The Food Connection

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the food my family eats and how connected we are to it. I love food, everything about it! From the growing of a tiny seed and harvesting, to the bringing into the kitchen and deciding what to make with it (and how!), and of course the serving of it to family and watching them eat it.

I used to cook for a living (before kids), and although I learned many basics, it occurred to me that while being taught, the focus on food preparation wasn't at all about our connection to it. I had no idea until I started growing broccoli and cauliflowers at home that they were actually an immature flower head! Looking at them later of course it made so much sense. Why weren't we taught this? Or that there are 50,000 (ok, slight exaggeration) different types of tomatoes, all beautifully coloured and tasting! Or that green beans are a summer loving vegetable and that carrots also come in all sorts of different colours and taste SO much better when grown at home. I would never have bought non-free range eggs and chicken all that time ago, had I known the awful lives these birds endured. Why didn't anyone teach me these things, and why did it take me so long to find out on my own??

Why aren't we more connected with the foods we eat?


Freshly laid, three hen eggs and one duck egg.

The tv is flooded with competitive style cooking shows where contestants are ridiculed in front of their peers if they produce a sub-standard dish. I can't bring myself to watch these shows..shouldn't cooking be all about the love that goes into it and to those you are serving? Why are we being offered this kind of entertainment at someone elses expense and embarrassment? (Maybe you can help shed some light for me...I really don't watch them...just see the ads occassionally which is enough to turn me off..or rather, me turn it off).

If we're going to talk tv though, there are a few food shows that I absolutely love... River Cottage, Food Safari, and Rick Stein's Food Odyssey just to name a few. These shows connect with food in a way the appeals to me. I am inspired by them to learn more and create. These shows show me the love in food that I'm looking for.

Our supermarkets are stocked full of packaged foods. Ready made meals to heat up, so many 'instant' products and sauces to just add hot water to (come on, really. How hard is it to make a cheese sauce?!). And while I think these packaged items are ok for emergency use, a treat or an unexpected moment, by using them regularly and coming to depend on them, aren't we stripping ourselves of valuable cooking (life?), skills? What's going to happen when we can't make soup from scratch anymore or provide a simple, healthy meal for our family because we suddenly have lost the skills and 'don't know how'?

Autumn foliage on one of our blueberry bushes

One may wonder when reading some of my recent posts 'why exactly does she make her own yoghurt when it's so much easier to buy? Or why on earth is she traipsing through forests seeking out suspicious looking fungi when it's so much safer to get them from the shop?'. To me it's simple and I'll tell you why. It's about connecting with my food. Seeing where it comes from, where it likes to grow to be happy, how it's made and what processes make it change from start to finish. It's about knowing these things and then sitting back and watching as this food nourishes my family. The associated low prices are a bonus, along with the low food miles.

I realise that I'm lucky to have the space to play with vegetable growing. If I was a city dweller perhaps I'd be haunting the local farmers markets looking for locally grown produce, or finding a small farm on the outskirts of town that offered products that interested me. Organic veggie boxes are a fantastic idea for those that can't grow their own, offering weekly deliveries of seasonal produce with minimal hassle. I've found that forming relationships with small retail food sellers are another way of becoming more connected to our food. They are wonderful for help and advice (and placing orders!).


Pea seedlings, ready to be planted out.

This is my Food Connection. It's a path I feel I have found my way on to and one which I'm really looking forward to travelling down further and seeing where it takes me. Travel along with me, if you like!

How do you connect with your food?

Comments

  1. I envy you foraging for fungi! I rememer as a kid hitting a cow paddock with buckets my mum and at least one Aunt and 'mushying' we would go. Now on my walk to and from school and even in our yard I see so many and wonder if they are safe tasty treats I should pick up and run off with. Though I am obviously not alone as no one else has yet taken them either, but they probably don't know they are there as they drive by ;)

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  2. Lovely article! I'm on a similar mission in learning how to become more connected with my food and I find it rather addictive! Apart from cooking more stuff from scratch, I try and buy things that were as locally produced as possible, which has meant changing my diet in some ways...

