by Terra Wellington
I recently attended a foodie culture event. The eclectic, attentive crowd got an entertaining kick listening to stories about three-year-old European beets delicacies and food theatrics using Gorgonzola volleyballs. But in spite of the out-there cuisine curiosities, the highbrow conversation continually circled back to family, conversation, sustainability, relationships, and the soul of food.
Even though I grew up as a meat-and-potatoes girl eating typical Western pioneer fare, the joy of seasonal is in my veins. There were always unlimited tomatoes from the garden come August and September, as well as boxes of fruit my mother would collect from downstate each fall. I have many memories of bottling fruit up for the winter and enjoying delicious, wholesome food months later.
Somehow this childhood relationship with food was lost in my 20’s – I don’t know what happened. But a move to California changed all that.
Maybe it was the sun, the engagement with the outdoors, or maybe it was just the artsy crowd I ran with. But, within a few months, I got hooked on going to my farmers market every week. I kept returning, initially, because the food just tasted better; later, because I wholeheartedly grasped the larger vision of regional farming, organics, and what that meant for my family, my children, and my community.
Lately, I feel like I’m coming full circle. An organic apple that had a little bug bite brought back memories of eating pears when I was three. Thank heavens there are a few bugs where my apples and pears have come from – it means there’s some living ecology on that farm.
This winter’s organic, three-legged carrots have swept me up into thoughts of fall backyard harvest when I was 10 – every veggie I picked or pulled was unique. My husband and I love buying up those one-of-a-kind veggies just to prove a point to our kids that real food is fun and showcases nature’s beauty.
I’ve watched the care farmers take in showing off their product at the market booth, like they’re selling off their protected babies. And that mindfulness, in turn, makes me want to care too. I can return to the grower the next week and give a compliment that will matter, ask any questions with immediate answers, and learn about what foods are coming up on a yearly cycle.
I’m proud to say that my food isn’t just a functional part of my life or just a delicacy. Rather, my food has soul — rooted in the changing seasons, drawing from nearby dirt, and is connected to me through a community story.
Here are some tips on bringing soul to your dinner plate:
- Look for story goodness: Anytime you can learn about the story of your food, and have that story rooted in a sustainable practice, it’s worth talking about in the kitchen and at the dinner table. Story enriches the food experience and gives soul to your food. Goodness is found in regionality, seasonality, organics, your own backyard garden, and small farmer relationships.
- Cherish uniqueness: If your food is distinctive because of look, taste, variety, harvest cycle its picked in, or regional characteristics/availability – these are all ways you can ignite conversation about what you eat and infuse soul into your food.
- Develop seasonal traditions: Make it a tradition to buy seasonal food so that your food is connected with a year-long cycle of life. This not only breaks up the eating-rut monotony but also adds specialness to what you eat and forces you to try new tastes and combinations. When you add emotional value and memories to your food, you create traditions that can span generations.
A little more about Terra: Given her enthusiasm for wellness and lifestyle topics, Terra Wellington has been a popular guest on such programs as Chicago’s WGN, The Daily Buzz, The Montel Williams Show, WCBS’ This Morning, and also at Martha Stewart Radio. For Earth Day 2009, St. Martin’s Press released her much-publicized book, “The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home.” Terra is the former wellness editor of Fit Body and Real and has contributed to Los Angeles Family Magazine, DietsinReview.com, FocusOrganic.com, TheGreenParent.com, and Aisle7’s syndicated healthy living content. Plus, she’s an actress and mom. More at www.terrawellington.com.