Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mom and My Life on the Farm

Mom and I With My "New" Farm Truck in 2010(?) - That She Bought For Me

My mom and I may have different views of what makes us happy, but, indirectly, at least, my mom can take credit (or blame, depending on the circumstances), for how I found my way into organic farming. Now she may not think she is a large part of it, but it was my mom who encouraged me to play outside ("I said, "Go out-side!"" LOL).  But seriously, as one of my Girl Scout leaders for many years, she both took me camping and sent me camping several times a year, which really awakened my love for nature and being outside; unless it was snowing. She wasn't altogether confident at first of my decision to venture into farming, ("You're not going to quit your full time job, are you?"), but today she is my biggest cheerleader and she says, she couldn't be prouder. Probably so long as I don't need to keep borrowing money from her.)

My mom kept a small garden in our mostly concreted backyard - and I mean small. There was a strip of dirt about 3 feet wide by about 20 feet long where she managed to grow a vegetable garden. It was capable of producing a wide enough assortment of veggies, that there hasn't been many of them I have met that I haven't liked. I can also recall her coaxing peas to grow on the chain link fence along the dang alley! I would eat those peas right off the vine on my way out of the yard, without ever thinking about how amazing it was she grew them in about 4 inches of dirt. Got to love that Midwest soil!

So not only is my mom large in part responsible for my addiction to playing outside in the dirt, she is also highly behind my obsession with trying to eat high quality, delicious and simple foods.

I really have no problem with this, as it has served me well, so far and on most days, anyway. It can be a bone of contention between us at times, however, as it seems that with no kids at home to cook for, she slipped out of some of the good habits she instilled in me. As the good health of my mom is very important to me, and having watched what a poor diet did to my late father's health, this has led to more than one or two colorful conversations about food, eating and the state of today's food industry. She is discovering some of the things that I have shared with her on her own now, and with my constant hint dropping and nagging. Role reversal, without the authority, I guess. She is sure to let me know when she finds a source for this or that organic something or another. Way to go, Mom!

But my mom in many ways isn't that much unlike many people today of her generation. When she went to the grocery store to buy food for us growing up, there was nowhere near the selection of what Michael Pollan refers to as "food-like substances" as there are today, nor did we know the extent of the dangers and long term effects of many of them. Unless you are obsessed with, or perhaps make your living from, food, you may not really ever realize much has changed. That is unless, of course, your daughter grows up and somehow decides to become a farmer in her mid-life. Then you hear ALL about it, sometimes ad nauseum, when all you want to do is enjoy your diet coke. Sorry Mom, I am calling ya out on that one. I am sending you a 6 pack of Zevia cola one of these days - when I can figure out how to get it there without exploding on the mailman.

Now I have my own personal food skeletons that come out from time to time. I am no stranger to the fast food world. When I was a teenager, in fact, my first "real" job was at a fast food restaurant 2-doors down from my house called Yankee Doodle Dandy, (think the early years of Jack in the Box). We fried frozen "potatoes" in a vat of hot grease, broiled "beef" hamburgers" on a conveyor belt, and even made "milk" shakes in 3 different flavors. I wouldn't have known better to have questioned ingredients at that time. It tasted like what a teenager's taste buds wanted I suppose and there weren't any decades of historical data showing the detrimental effects of eating this stuff. I can hardly believe us kids would go to BK for the broiled burgers and then across the parking lot to Micky d's for the fries. Although nowadays, just driving by a place like that during a busy time when it fills the air with its trademark stench, my nose reflects upon it with not so fond memories. (And just for the record, my folks split up about the time of the fast food explosion, and my mom had no idea how often I ate there. I am sure she never would have approved.)

My mom was a "stay at home" mom and I grew up on 3 square, home made meals nearly every day of the first 14 years of my life. That is something for which I will forever be both grateful and fortunate. None of us is born with a taste for cream filled pastries, chocolate covered candies, greasy and mostly water filled "meat" burgers or corn chips, (now, genetically modified). We ate these kinds of things so very infrequently as little kids, that we never really developed a "taste" for them, much less an addiction. For me, it was a treat sometimes or for holidays. That would be the candy for holidays, you know like Halloween, not the fast food. My mom made the most wonderful holiday meals, from scratch, and to this day some of those food traditions are my favorites.

Mom and I in 2011 at Bolsa - a Dallas Foodie Haunt of Mine
So things are coming full circle it would seem. My mom's early teachings did not fall on deaf ears. I may not have human children of my own, but I feed my critters as well as I can with what is available out there, and I teach my customers, of all ages, a lot of what my mom taught me, only with more information than she had available to her. I speak passionately to whoever will listen, about known dangers and unknown consequences for under tested experimental products passed off to the masses as food, and I am quick to share articles and reports, hopefully from reliable sources and not just alarmists, so as to help others learn and make more educated choices than the ads, commercials and pretty pictures on the containers would lead you to believe. There are just so many choices out there now, it can be overwhelming - and surely our government wouldn't allow anything bad for us on the store shelf, would it?

So my advice on this Mother's Day is to keep it simple and eat basic ingredients that you blend together, and not some scientists who are paid to create something you "just can't have one" of. Be a good example to your kids for eating healthy and good food habits, because even of they like to sneak over to some place with greasy fake food, made faster than it could ever be cooked if it was real and longer lasting than any living organism known to man, know that some day, with a little luck, they will probably look back and admit it, "Mom, you were right. Junk food gave me zits because it messed up my hormones worse than puberty was already doing." Or they might say something like that anyway. And who knows, maybe they will grow up to be a farmer, too. We can hope!

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

 Marie Eat Your Food - Naturally!

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