Why you should connect with your food

Just taking a few moments to express a few sentinents about the way we relate to our food.

We can so easily take for granted the ABUNDANCE of the food that is all around us. Here, especially in the U.S., we are surrounded by food at every turn. There are fast food establishments everywhere where we don’t even have to get out of our car. There are supermarkets every few miles, BIG BOX stores like Costco, Walmart and Target, along with all the little local markets too. You can get fast food INSIDE many of your big box stores (McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and more) .

Lets add in the delivery services like Uber eats, and it becomes clear, we never really even have to, you know, MAKE our meals.

I hope YOU DO THOUGH.

I grew up with the bulk of our in-home meals, at the dinner table, hands and faces washed, seated at 6 pm sharp with most of our meals “made from scratch”.

We had a small garden here and there (probably more flowers than vegetables) and we did go to the local grocery store (there were NO supermarkets around then). There weren’t Trader Joe’s either or farmer’s markets. But what we DID have were meals cooked from home from ingredients that didn’t come in a “kit”.

Now don’t get me wrong, WE are a busy, full-time working family ourselves so I TOTALLY get (and have used) a salad kit here and there or a box of something to get us started on those nights when both adults (we both cook meals) are wiped out.

We save “pizza delivery night” for when we have all (teenager included) been busy working hard on projects in the yard and NO ONE has the umph to prepare a meal. That’s the night we strategically plan for pizza delivery, and let me tell you, a hot shower, AC and rolling in pizza cheese is DIVINE. I would HUG the pizza deliver kid, if ya know, that wasn’t creepy or COVID.

These are rare and random moments for us and one I am proud of, and enjoy!

Fast food in our family, is for road trips and quite frankly gives me a stomach ache sometimes.

So how do we do it you wonder, you did wonder didn’t you?

Well maybe a small background is in order here:

My fiance has a background in the restaruarnt industry. Even though that was decades ago, his cooking experinces stayed with him and he has always loved cooking. He also LOVES to make authentic Mexican dishes (which is perfect because we love to eat them). I used to say HE is the COOK in our family, and how lucky am I? (my Mother thinks I am the luckiest woman alive, and she is right) but that said, I do a lot of the cooking too. You don’t grow up with home cooking “from scratch” without it having an effect on you I think. And until I met my now Fiancé, I was always the “cook” of the house, yet I have always had partners who preferred convenience foods.

So fast forward to today, where one of us cooks for FLAVOR and CELEBRATION OF FOOD and one of us *ahem cooks for function, nutrition and, um, PHOTOS.

You can guess who(m) is who.

We decided, (I decided, and he agreed thankfully) that we should marry our two diverse skills and focuses into ONE amazing team of meal makers, that promotes GREAT HEALTH and AMAZING TASTES.

Our talents are married, but we, darn you Covid, are still, planning. 🙂

Both of us came from family backgrounds that have HUGE FAMILIES, lots of HOME COOKING, and a bit more “grow your own” approach to life.

IT isn’t any surprise to us that we crave a huge garden, chickens, and a more farm style way of life. We also want to travel and taste our way through Europe, Mexico, and EVERYWHERE.

I don’t want to open a jar of marinara from Costco (although Costco does offer great quality products and we love many of them), I want to simmer my own sauce with my own tomatoes!

What I want, what I am always expanding on is DIY, EVERYTHING. I want to grow our produce and eventually I want to raise our eggs and bees too and see what evolves. But what HAS happened in our little suburban home, is a landscaping that supports Suburban Sustainable Farming. (small farm, like micro-farm) . It makes me sad to call it gardening.

Its MY way of connecting to our food, even if its small scale, and even when it was smaller scale, we connected.

So why is this even important?

Taking the time to plant, nurture, protect, harvest, store and cook your food reaps many numerous lessons, challenges and rewards you could never appreciate if you just buy your food already cooked and prepared.

