If you are a frequent Mary Lee Kitchen follower through the blog, social media, or recipes, then you have probably noticed that there are changes happening around here. The company has grown into a production company that also wants to help educate people on the idea of food and the “table”.
As the company enters into this new transition, I’ve realized I need some help writing for the blog, enter my good friend, Ashley. She in now a co-blogger on this site, and I am so excited! As a brief introduction to her, Ashley is one of my friends who really knows the connection between food and our bodies, her knowledge is vast in this area, so now, I will let her share with you:
As an introduction to who I am, I am going to give you a bit of a peek into why I am so passionate about food. Unlike Elizabeth I don’t have food allergies. I do, however, have a deep passion for food that impacts the way I think about the food I eat and the way I prepare the food that feeds my body. Enjoy!
The summer before I started graduate school in California, I read my second food book. The first, Uncommon Grounds, had tracked the history of coffee from discovery to today’s thriving chain coffee culture. The first book impacted my life – somewhat. The second food book, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, surprised me. Reading through the pages, I learned that corn growth in the United States is heavily subsidized because of its financial and ecological unsustainability. I also learned, again surprisingly, that the corn (not an edible variety without processing) forms the basis of most supermarket foods. To say that reading this book impacted my life was an understatement.
Right away I began to read the labels on my food. Not for calorie content. Not for fat content. Not for carbohydrate or sodium or sugar content. I hunted for ingredients I didn’t recognize, assuming that they were corn. Without thinking too much about it, I started a gradual process that revolutionized the way I eat.
First my foods became more simple. I bought mostly things that I “would have found my grandmother’s kitchen.” (Pollan). I began thinking alongside Pollan – not too much mind you – that eating was at least an agricultural and ecological act. With the eventual support of friends I began to think that eating might also be an ethical and moral act too.
Months later, a friend mentioned that I should buy my produce from a community supported agriculture (CSA) box. Why not? The one she recommended dropped off midmorning on Saturdays less than a block from my apartment. I live in Southern California, so I assumed the produce was bound to taste great (and I was so incredibly right!). Everything was organically grown a short-ish drive away. She also mentioned that the price was really great. In short, there was no reason not to. So I subscribed to Abundant Harvest Organics, and officially began my adventures into the world of food.
Immediately I needed to change the way I thought about the way I prepared and ate my food. Abundant Harvest did not (and still does not) allow for box contents to be omitted or changed. So I had to search for recipes with rutabaga, chard, okra, brocolinni, and other obscure vegetables. I mass prepared soups and stews, freezing the leftovers. I, under threat of having to throw away rotting fruit, learned which fruits are in season during the winter months (citrus) and what to do when you receive 20 peaches at once (make a cobbler or freeze). I also discovered that cooking is time-intensive, creative, and a great opportunity for community.
In the first very challenging year, my life changed drastically because of the food I ate. I had to make time for my food. Slowing down to cook became part of my rhythm of self-care and of my understanding of who I was. My body became healthier. And I found that taking the time to cook and eat with friends gave our friendship a depth that it didn’t previously have. Over the course of that year, I explored food as a lifestyle that made me a happier and healthier human being.
Since reading Pollan’s book, I have read and watched many other works about food. They have each adjusted the trajectory that started with me reading about corn. But I am indebted to that first experience realizing that it matters how I eat.