly useful. I am printing it out and keeping it with me!

  3. This is a beautiful story — definitely highlights your very real, very honest commitment to something important to you and your family.

    It’s amazing how much having a family can strengthen our resolve. I know I do everything in my power to show my children what I believe is good, important and honest…

    Congrats on a touching post!

  4. crimsondaisy says:

    A very beautiful post. I have recently given up meat for various reasons you have mentioned. It is great to see more people being interested in the source of their food and understand the importance of being healthy.

  5. kirstin2012 says:

    Wow what a great article! Thank you for providing me with inspiration. I am just now learning to THINK about what i am putting in my body and posts like yours really encourage me to get educated. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. I’d so much rather eat food grown locally and naturally by friends and neighbors than food manufactured from a “faceless corporation”. You’ve got my vote!!

  7. Very cool story. I too am on a search for better and more locally grown foods. I use a few different food co-ops in my neck of the woods and enjoy getting to my community members as well. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nicolle says:

    Congratulations of Freshly Pressed!!! 🙂

  9. rachelocal says:

    It seems we are on the same journey, although you are much farther along than I am. I want to know where my food comes from, and I want to eat REAL food (no GMOs for me)! Thanks for a beautifully written post.

  10. congrats on freshly pressed! As far as the memories – I think she will. I try very hard to build long lasting memories with my 2 children – I think it’s important for them and for us the parents.

  11. Britin F. says:

    I was wondering where all the new likes and comments were being generated from Nicolle! TY! typing w/ a broken arm, so bear w/ me: It warms my hear that our experiences have resonated with so many of you. Learning where your food comes from and developing an intimate relationship w/ it (and those who produce it) is a very personal journey in which (I believe) everyone does the best they can to align their ideals and knowledge w/ their resources, more closely as time progresses, and communities/personal health benefit. With so many risky food production methods that abound in our culture, becoming personally affiliated with our food sources and exchanging our hard earned dollars or services for good, clean food, while building community relationships is one of the most important things we can do to promote the health and longevity of our species.

  12. Great post! Creating family food traditions and memories are such good ways to get children to think about and appreciate where their food comes from – without them even realising that’s what happening.

  13. I grew up on a farm so I appreciate your post on several levels. The fresh, locally-grown food movement is taking hold in a big way in Austin, Texas. The vegetables and meat are superior to that in our finest supermarkets. Thanks so much for your fine work!

  14. Duas says:

    Very inspirational article. I love nature so much.

  15. Victoria says:

    Wonderful to see that some people can still embrace and promote local farms and eating fresh foods. I will have to try your bean burgers…they look great! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  16. Maribel says:

    I started to be careful about what I ate after my kidneys failed. I grew up as a latch key child who ate out of a box mainly. I think this could be a huge reason why I had kidney failure so young. I need to eat healthy maintaining my health and making sure my kids don’t get sick as a young adults either. We watched Food Inc. and it’s scary. I’m going to have to follow blog and be inspired.

  17. RLTJ's says:

    Every family in the countryside should be growing vegetables in their backyard. Organic farming, too.

    Those in urban places should grow edibles instead of ornamental plants, indoor and outdoor. Vegetables can be grown in pots and cans. That is literally fresh vegetables straight from the can! 🙂

    Some people are lazy, ok, no time for that, so there is business in the neighborhood for some. No refrigerated shelves needed, people pay what they have picked!

    Children usually enjoy gardening. I was one when I was young. [All they need is a parent who will teach them that.] 🙂

  18. bringmemycoffee says:

    Brilliant post, lovely photos as well. I’m struggling to feed my family whole, real foods as well.

  19. Daja says:

    Love this so much!

    We’ve had our kids blogging for us all week on the meaning of food, how to stand up for real food, why it’s important to eat local, etc. We need more of these kinds of posts out there! Eventually we’ll tip the balance for real food! 🙂

  20. RLTJ's says:

    Added an image of this page to my side bar. I think vegetable gardening should be revived and promoted.