Spend the time growing ONE thing. Like a tomato plant, prepare a bed or pot, buy some good quality soil, and a starter tomato plant, for ease, and plant it. Spend months watering it, keeping the aphids at bay, and eventually the horn worms from eating it to a nub. Watch with anticipation the flowers turning into tomatoes, wait for them to grow and then ripen, keep the birds from eating them or poking holes in them or a rabbit snagging them and then 50-70 days later pick your ripe and red tomato. Bring it inside and by then I hope you already know what you are going to make with it. Is it going to go on a sandwich, or sauteed with eggs?

You just spent the last 75 days nurturing that little dude. Are you going to let it get mushy in the back of the fridge? GOSH I DOUBT IT. You are going to make a salad, STAT and slice it up and savor every bite. You might even slice it, set it on a plate with salt and pepper and run around the house offering everyone who is willing to TASTE your little precious tomato, dancing with glee.

And THAT is how you should appreciate your food. With thanks, satisfaction and anticipation of how it tastes.

You might have spent weeks wondering how big it will get and what dish you want to prepare it in. Maybe you decided you want to learn a new dish that has tomaotes in it so you have lazily leafed through cookbooks, blow-off that dust now and browse.

Sampling my first cucumber

Let your littles help you in the garden. Grow cherry tomatoes for garden noshing. There is nothing better than garden snacks!

Now, if you are doing it right, you have dirt under your fingernails and you know the lizard that lives in your garden by name (if you named him like I do) .

Say Hi to Todd

Congratulations! You have connected to your food in very meaningful ways.

Now mark out a slightly larger growing area, amend your soil, go find a few packets of heirloom seeds and try it again. Expand your next season to two or three plants, maybe add in rosemary, or basil.

Try Beets

I promise you will never see grocery store tomatoes the same.

Connecting with your food reaps many benefits but here are a few:

You waste less – Lets face it, there is a certain amount of work and labor involved with managing a garden. Hopefully you consider it relaxing and rewarding, but its still effort. Its a HUGE bummer to see produce, you grew, go bad. We DESPISE WASTE, its double wicked if its a mama tomato! And for the love of produce chuck it in the compost pile and NOT the trash!

You appreciate more – that juicy tomato took a lot of love and care! You can totally taste the love you put into your little tomato crop and you might learn to appreciate how hard farmers, who grow food in large scales, work. You appreciate how hard it is to keep bugs off, and birds, and hungry crawling things off the precious! You savor each and every one, and you work hard to preserve them when you have 22 tomatoes that are RIPE!

You eat more nutritiously – I mean OBVIOUSLY. Plus if you are growing vegetables, hopefully you are eating them and now you are eating fresh, home-grown, hopefully organic foods, even a small change can reap healthy benefits to you and your family!

You take better care of the environment (who wants to eat Round-Up) – Once you are building and caring for a garden that produces edible things you and your family will eat, spraying toxic things like Round-Up or bug spray will be something you think twice about. (PLEASE THINK TWICE ABOUT IT). PULL THOSE WEEDS instead or find other mechanical means of dealing with them. No one wants to eat chemicals. No one SHOULD EAT CHEMICALS. DON’T DO IT!

You learn about the life-cycle -As you visit your garden once or twice a day (more if you are me) you start to see patterns and cycles of nature. It’s FASCINATING. If you are lucky enough to observe birds, and lizards, frogs, butterflies, bees and bugs doing their thing, you start to see how everything has its place in nature.

You cook more – I hope growing your own vegetables, fruits or (AND) herbs will encourage you to cook more. I mean you ARE growing some food for yourself and loved ones right? Learn a new dish for that squash! Try new things. Gardening AND cooking are both great ways to connect with not only your food but with friends and family!

You share with your neighbors or friends, – its a common garden “problem” to all of a sudden have WAAAY too many zucchini or peppers. Be that neighbor or sister, (or Mom), that always shows up to your friends homes with a bag of groceries you grew yourself! TRADE with other gardeners! Trade peppers for tomatoes, its a great way to build connections, make friends, share tips and tricks, recipes, dishes and who knows, maybe one day you’ll need a garden babysitter! Someone will be more than happy to help if you pay them in peppers!

I could keep going and each point can be its own post itself (and it might just be). Bottom line is if you do any of these things, you are connecting with your food and that just encourages a wave of positive benefits for you, your family and the environment!

I would LOVE to hear your garden stories or field any questions so leave comments below!

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