A Food Journey, Part One

A Food Journey, Part One

It’s funny how sometimes you end up going full circle in some areas of your life, isn’t it? I was thinking about the choices I’ve made over the years when it comes to food and how they have totally changed… to end up where they began. So, here’s the beginning…

Growing up on a farm in Southeastern Ohio, I always took local food for granted. Of course “local” wasn’t the buzzword it is today; it was just a given.

We had a huge vegetable garden in our own yard. We had chickens to provide us with eggs, and it was my job to collect eggs daily. (I was even able to sell the surplus brown eggs to our local health food store for some spending money.) We drank fresh, unpasteurized milk from our dairy-farming neighbor down the road. We even raised our own chickens, pigs, and Angus cattle.

My mom was born in West Virginia, but contrary to the stereotypical hillbilly jokes about her home state, she spent her childhood in towns like Charleston and Huntington. She grew up purely as a city girl, thinking tomatoes came from the grocery store–not a garden. As an adult, she became fascinated with farm life and learning how to make, grow, and raise her own food, direct from the source. So, when she and my dad had the chance to move our family out to a 220-acre Ohio farm, they jumped at it.

Looking back, my parents gave DIY a whole new name. Purchased directly from an Amish family, the old farmhouse lacked indoor plumbing; it had some wiring, since it was not always an Amish home, but, according to my dad, it was just “shoved up” in the walls. Naturally, my parents had a few projects on their plate–not to mention responsibility for me and my sister, then three and seven, respectively. I can remember only a few things about these early days–weeds taller than my head in the yard surrounding the barn and outbuildings and playing outside, mixing dirt and water to make “iced tea.”

In the midst of all this home improvement and child-rearing, my parents started right into farming. My dad took main responsibility for the livestock. (He’s a chemist whose day job at the time was working for a company that sold water treatment chemicals to power plants. Farming was more a labor of love for him.)  The vegetable garden was a joint effort between mom and dad, though my sister and I were often coerced into weeding and picking beans.

My mom dove into food preparation, teaching herself how to make homemade bread, can fruits and vegetables, and even churn butter. I still recall bread baking days with particular relish, how mom would take any leftover dough and use it for homemade cinnamon rolls. Our house, though simple and plain by most standards, was always warm from the wood stove, and filled with good smells.

“There was a time when we could say that everything on our table, we raised ourselves,” my dad recalls proudly.

But, things change. Lives expand and get more complex, so we weren’t destined to remain food purists. The pressures and influences of modern American life would have their way with us.

Tune in next Friday for A Food Journey, Part Two.


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