A few weeks my grandmother passed away. She was 89. My wife and I made the trek to Jackson, OH to meet up with my family and to say our good-byes. My family asked me if I would be willing to do an eulogy at her funeral. Seeing how she died before I could see her one last time, I decided to turn my eulogy into the words I would have said to her while she was still alive. In my preparation, I soon discovered that mostly all I wanted to convey to her was gratitude for all of the things she passed onto me. And it was a lot: kindness, generosity, lessons, stories, jokes, morals, principles, ethics, decency, common sense…her impression upon me was more profound than I had ever realized until I had this moment in time to reflect on her life.
One thing I wanted to share with my FED UP readers from that eulogy was my grandmother’s influence on my beliefs about food. For example, she was the first one who really taught me that there was a seasonality to food. I spent many of my childhood summers in Ohio at my grandparent’s house, and we always made a point to eat tomatoes and corn when they were in their prime season, when they were succulent and full of flavor. As a kid, I obviously didn’t comprehend the intricacies of agricultural cycles. I just knew there was an okay time to eat corn and tomatoes, and then there was a great time to eat them. And since that period was so short-lived, you ate the heck out of corn and tomatoes! 2 or 3 times a day! Therefore, food for me was linked, even at a young age, to celebrating the season, cherishing the wonderful flavors, appreciating Mother Nature for her gifts, and respecting those who grew and shared their harvest. Grandma planted that seed (pun intended!) in my food consciousness.
Beyond seasonality, my grandma also left me with a deep sense that food and justice were interconnected. There were so many stories surrounding both of my grandparents and their families involving charity in the form of food. They lived through the Great Depression and were fortunate to have more abundant resources, while they saw their peers struggling to make ends meet. And so they gave out what they didn’t need, and helped a great deal of people survive tough times. This generosity lasted throughout their lives as they still donated 100 loaves of bread to a local food pantry every Thanksgiving. What I took from their giving spirit was a general attitude that there was something bigger to food than just the stuff we put in our mouths. It had the power to build communities and foster relationships. Because of them, I believe there is always enough food to go around and no one should go hungry. Everybody deserves a full belly – it’s a basic human right. Again, as I was growing up, I certainly didn’t give this kind of introspective to their actions and what it meant to me. But I can say with resolution that I learned from an early age there is a just and kind way to treat every single person – no matter who they are. That sense of rightness and decency fuels a lot of my food interests today, and is one of the reasons I write this blog. I do believe everybody deserves good food that promotes a more sustainable way of living. So, thank you, Grandma for everything you have done for me.