Real job: Don't really have one at the moment. I have more of a "work life" than a job. I have enjoyed working with an amazing company called Fourth Sector Consulting since its inception in 2007. Fourth Sector offers communications strategy, planning, and facilitation for organizations focused on social change; I do a lot of analysis and writing. Starting January 2009, I will change the work situation around, leaving Michigan and the work/trade I do at a farm here to be the kitchen/garden intern at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont. I will be there for year and hope to end knowing how to take some steps toward a farm of my own…some day.
Best meal ever: My answer would probably change depending on the day, but I specifically remember a meal I had the first time I was ever in Portland, Oregon. I had been wandering the chilly city all day and in the early evening I stumbled into some amazing Thai restaurant where a wonderful woman served me the most comforting and delicious pumpkin curry I've ever tasted. And now come to think of it, the other meal that stands out as particularly amazing was in another Portland across the country, in Maine. There, my husband and I ate at Fore Street and looked out at the bay where the lobsters and mussels we munched on came from.
Favorite fruit: A Michigan peach smack in the middle of summer. Or blackberries picked on Lummi Island, Washington, as you walk down the road, looking out at the ocean.
Favorite vegetable: I can't pick just one, so I will go with a medley: roast me up a bunch of roots and tubers and I'm a happy lady.
Vegetable I eat only when I have to be polite: Radishes.
Favorite dinner growing up: Pasties, Scandinavian style.
Processed crap I can't manage to live without: Ice cream.
Most traumatic food experience: When I was about 10, my mother attempted to make hasenpfeffer, which is a German rabbit dish. She transposed the water and vinegar amounts and the result was horrific. We were having my Great Uncle Harry over for the meal since it was his rabbit we were eating. I knew that my parents' strict rules about cleaning up your plate and not complaining about food you didn't like would definitely be enforced all the more with company around. My first bite of the rabbit was so bitter I just sat there trying not to throw up. I was so wrapped up in my own misery I didn't notice anyone else's and hurriedly excused myself to the bathroom where I proceeded to cry knowing that I would somehow have to eat my whole serving. Once I got myself under control I went back to the table and after a good amount of harassment, found out that I would not have to eat the hasenpfeffer as it had been declared by my father, the king of the clean-your-plate-no-matter-what ethos, as truly inedible and would not have to be eaten by anyone.
Attitude about sell-by dates: Sell-by dates don't mean a whole lot to me: I prefer the sniff test.
Early and middle childhood: My dad grew a fabulous garden that my brothers and I helped (OK, maybe we were forced) to maintain. I remember entering a giant pumpkin into the county fair and being so sad when it didn't win first place. I also remember sitting around for Saturday night movies with my family, shelling peas until our fingers were green. I remember that he somehow got strawberries to grow in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan if the deer didn't get them first. For whatever reason that I don't remember, as I got older I didn't like the garden work much and then my dad eventually got fed up with the four-legged creatures that enjoyed his bounty as much as he did and he decided to stick to flowers. During my childhood, my mom was the primary cook for our family. She was and is a meat-and-potatoes woman to her core who always preferred baking to cooking, so never strayed too terribly far off her standard dishes.
Teenage years: Discovered the unlimited world of unrestricted junk food, including but not limited to daily doses of soda pop, greasy gas-station pizza, and a wide array of chocolate-filled, -covered, -stuffed and double-stuffed. Gained a lot of weight, slid into depression and anxiety.
College years: I continued to puff up in college on the cafeteria meal plan and midnight pizza take-outs. My junior year, I moved to New York City for an internship and needed to cook for myself for the first time in my life. I started to look for ways to spend less money on food and figured out that becoming a vegetarian would save me a lot of money. I cut out meat, cut back on cheese, and realized that if I wanted to make another money-saving move I'd have to buy less fruits and vegetables or less of the packaged goodies that I loved. I knew that cutting out fruits and vegetables was not a healthy idea so made the difficult decision to cut back on treats. This change in diet, combined with all the walking I was doing in the city and the discovery of yoga, really turned my life around even though it was not my intention. I started losing weight and feeling more energetic, and couldn't help but notice. By the time I graduated from college the next year, I'd lost around 50 pounds.
When I came back from my internship, I started looking around for vegetarian recipes to help me learn how to make more meals. Growing up as a meat-and-potatoes girl, I really didn't know very much about the possibilities that were out there. As I began my culinary adventure, I started reading more and more in my online and library meanderings about food, and this strange concept called the food system. I learned that people become vegetarians for more reasons than to save money. The list of problems overwhelmed me: inhuman treatment of animals, environmental degradation caused by monocultures and CAFOs, injustice and ill treatment of farmworkers, consolidation of farms, antibiotic resistance caused by agriculture practices, and the general decline in health of people in our country because of the food that is available to us.
The muddle after college: As fate or those strange life coincidences would have it, my first job out of college landed me not at a women's advocacy organization like I was expecting, but at a large philanthropic one working on food-system issues, funding nonprofits who were working for solutions. The more I learned, the less I could look away from the food system and all of the ways it touches every person's life. I am a young semi-cynical idealist who deeply wants to be a part of making the world a better place, and food system reform work gave me tremendous hope. There are possible solutions and amazing people working at different intersections and entries on food issues all across the country and the world. I love being a part of this work in any way that I can and see many different ways for me to be involved.
My Big Dream is to one day have a small farm of my own with my husband. We're making our way toward this future together, working for trade (and for love) at a farm that, ironically, produces meat and egg products: I am no longer a vegetarian, but am very careful about the meat that I do eat. In 2009, we are taking a giant step toward this dream, interning at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont. I will be the kitchen/garden intern, and he will be a design/build intern.