My Journey

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” -John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer

Lowe-Volk Park, Crestline, Ohio

Lowe-Volk Park, Crestline, Ohio

 

I grew up the oldest of eight children in a small Ohio town in the 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, just as TVs were becoming available, TV dinners started appearing in grocery stores. Our family didn’t eat TV dinners.

My mother’s job was to take care of us. Mom prepared frugal meals and we rarely ate out. Sometimes she cooked with convenience foods, like using Campbell’s tomato soup or cream of mushroom soup as a base for spaghetti sauce or tuna noodle casserole.

To help Mom, I sometimes fixed a meal. I cooked under her watchful eye, following her exact directions. Later, when we sat down to eat, one of my sibs would say, “Mom didn’t make this.” I’d get mad and think, “I’m never cooking again.”

Teaching Myself to Cook

But I did start cooking when I left home and moved to the big city of Columbus with my boyfriend. I taught myself how to cook, without meat, because I hated everything about meat—its smell, its taste, and the way it looked. I cooked a lot of soybeans back then. I no longer eat soybeans.

To learn about nutrition in those early years I read books by Adelle Davis. To learn about vegetarianism I read books by Frances Moore Lappé. I still have those books; they started my life-long fascination with cooking for good health. I also got interested in environmental issues. Ohio State University (OSU) sponsored a celebration on the first Earth Day in 1970.

OSU friends of my boyfriend often came by our apartment for meals. They were a captive audience for my experiments. They said they liked my food. But what else could they say, after all, it was free eats.

Moving around on the West Coast

Avocados

Avocados

A few years later my boyfriend and I moved to sunny Southern California. Living in San Diego was a dream come true. Not only was the weather perfect, grocery stores displayed fruit and vegetables I’d never seen before. I loved touching and smelling the exotic produce piled up in markets like works of art. I’d buy something that caught my eye, and figure out what to do with it when I got home. I ate my first avocado. I know, hard to imagine.

Six years later, I got married and followed my husband to Alaska where he got a piloting job. Alaska was a culture shock—being called a “tree hugger” got old, very fast. Our first food-shopping trip was miserable. The produce choices were minimal and, since fresh food was flown in, outrageously expensive. I still have a photo of the groceries we bought that cost $55 (in 1978) that all fit in one bag.

I became a part owner in a small natural foods store. My husband’s boss put up the money; I ran the place. It was called the misspelled, Grainery, and located in a ten-store mall of small locally owned shops. I wanted to turn people on to healthful eating. Mostly I sold vitamins because that’s what people wanted to buy. I taught vegetarian cooking classes in that land of fishers and hunters. Crazy, huh? And I added fish into my diet because commercial fisher friends gave us salmon, fresh off the boat. I couldn’t refuse.

Small business ownership was a bust. I went back to San Diego temporarily to go to cooking school and got my smile back. Shortly after that my husband and I divorced because he couldn’t leave Alaska and I couldn’t stay.

That began my twenty-year love affair with Portland, Oregon, where people thought like I did about the environment and eating locally. While living there, I was a volunteer chef instructor for the Oregon Food Bank’s Nutrition Education program, taught cooking classes at Portland Community College, and worked in several restaurants. I also got a Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition.

Information Junkie

I’ve read hundreds of books, articles, and blogs about how to eat well and healthfully for our bodies and the planet. Currently there are two diet extremes with passionate adherents—vegan and ancestral (Paleo). Both make good points. My healthful eating philosophy is somewhere in the middle. It’s from that middle I come to you by taking the best of both ends and fusing them into a workable doable way of life.

Okra blossom

Okra blossom

Back to My Roots

I returned to my home town in Ohio two years ago to grow my own food and live more cheaply than I could live in Portland. I was delightfully surprised to learn about an emerging local food movement. We meet monthly to encourage and support local eating through farmers markets, local stores, and growing our own. I also became a volunteer master gardener through The Ohio State University Extension Service. The first summer gardening went well—I had roasted and frozen enough tomatoes to get through the winter. The second summer, not so much, mainly due to weather. The gardener’s optimistic mantra is, “There’s always next year.”

Blog Goals

I want this blog to be interactive where we’ll share with each other how we go about our lives as responsible people who want to cook and eat good food economically for health and enjoyment, and not at the expense of the earth and its creatures.