I have this thing I like to do with my kids at the dinner table. Well, I would like to do it with everyone but by kids are stuck with it.
I like to take a component of the meal and trace it all the way back to its origin.
Take a slice of bread. It wasn’t just conjured from nothing by Irvin or Amanda. The grains existed before they deftly coached them into bread.
What kind of grains are used?
Is it Spelt or Emmer or something else?
Where does this grain come from?
What methods are/could have been used by the farmer who grew it?
What kind of soil and climate does it like?
Is it a candidate for perennial grain production?
Was it rescued from extinction?
What cultures have eaten it before ours?
What other ways has this variety been used?
What would you like to do with it?
How does it taste compared to the last bread you ate?
Aren’t I fun?
Let’s do a vegetable and I’ll resist my urge to use a flow chart here. This is a veggie from the grocer.
What kind of tomato is this?
Where was it grown? Peru? Georgia? How far away is that?
How was it grown? Does it say “hot house” or “vine ripened”?
How might this have been harvested? By machine or human labor?
Was there packaging that had to be disposed of because of this purchase?
Is this tomato conventionally grown or organically certified?
How is the taste? Flat? Sweet? Acidic? Watery?
How is the texture? Is it tender or firm? Does it seem like styrofoam?
What considerations do you think brought this variety to market?
How does this compare to other tomatoes you’ve had?
I know, I’m instantly on your “5 people I’d have at my fantasy dinner” list.
What about entire dishes? Do you still tell the stories of the food you make? Do you look them up if they aren’t your stories? That’s how you become a part of the food’s story. I ate some of that green, cool whip based whatever it is “salad” the other day because it reminded me of potlucks as a kid in the mid-west. I regretted it a little but I had a nice flashback.
Don’t ever be satisfied with something being Grandma’s dish. Why was it Grandma’s dish? Did she love it? Did someone else? Was it a reflection of her social class, her financial situation, her skill level, her culture or ethnicity? Did she get the recipe from a church cookbook or from her neighbor? Was it her grandmother’s?
I remember when my sister-in-law graduated from law school, not just because I was so in awe of her, and a little disappointed in myself, but because it was the day I first tasted Persian Love Cake. One of her friends had made one and to this day, it is the single reason I will not swear off sugar and dairy, no matter how healthy I chose to eat. If there is a Persian Love Cake, I will eat it. I will try to eat all of it.
This glorious discovery lead me to learn about other Persian foods, which turned into a love for the culture and region out of which those foods come.
There is a bakery in Berwyn named Vesecky’s that I will go out of my way to visit, not because the food is amazing but because it is part of my family history. I’ll teach my kids about the kolaczkis and about who in our family came from the old country and how the old lady behind the counter knew my great uncles from down the street.
We make sauerkraut in big crocks and I tell them about how my friends used to come to my parent’s place to eat bratwurst and kraut like it was a competition.
My son thinks he will be considered a man when he learns to make my hummus and his father’s mustard recipe.
I served the same salad to a friend for years and now it makes me smile.
We have a tradition of tomato sandwiches when we harvest the first ripe slicers of the year, always heirloom stunners.
Maybe you are thinking that the food you eat doesn’t have a story. That’s never true.
I get it. It comes from a bag or box or it’s just some recipe you got off the internet. What is true is that we don’t always know the stories and sometimes they are sad.
But all food has a story.
Love from the farm
Happy eating, Katy