Good Food Matters

Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2015 12:00 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media

 

Children are our future. Without them leading the way, we have no future. What we feed them is vital to their health and our own. It’s health that builds families, communities, local economies and overall wellness we need to sustain us. Good food matters.

 

Super Moms help sustain that future raising generations of kids and overextending themselves on a regular basis to make the world a better place for us all – but she can’t do it alone. Her superpowers require resources: food, education, activity, work and community — all of which you find at a farm!

 

I don’t know how we lost our way from the wholesome goodness of the family farm to the industrial smoke belching petro chemical factories of the 21st century but a return to land stewardship, clean water and air, mindfulness of community and hard work means back to the farm we must go! Visiting family farms is a powerful touch point and positive imprinting for children to experience food that’s irreversible. It’s rewarding every day to be healthy — and makes for a great day outside — feeding you better than any label packed supermarket!

 

Hudson Valley Food & Farming “Why Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell Me That?,” published by The History Press, is a journey into food with useful information and engaging narratives from Hudson Valley family farms urging you to change your life by changing what you eat and how you source it. An excerpt from my new book for you to enjoy and share!

 

“At the table, there is no black, white, rich or poor — there is hunger and a need to eat good food. Good food is not a privilege.

 

To women everywhere who inspire and bring sustenance to the table to nurture us all with good food, conversation and love every day — thank you.

 

My food legacy: Born and raised in Upstate New York, I fled farming life for a city mentality, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, success and glamour. I traveled around the world in search of education, a career and like- minded people. Funny thing about traveling in search of something is that everything you need is always within you, never where you are going. Ironically, I ended up back in an agricultural community — the kind of community that made me so happy in my youth.

 

My journey into food is unusual. I grew up with a mother who was vegetarian but told us when someone generously cooks for you, you eat what he or she made and say thank you. She actually was a pescatarian, now that I know that term — though I had no idea as a child. We just ate good food, sourced from the farm, and eating was social.

 

My great-grandparents lived on a farm with dairy cows, cornfields and a gorgeous garden. Each of us kids had our own personalized mason jar filled with sea salt that we took to the garden to consume fresh-picked veggies. I was the eldest of three children raised by a struggling single mom who somehow always managed to produce homemade meals made from farm-fresh, local ingredients for us every day. She created drive-through convenience with high-quality ingredients and homegrown love by getting to know all of the food producers within a stone’s throw of our house. We ate with the seasons and frequented farmers’ markets weekly for the freshest food. With grandmothers, aunts and cousins, we preserved and canned those ripe, gorgeous fruits and vegetables at the end of each season at that farm so we could eat peaches, pickles, tomatoes and beans year-round. I had fifty cents to spend at each visit to the farmers’ market, and my choices were always the same — fresh chocolate milk and fabric from the fiber farms I could use to make Barbie’s clothes for her runway show.

 

My mother insisted that without breakfast, there was no point in going to school because you would be thinking about eating instead of figuring out how to change the world, so we were forced to the table in the morning for fresh bread and eggs or French toast from yesterday’s loaf. Or Georgette, who minded me and whom I called “Gaga,” would make me an egg (which she always got “this morning” from the farm) over easy and tell me not to tell my mom it was cooked in bacon fat, which made it perfect with that crispy white edge. I loved to clean the bright orange yolk on the plate with warm buttered toast.

 

Mom packed our school lunch each day in the morning — always with a note of affection on our napkins that, at 16 years old, felt anything but cool. Snacks were limited to fresh fruit and vegetables in Tupperware she would cut up and have ready to eat in the fridge.

 

This was a far cry from the salty, sugary, crunchy treats our friends’ moms served that made us all want more and an orange soda — the real forbidden fruit in our home.

 

By the time she was eight, my sister Tara was a professional sugar extortionist — she’d do anything for the stuff. One of her trademark bribes was picking our neighbors’ flowers (straight out of their garden), knocking on their door and offering them their own flowers in exchange for an orange soda. Not my mother’s proudest moment, but a family legend nonetheless.

 

Dinner was never at 5 p.m. like the families of five to 15 kids that were common in our Irish Catholic neighborhood. I was constantly begging for cube steak at 5 p.m. like the Dermodys’ meat and potato dinner, but since my parents were entrepreneurs and divorced, eating at “dinnertime” seemed to be an impossible feat. We ate closer to 8 p.m. and often out, mostly at restaurants owned by friends of my mom who fed us what they had cooked that day, something “special” that we would eat family style, which Mom loved. It was good eating and somehow — never mind her five-foot frame — my mom would eat her own food and off our plates too, a practice I still dislike today. Eat your own food from your own plate, and if you would like seconds, ask politely, please.

 

When we ate at home, it was always like a sitcom. When my dad and mom split up, my mom’s friends stayed with us to help out — but they never left. I grew up with the “Ya-Yas” who were constantly in the kitchen and cooking and who made eating social and fun. We never had to eat anything we didn’t like, but we had to try it once.

 

We never had to finish our plate, though we were encouraged to eat until we were satisfied, and we were confident that another meal was hours away. We were familiar with all types of vegetables, fruit, fish and freshly bottled milk. My mother loved to bake, and as a teenager, I followed her lead.

 

Since we grew up without money and both my parents were entrepreneurs, our eating schedule wasn’t the norm, but there were a few constants. Milk came in glass half-gallon jugs from Byrne Dairy, and when we were little, it was delivered to the milk box off the pantry. We always had fresh tomato sauce that my mother would spend a whole day making in a special big heavy pot that started with scoring fresh tomatoes, removing the skin and seeds and melting into pure goodness for pasta, fra diavolo and other meals each week. Everyday eating varied but was always healthy, quick and easy, though it never sacrificed freshness, flavor or nutrition. If you eat food with nutrition, you eat less. You have fewer cravings and are generally thinner as you simply don’t eat too much. Each week, Dad would come to dinner with us and the Ya-Yas, which meant a meal with at least five women, as well as delicious food of all kinds, chatter and conversation that was never dull and made me learn that the table is where emotion lives. There were tears and fights, admissions and corrections, disdain and love. These memories bring me back to the kitchen at night to cook. They bring me back to a family table to eat, and they forge a connection to the people who plant, grow and harvest the food we share.”

 

So when you eat today — thank a farmer and the goodness that comes for making that local choice a priority at the table. FarmOn! tessa@farmonfoundation.org Twitter @FarmOnFarmOn

 

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