Knowing Your Roots and Root Vegetables

So class, did you complete your homework? What were your favorite childhood memories?  I hope you enjoyed thinking back to your childhood and reliving some of those memories.  My childhood was a happy one, surrounded by lots of siblings,friends and caring parents all wrapped up in one small community in the Midwest.  My best friend’s dad coached my baseball team, my math teacher was the volleyball coach, my mom was (and still is) the sex-ed instructor for the school system, and I knew almost everyone in my graduating class by first, middle, and last name.  By the time I was in sixth grade I’d already decided I was going to move to Switzerland when I graduated to get as far away from this little town as possible (apparently I thought the world ended after Switzerland).  The world out there seemed so much better than the small world I lived in. Although I never made it to Switzerland, I did graduate from high school in my little town and moved onto a large university (Boiler Up!), got married and move away from the little town.  Now I’m in a big town with lost of; stores, people, restaurants, airports, interstates, cars, schools, and more people and more cars.  My saving grace in the midst of this hustle and bustle are the two hours on Saturday mornings when I feel like I’m back in a small town.

Every Saturday morning I make a short drive to my local Farmer’s Market located in the historic town of Fredericksburg, Virginia where the Battle of Fredericksburg took place during the Civil War.  Here on Prince Charles street  you’ll find tents filled with local produce, meat, eggs, honey, cheese, pastries, grain, and the wonderful local farmers, crafters,  and vendors there to make you feel like you’re wrapped up safe and sound in a small community, right in the middle of a surrounding metropolis. In college I frequented the Lafayette Farmer’s Market on crisp fall mornings as well.  While my friends were sleeping off the night before, I’d get out of bed, grab the dog, my canvas bags and go down to mingle with the farmers while I bought way too many fruits and vegetables to cram into the  refrigerator I shared with my four roommates. (At least I didn’t have to worry about them eating my cabbage!)

From my small community to this busy part of the country outside of DC, Saturday mornings are still my time to enjoy the abundance of the community I live in and I’d encourage you to do the same.  You’ll gain a new appreciation for your tomatoes and onions once you’ve meet the lady who spent time watering and weeding her garden so you could make them into marinara sauce.  Once you’ve learned about the process of farming bees and collecting honey, believe it or not, it will actually taste a bit sweeter.  And whether you want to or not, when you know where your pork chops come from, you’ll picture the little squealers wondering through the pastures or forest where they were raised.  I realize everyone doesn’t enjoy the process of shopping for and preparing food as much as I do, so this idea of giving up your Saturday morning in bed to venture out into the brisk fall air may be less than appealing…I get that.  You don’t have to make friends with the farmer to make your food healthier, but you may gain some appreciation for the food on your plate.

Fortunately, I grew up in a house where spending time in the kitchen preparing and appreciating food was a way of life.  One summer my mother had a bushel of tomatoes she was getting ready to can, I was ready to help in my very own white and blue apron decorated with tomatoes for the occasion.  I’m not sure if she told me she didn’t need my help (possibly because of the knives and hot pressure cooker involved) or if I just hadn’t gotten my way, but when she left the kitchen for a minute I managed to take a bite out of as many tomatoes as I could before she returned.  This is one of those stories I’ve heard so many times that I’m not sure whether I remember the incident itself of if I’ve just created this memory from all of the stories, so I don’t recall if Mom was mad or not.  I doubt it though, because we do have a picture of me sitting on the kitchen counter, next to my partially-eaten tomatoes…smiling:)

Believe it or not, I don’t remember much about my favorite cartoons as a child or the toys I played with as Mom was trying to make dinner, but I do remember those times I got to help her or Dad in the kitchen.  I’d watch Dad as he made chili or biscuits and gravy from my spot on the kitchen counter, or get things out of the cabinets for Mom as she managed to make a masterpiece by combining leftovers and canned goods. Mom spent countless hours trying to help me make prize recipes for the Whitley County Fair, and my dad and brothers enjoyed nothing more than taste testing our recipes. (They enjoyed it so much that I had to write poison on the items that were going to the fair, just so they wouldn’t get eaten before I got there).

Of course I remember making Christmas cookies and birthday cakes, those memories are dear to me and will never fade.   But the memories I value most are the times I was involved with the family meal and Mom or Dad would say “Lorny helped make this!” and eat like it’d been created by a five star chef.  Not only did it make me feel valued and important, it increased my interest in the food I was eating and how it was made.

Do your kids have a place to sit in the kitchen to help stir, measure, peel, clean, wash, sort, and watch you cook?  Are there meals they could be a part of that might encourage them to eat something new?  I realize making dinner with a kid in the kitchen takes longer, is messier, and a teaspoon of salt might turn into a cup, but would teaching your child to appreciate food and increase their knowledge of healthy eating be worth it? Healthy habits start at home.  Start today by pulling up a  stool near your  in the kitchen and let your child watch or wash the vegetables and crack the eggs.  If the vegetables are still dirty and there are egg shells in the bowl, that’s okay….you just started making memories and working toward a healthy lifestyle.

Today’s Challenge:
Look in your pantry and refrigerator, are there things in there you KNOW shouldn’t be.  How much do you spend on those things?


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