  21. kandy1980 says:

    Great stories and inspiration 😛

  22. veghotpot says:

    Such a lovely post, your daughter is very lucky and she’ll appreciate it when she’s so healthy and aware in later life. My mum, although having no money, refused to buy us junk food and we grew up with lots of basic but healthy meals. I always thank her because now I have a deep rooted love for honest, fresh food. Thanks for sharing your experience

  23. amandaroederwrites says:

    Great post! I can’t wait for my local farms to open for the season. 🙂

  24. nazarioartpainting says:

    Lovely photos

  25. Way to build meaningful connections with the food you eat! I think much of the challenge many of us face in eating well is that food has become less special and so we eat mindlessly – like your fast food comment. Knowing where our food comes from -and helping to grow it- is a way for us to slow down and pay attention to what we eat. Thanks for sharing your story!

  26. Thank you for outlining your life and history with healthy food… I’m writing a food/memory piece right now on WNY apples… and happened to go to freshly pressed and find you! Love the VW bus and the farmers market pics are classics. I grew up behind my grandfathers farm stand and loved eating his produce! Thank you! – Renee

  27. asrclub says:

    great post it really very helpful for me

  28. Enjoyed your post growing our own food is essential to lving healthy as we are able to see how the food is cared for before consuming it. Wish I could grow all my food in lieu of purchasing in the store. Love spring and summer as it is much easier to get fresh produce. 🙂

  29. organic vegetable is good for health

  30. in this way food problem will gone

  31. food problem will be no more exist

  32. Lori Emmons says:

    Happy to have found your site. We are physically challenged condo dwellers & love getting farm fresh fruits & veggies at the Farmer’s markets & my sister’s organic garden! I’ll be back! Thanks for the posts.

  33. i like to eat fresh food

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  35. acflory says:

    My parents and I came to Australia when I was four. Mum always cooked fresh and baked her own cakes. Dad grew fruits trees in the backyard. We didn’t have much money back then but I grew up knowing the real taste of sun-ripened fruit and home-made food. This last summer I had the great joy of picking our own strawberries and peaches, lettuce, garlic and herbs. My daughter went through a junk food phase [short] and now she is fast turning into a 3rd generation foodie 🙂 No GMO’s in our house, just good, honest food.

  36. My parents have a kitchen garden in the backyard of their home. Though it doesn’t produce enough for all of us, the freshness it brings to the dinner table is great. In the last few months especially, it has inspired my mother and me to prepare really simple dishes to let the subtle taste of the fresh veggies dominate the flavor of the food

  37. i love foods always so that i like that blog

  38. lijiujiu says:

    Excellent post!
    I can’t wait for the local farms to open… I love the fresh food so much.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  39. love what you are doing! fantastic!

  40. Alyssa says:

    Wonderful post, I too am a food lover that sometimes I think I’d die of gluttony… hehehe 🙂

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  42. Kristy says:

    I agree, thank your for the inspiring post, I too started to ask similar questions when I was pregnant with my daughter. Fortunately living in Oregon I have many local opportunities to support local farms. I’d love to learn more about preserving but still retaining the vital nutrients. I recently bought a book “Fields of Plenty: A Farmer’s Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow it” it sounds like you’ve had a similar journey. I think it’s great to share like this as the more we do the more we raise awareness…and that’s what it needed. Awareness of who we are, what we eat and why we settle for less [ie processed foods] when so much more [whole, real food] is available in our neighbors yards as in farms, or local markets and CSA’s. Keep up the good work, it takes all of us to make a community. Be well, ~Kristy

  43. amypamensky says:

    Beautifully written. Wonderful and inspiring life journey, thank you for sharing.

  44. ohmenopause says:

    Most enlighting. I have been lucky enough to have visited Italy in the past and experienced home grown fruit and veg. Lately, with the crisis in Europe I find my husband and I are having to buy cheaper meat and any veg that is available. People are being forced to buy on price not quality. We are also good food lovers.

