Starting Where You Live

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recipes for homesteading

With much of the country shaking off the last remnants of winter it looks forward to the opening of Farmer’s Markets; the burst of colorful vegetables, the smell of fresh produce and the variety of foods that can be found. But, with these new beginnings I can’t help but think back a few years to when I was working on a nutrition program with a local youth organization. The goal of the program was to encourage kids to eat a more healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables.

My goal was to get the kids to try fruits and vegetables, grown in our county, that they may have never eaten before. The primary teacher of the program encouraged the kids to dip their veggies in Ranch Dressing or sour cream based vegetable dips and their fruit slices in a sweet cream sauce or caramel. Not exactly what I would call healthful eating. Were our goals at odds? Were we at cross purposes?

When I was growing up my mom always insisted that food was best eaten plain or almost plain so the natural flavors and goodness could shine through. There was never any reason to drown carrots or celery in Ranch Dressing or slices of apple, pear or peach in sweetened sauces. Their freshness and natural sweetness was their own dressing.

Over the next few weeks the class grew. More and more kids joined us for the daily lecture on nutrition. But, more importantly, each day those kids sat down at the table and “ate” the fruits and vegetables we put in front of them. Most of what we served was locally grown, but not much of it was out of the ordinary.

Still, I think there is a greater point to this story:

We all need to start where we are. If it’s a choice between familiar but negligibly nutritious foods like tater tots or kohlrabi dipped in Ranch Dressing, I say go for the kohlrabi. This may not be the desired outcome, but it is a place to start.

Whether we’re trying to eat more vegetables, less meat, better meat, or what have you, I think that the real shot at change starts with two things: being honest about where we are starting from, and acknowledging that most change happens in slow baby steps. These first steps remove the false hope that change is going to happen magically, without effort.

When we free ourselves, we can make realistic plans for how to get from where we are now to where we want to be. Maybe it does all start with a drizzle of salad dressing on the foreign vegetable or a schmear of sweetened cream cheese on a new fruit, and later moves to ketchup, then salsa, and then, eventually, a little swirl of olive oil makes everybody happy.

Spring is the time when many of us make plans for how we’re going to eat this summer, whether we’re signing up for a CSA, laying out a garden, or counting the days until the farmers market opens. We say go ahead, be adventurous this year! It will likely be a lot of fun if you start with small changes and build from there. If your family has taken the steps to try new and unusual fruits and vegetables then we applaud your efforts – even if you eat them with a little something on top.

Here’s to spring and new beginnings!

Creative Commons License photo credit: donnaidh_sidhe

One Response to “Starting Where You Live”

  1. Mo says:

    Love this! Thank you!

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