Growing up, nearly every night of the week my mom cooked a homemade meal for dinner. On winter afternoons, her tremendous cast iron pot was a social hall for flavors to mingle and merge. Split pea and ham soup, chicken cacciatore with mushrooms and peppers, or savory beef stew with carrots, herbs and a splash of dry red wine. Those shortened daylight hours warmly simmered away on the stove-top.
In the summertime we nourished ourselves on lighter fare: grilled fish, meats and asparagus drizzled with lemon and fresh Parmesan, cold, colorful salads of every variety, jersey tomatoes topped with thick slices of buffalo mozzarella, and endless piles of sweet white corn on the cob. My sisters and I shucked them by the dozen, outside on the deck, those silky little hairs clinging to us, refusing to let go or be carried away.
But my relationship with food wasn’t always so healthy. Throughout high school, like many young girls with a diminished self image, I punished myself by withholding food. Eating, which had once been a great source of pleasure for me, became purely utilitarian. I consumed the bare minimum required to subsist and keep people off my back. A few pretzels here, a carrot or two there, a handful of berries, maybe even a Popsicle if my sweet tooth got the better of me.
In my twenties, as a more secure version of myself, I welcomed food back into my life. Cooking became a creative outlet for me. I channeled my mother, devising my own delicious combinations of healthier foods, moving around the kitchen at first clumsily, and then eventually, with the same ease she always displayed. I joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group in 2001 after moving to Seattle. Every Thursday for seven months or so, the farm delivered boxes containing each member's share of produce. I couldn't wait to get home and open mine, to sort through the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, discovering the ingredients that the week's meals would be built around.
The farm often included a sheet of suggested recipes for each ingredient, and they were wonderful. But mostly I let instinct be my guide, inspired by the sheer variety and freshness of the flavors. The carrots were perfect raw, while the bok choy begged for a quick sauté with sesame and soy sauce. The kale was best when cooked simply with garlic and olive oil, or chopped and combined with shallots for an easy frittata. The anise-flavor of the raw fennel enlivened the many varieties of lettuce, and became nearly sinful when baked with a little butter and Parmesan cheese, then sprinkled with a dusting of breadcrumbs.
Roasting the red beets with some virgin olive oil was a luxurious treat, but most of the time I boiled them for twenty minutes or so, before finishing them with a splash of balsamic vinegar. The leftover boiled water was a chartreuse pink - so absolutely mesmerizing going down the drain - it almost pained me to pour it out. Instead I wanted to paint the kitchen walls with it.
With each delivery came an abundance of herbs, especially basil, cilantro and parsley. Hardly a week went by where I didn't make a giant batch of pesto to thickly spread on baked salmon or dollop atop penne pasta. It was the first time I'd ever used a blender to make anything other than a mixed drink! I remember how I foolishly stuck a wooden spoon in there while the motor was still on, wanting to free the basil leaves sticking to the sides. Even those little shards of wood didn't stop us from enjoying that first attempt, though picking through the detritus did kind of take a little of the fun out of the experience. With that first CSA membership, my love of cooking was cemented and, ever since, I haven’t looked back.
With such an insatiable passion for food, it wasn’t a big surprise to those who knew me well when, at 29 years old, I decided to launch my own all-natural snack food business. I wondered what would happen if I put a new spin on some of the foods I grew up eating. I spent hours in the kitchen perfecting my first product, and before long, I set out to let people everywhere try my childhood-inspired treats. Over the course of three years, I developed and launched 10 products under my own brand, and achieved authorization in over 7500 food stores nationwide.
I spent another couple of years working in Brand Marketing for the food industry. Now as a marketer for the food industry, instead of just a Consumer, I came to realize that it was this very business, with their processed foods and artificial ingredients, which had led me, and so many others like me, to have such an unhealthy relationship with food. It wasn’t my penchant for fresh fruit and carrot sticks that made me feel so out of control that I wanted to starve myself. It was the Doritos and Oreos and Chex Mix and Twinkies that I got hooked on. Those were the foods that I became addicted to. And they were the foods I was running from when I restricted my calories or resigned myself to the latest fly-by-the-night crash diet.
Now I know better. I know it’s not about what you don’t eat. It’s all about what you do eat. After spending five years in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry, I wanted my work to more closely intersect with my passion for nutrition, cooking and people. I didn't want to be part of a superpower that was making it more challenging for folks to simply be healthy. When fast food, additives, artificial chemicals, sugars, and caffeine are everywhere we turn, it can feel nearly impossible to stay healthy. It’s even more challenging when we consider the hectic pace life moves at for most of us – which prevents us from cooking homemade meals with healthy, whole foods like those I grew up eating, exercising regularly, making clear decisions, taking time to slow down and relax, or even enjoying family meals together around the same table.
I am so happy to now be effecting positive change in my own little way, by directly educating consumers about the multitude of healthy food, wellness and lifestyle options available to them. And I love knowing that my own children are growing up eating homemade, nutritious meals every single day. All my life food has been the connective sinew holding my family closely together - linking us to love, happiness and celebration, whether as a child growing up, or now that I have a family of my own. When you get clear on healthy food and healthy eating, without dieting or deprivation, your life changes forever. As a food lover, it's so refreshing to know that I can cook my heart out, and eat to my heart's content, while nourishing my body all the while.
In the past year, I’ve taken all of my education and experience and applied it to myself and I’ve truly never felt better. I have more natural energy than ever before. My alleged "chronic" fatigue has completely disappeared. And those pesky and often painful digestive issues, which I lived with for my entire life and assumed I’d be putting up with forever, have radically improved.
Whether you’re looking to have a healthier relationship with food, reduce stress, increase energy, lose weight, or paint the walls chartreuse with beet juice ... I can help you...Get Healthy. The Fun Way. Click here to learn more about my customized F.U.N.W.A.Y health and wellness programs.