    One of the biggest changes for me perhaps has been in the type of fruit I eat. I'm trying to cut out all tropical fruit except what I can grow myself, which is becoming a really interesting challenge - what can I get to grow on a south facing wall or in the greenhouse?! I'm experimenting with kiwi fruit, am determined to find a variety of melon I can grow and have a couple of potted lemon trees. I've also found out that there are all kinds of unusual but very tasty sounding fruits that will grow outside in a temperate climate like here in the UK - Plants for a Future is a great website, with all kinds of unusual ideas.

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  3. Great post. I am always talking about this kind of stuff with my husband, not to many other people as the majority just roll their eyes- "Why re-invent the wheel" etc. Like you, I love food, love knowing where its come from,and how it got to my plate.

    Why isn't it taught? I think because its only relatively recently that people have become so disconnected with food (within the last 50 or so years), before that everyone knew how to make a soup, make bread, kill a chook (ok maybe not everyone but a lot more than now.) If you know how to make yoghurt, cook from scratch, you are seen as almost a novelty.
    I am hoping with more and more primary schools getting funding for vegetable gardens to be put in, that it could become a part of the curriculum to learn about vegetable gardening, and cooking seasonally. We still have a long way to go though.

    With the competitive style cooking shows like masterchef (which I watch some times), I am an advocate of it, I have to say. For me the postives such as getting people talking about food, cooking together, and making things from scratch. The judges are pretty scornful when a contestant gets a jar or packet something rather than making something from scratch. If in turn this makes people at home think,.."Hmm, mayonaise I saw them making that, I could give that a crack and not buy the old PRAISE for this weekends bbq". I think thats a good thing. Its also really encouraging for little kids. One of last years contestants owns a cafe that we walk past all the time and my 4 year old was sooo happy to see him and talk- then he in turn wanted to help in my kitchen. At his pre-school they were making Masterchef hats, and cooking there- surely it has to keep going if that encouragement to cook is from the beginning? This is what I am hoping anyway. Last nights episode had Matt Moran, Donna Hay and Maggie Beer on- for me these are much worthier role models on tv than any other commercial crap. If had a tween trying to be celebrity chef over Paris Hilton well I would be happy.
    Ok, I have waffled enough. Feel free to edit this post as very long!... and no ranty tone, just passionate like you about being connected to our food :-) You know I love your work.

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  4. Tammy that sounds like so much fun! I bet the drivers by have no idea that the mushrooms are there! They can be hard to spot unless on foot, don't you think. Sometimes I am tempted to pick some from the roadsides, but because fungi are like 'sponges' I think twice, because it's hard to know what pollutants they may have absorbed.

    Hi Nancy :o) I'm sure there would be a variety of melon for you to grow...I think I have heard that mini rockmelons do better than watermelons in non-tropical climates. Experimenting with more heat loving plants could just come down to finding the right micro-climate in your garden. Good luck with the kiwi fruit. You have a really interesting blog!! Christine

    CHFG, hmmm, thanks for the insight into m/chef. I can see your point re. getting more people talking/thinking/involved in food/cooking, which is a GOOD thing!! Maybe it's just the judges that I have a problem with. We saw a clip the other night of a judge throwing a dish on the floor and calling it a disgrace, while it splattered everywhere. My daughter (10) saw this and was shocked. I really don't want my kids absorbing this kind of behaviour (imagine if they threw something I made on the floor because they didn't like it!). But yes, maybe as a whole it is a good thing and I LOVE Maggie Beer (but Simon much more ;o)). There are certainly lots of people talking about the show around town.

    About the school gardens..they are a great idea, and it would be wonderful if we could all have 'Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden' grants, but unfortunately they require a huge commitment from the teachers and parents financially. PLUS getting a (any) veggie garden is one thing...actually using it for cooking and not letting the produce go to waste is a whole other story/rant!! And your post was great just the way it was! ;o)

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  5. Christine this is a great post, worded so well and echoing my own sentiments.
    I feel I am always ranting to my friends and family (and neighbours and anyone I strike up a conversation with!) about today's disconnection with food, which I was guilty of too, up until recently.
    We always make a point of telling the kids what meat is, which animal it came from and the reality that the animal had to die, to start them off with that connection.
    I have done a shout out to you on my latest post:
    http://jellyfishfingers.blogspot.com/2010/06/pumpkin-ravioli.html
    Keep inspiring xx

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  6. Christie, I agree, there's no point hiding from kids where our food comes from. It's just a fact of life, one which they're better of knowing earlier rather than later. :o)

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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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