  45. SAM says:

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  46. This is a great post! I am 22 years old, and I started eating raw fruits and vegetables. I also eat fish, but not a whole lot. I feel 10x better since switching up my diet, and I firmly believe that many of the problems people experience today is a direct result of poor diet. I have changed my eating habits and exercise habits because I believe that “health” is the number one, most important thing. For many of us our jobs and school work consume our lives that we tend to put health in 2nd or 3rd on the importance scale. It is time we switch that and all it takes is a few people switching. I don’t have to tell people to switch their diets, they switch when they see how happy, healthy and fit I am. I count on my family for a lot of things, but I know it is partially my responsibility to help them as well. The same goes for everyone.

    Good luck Everyone!

  47. milabeau says:

    Reblogged this on Life a Beautiful Mystery and commented:
    Great initiative!

  48. nazarioartpainting says:

    Great post Congratulation!

  49. Mr.Jay says:

    Great stories and inspiration. Love it so much.


  50. Renée Starr says:

    beautifully blogged!

  51. aknightblog says:

    It is always nice to hear about other people that care about the food/fuel they put into their bodies. Thanks for sharing this lovely story.

  52. nrcraddock says:

    Awesome post. My family and I are taking food seriously more than ever this summer… can’t wait to participate in our local farmer’s market community (you think we’d have already done that since we live in a farming town…).

  53. eve6barnido says:

    You have blessed with a beautiful daughter and good for her that she likes to eat juicy fruits and greeny leaves. I sometimes think that it will be smart enough if i begin controlling my kid’s foods and start providing her healthy veges and fruits rather than to purchase canned and junk foods.

  54. websiteguides says:

    thanks for the post. I have been hitting the veggies and fruit more often now and cutting out as much of unhealthy foods as I can. Live in the city but am finding out that there are still spots in my yard to grow some good eating. Thank you for the story and good health to you and your family.

  55. Elizabeth says:

    Great post!!!!

  56. John Saddington says:

    Reblogged this on 8BIT.

  57. Britin F. says:

    Thank you everyone for reading and commenting with such positive enthusiasm!! I hope this post inspires all of you to become more connected with your healthy, local food sources!

  58. Wonderful story! I live in the burbs but am working to only eat food that I know exactly where it came from and how it was raised.

  59. Ellis Turner says:

    Reblogged this on thefoodpornographersguide and commented:
    Here’s a beautifully written post about a subject near and dear to my heart. I love this author’s journey to a healthy lifestyle focusing on locally grown foods. I support this endeavor wholeheartedly and plan on writing more about this in the future.

  60. Reblogged this on thepainterspalate and commented:
    I love this idea! I hope it takes off around the world.

  61. pnwauthor says:

    I am so fortunate to live in a community that supports locally-produced organic food, in Bellingham, WA. I was also fortunate to have lived in Seattle for as long as I did where I educated myself about GMO, organic foods, toxins in food and food security.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on eating healthy.

  62. luceat0lux0vestra says:

    You’ve experienced such a big transformation! Kudos! My CSA pick-up starts this week and I’m excited for the fresh produce.


  63. www.macuisineetvous.com says:

    un post très intéressant

  64. I completely agree. We are trying to eat local and are trying to raise our own meat chickens and pigs for meat for the year. So much fun to learn about and even better I can teach my 1 and 2 year old about REAL food! We’re even raising backyard goats so my 1 year old can get unpasturized milk. Awesome post!

  65. gooorooo says:

    Reblogged this on Wow! parents and commented:
    I wish I could care more about the food I eat. Is there a recipe for passion for food?

  66. nicochan3 says:

    Reblogged this on ilovekokutsu and commented:
    Plz think good of biodiversity

  67. mjvezzani says:

    It is nice to see other people around my age taking an interest in this. From age 5 to 18, I spent a good amount of time with my dad out in our garden. We had multiple raised beds, a grape arbor, fruit trees, and a compost pile. I now live in downtown Boston and am finding myself craving opportunities to work on a farm or in a garden. I strongly believe that in general we need to become reconnected with our food sources and learn what it means to support sustainable, ecologically responsible food production with our forks and with our dollars. Thank you for writing a post that reflects my own feelings about this.

  68. fitness2gether says:

    totally agree with your way of thinking…. keeping it simple and clean. Like how you set up your blog. Wish I could figure out how to set mine up so well. I’m brand new to blogging and not very computer savvy. Anyway, enjoyed your blog. 🙂

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