But let me start at the beginning. I have liked food for as long as I can remember. It’s only after a significant amount of personal exploration into my family upbringing and all of its complexities that I learned that I was destined to have a relationship with food. I think it started with my grandpa, which really started with his parents. The Henrys ran an impressive grocery conglomerate in southeast Ohio starting in 1919. Food was essential to their livelihood and therefore a lynchpin to my family. We gathered around the table for big meals and big events. There were hours of preparation put into a feeding frenzy that only lasted for moments. And even though the conversation was superficial, this was the best and only time for family connection. There were no meaningful conversations or real feelings expressed, but there was a compulsion to have everyone around the table with full plates of food…and afterwards full bellies! Food was a ritual, and yet it served as a substitute for real intimacy. And so food has always been intricately tied to my being.
Early in my childhood, I learned how to cook some mean scrambled eggs. They were succulent with lots of cheese and butter. My family positively reinforced me by complimenting me on my cooking, so then I tinkered in the kitchen more and more. In high school, my brother dated a girl who was really into healthy cooking, which meant my brother got into it, too. I watched him blanch almonds and cook fresh chick peas, and I started to realize that there was a world of food beyond the rote menu my mom cooked for us (my mom could eat pasta every night of the week). The rest was history – as they say – as I went on more and more adventures in cooking. One summer I got a bread cookbook and baked new and interesting creations everyday. In college, I had my own apartment and started hosting dinner parties. The culmination was in 2004 when I was going through a pretty terrible divorce that I again turned to food. As I said before, food and feelings were often confused for me. I turned my heartache into an AAS in the Culinary Arts. I became a Cordon Bleu certified chef.
Culinary school was a dream. I worked long hours, met crazy characters, learned amazing things, and felt very fulfilled. I both loved cooking, and learned that I was pretty good at it, too. I think I had put my 10,000 hours of practice in the art of eating by then, and so I had developed special abilities to care and to tend to the food I was cooking. It had a soul and I treated it with respect. I was also an artist experimenting with flavors and ingredients and cooking techniques and kitchen gadgets and everything else. It was serious meditation for me and it would typically center me. I had found a God-given talent.
The last part of this story ends how all good stories should end – with a love story. I met the best partner of my life and we decided to have a very meaningful wedding. We worked on mission statements individually in preparation for being married, and then we translated these into an overall purpose for our couple. It became clear out of this exercise that we both care deeply about making a difference on the planet while making a small environmental impact on the planet. And so my narrative around food really galvanized as I realized that my life’s work was wrapped up in how people feed themselves. What is the best way to feed the planet – not just physically – but mentally, emotionally and spiritually? This question takes us back to where we started. I am looking for answers.
I know going into this endeavor that there is no one, ultimate answer. In fact, I want to more start a dialogue and see how we all strive to answer that question. I have a long way to go to know all that there is to know about food systems and the subsequent politics. I want to believe that there is a way for everyone – from big business to underprivileged kids – to win and prosper. Success can be measured both by profit and by how nourished society is. These are the solutions I seek – a win-win for everyone. I am looking for fantastically revolutionary ideas that lead to a better way of feeding everyone. I saw food misused in my family as an inhibitor to genuineness and really to life itself, that it’s time for me to reclaim food as a real source of sustenance and fulfillment. I am fed up with bad food, and I use bad in the broadest way possible. And I know I am not alone – people are fed up and we should be creating solidarity to make change. That’s the aim of this blog.
And if you are not fed up, I hope you are soon!