Getting dirty on the farm

2 06 2009

Macaroni and cheese mixed with canned tuna and tomatoes. Stir fry tofu and vegetables on rice. Cereal and milk. Sugar cookies rolled in sprinkles.

When I left home for college about ten years ago, I knew how to cook four things. Although my mom is an amazing cook, when I was growing up she was busy juggling work and family. She cooked delicious meals for guests and special occasions, but I don’t remember spending much time in the kitchen.

While I was in college, I struggled with anorexia. This means I was obsessed with food – often food I would not eat. I memorized nutrition facts and studied ingredient lists, carefully avoiding everything that I considered bad or unsafe. I lived on apples, non fat yogurt, hummus and carrots. I ate so many carrots that my palms turned orange. I drank a lot of coffee and smoked a few cigarettes.

Then I spent a few weeks with my uncle, a professionally trained chef, in Copenhagen. When I arrived, I was all skin and bones. My uncle, with great creativity and compassion, spent our time together teaching me how to cook simple, delicious food. He began with salad: spring greens dressed topped with sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, homemade croutons, olive oil and vinegar. He put cream in my coffee and spread butter on my toast. He taught me to cook Thai curries with lemongrass, basil and coconut milk. We went out for Indian food and sushi. Finally he taught me to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I mashed potatoes and whisked gravy. I shaped pie crust and mixed apples with cinnamon, sugar, dried apricots and a spash of grand marnier.

When Mark and I were married just one year later, I began our life together knowing how to cook few things other than macaroni and cheese – and Thanksgiving dinner. I had a lot to learn. I took a weekend cooking course at PCC Natural Markets where I learned the basics: how to cook rice and beans, how to saute and steam vegetables, how to stock a pantry and how to bake bread.

Fast forward eight years and three children later: I know how to cook (and I love to eat). But  am facing a whole different set of challenges. How in the world can I grocery shop with three children under the age of five without going crazy or spending my husband’s entire paycheck? How do I cook dinner – even just macaroni and cheese – when the baby is crying, the toddler is whining, and the four year old is trying to help? How do we feed our family healthy, mostly organic, local, fresh, real food?

This is where I am sitting tonight. Wrestling with where we’ve been: what has worked and what hasn’t. And trying to figure out what is ahead

Today we joined the CSA (community supported agriculture) at Jubilee Farm in Carnation. For about $40 a week from June through October, we’ll get a big box of locally grown fruit and vegetables, herbs and flowers. Each week we’ll go to the farm and let our kids check out where real food comes from. In order to eat locally and seasonally, however, I am going to have to change some of the things I usually do in the kitchen.

Over the last few years, I’ve more or less stuck to a rotating monthly meal plan. With a few exceptions, we eat the same 30 dinners every month. I buy the same ingredients at the same store around the same time each month on the same day of each week at the same time with the same cashier who knows I am actually old enough to have three children and doesn’t bother to check my ID anymore.

But that all has to change. I will have to adapt to change. I will need to do things a little differently, to be flexible. If we get lettuce, we’ll make salad. If we get carrots, we’ll make carrot cake. If we get radishes, who knows? Maybe the horses down the street like radishes?

I am seriously stressed out by this change, even though I know it is a good thing to do. I want our children to learnthat food comes from a farm. I want them to understand the importance of stewarding the earth around us. I want them to learn how to steward their own bodies. And what better way to do this then by digging in the dirt? By supporting a local farm and making decisions that – while they may not be easy – are good?

A few months ago, before I began training for the triathlon, I knew that I needed to get off the couch. I knew that working out was a good thing. And I constantly felt a nagging guilt about being lazy. Once I began to run, bike and swim – although it was very hard at first – there was a satisfaction because I knew I was doing the right thing.

This is similar. Right now, making these changes seems overwhelming. But I’ve been feeling a nagging guilt, knowing that we need to make these changes to be healthy and to teach our kids what we believe. As we take the first steps towards eating, and living, a little more sustainably, I know I am doing the right thing.

Hopefully when Asher goes off to college in about 14 years he will know how to cook more than macaroni and cheese. When he begins to date, he’ll know how to cook a romantic dinner. When his future wife is pregnant, he can grocery shop and make her breakfast in bed. When he is a father, he can teach his children how to bake cookies. Hopefully he will understand the importance of the little decisions he makes every day – and by God’s grace have the self-control to do the right thing even when it’s not easy.




One response

2 06 2009

this is my favorite post in a long time! i really like seeing your whole story with cooking and not just the part about you knowing how to cook now. it’s nice seeing the full picture. i love the jubilee farm. if jason ate more than three veggies we might do it too ;). enjoy it!

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