I think my experience with food as I grew up was pretty common. I ate what was in front of me. I didn’t really think about where my food came from or how it wound up on my plate ready for consumption. I knew I had a problem, though, about three years ago.
Here’s the story of how I came to realize that I needed help in the food department, and pronto.
I never pictured myself to have much of a green thumb. My grandma was an excellent gardener and I just figured that her lifetime of acquired skill wandered right past me or ended up on the other side of the family tree (my cousin majored in horticulture in college). But, I was trying to minimize my environmental impact so I spent way too much money on a composter from Costco and in went my melon rinds, tree leaves, dryer lint, etc. Keep in mind, at the time I lived in a condo with no yard. What was I planning to do with the compost? Honestly, just dump it on the ground or pass it on to people with a yard so I could at least keep some stuff from the landfill. Even if you don’t have a yard, keeping stuff out of a landfill is still a worthy reason to compost.
While I didn’t have a yard, I at least had a porch, and that porch was looking a little sad. I thought some green could do it (and me) some good, so I huffed up to Ikea and bought something that looked the least likely to die quickly. It was a little spikey leafed plant but I don’t actually know what it’s called. I bought a ceramic pot to put it in and headed home. At that point I had a pretty reasonable size compost heap, so I thought that might help my little Ikea plant survive my sporadic waterings and basic lack of care. I mixed some compost in with the cheapest soil I could get at Home Depot and thus started my adventure.
Time passed and the plant was still alive, and then I saw some other green thing start to poke through the soil. I figured it was a weed, but if it was green and growing in my container I decided it couldn’t really do any harm to just let it grow and see what happened. It kept growing and soon enough little green balls started to form on it. At that point I was intrigued enough that I decided to let it carry on. After a while they started to turn red and, believe it or not, I still didn’t know what they were.
Well, my mom came over one afternoon and I asked her about it. She informed me that it was a tomato plant. “I didn’t plant anything there,” says I. “It volunteered,” she replied. I started laughing…ha ha…I can’t grow anything intentionally so plants have to volunteer for my container, like getting the short straw…oh mom, you’re so funny. “No, Jenny, that’s what they call it when a tomato plant sprouts unintentionally.” “So, is it safe to eat?” I asked. “Jenny, it’s a tomato,” she responded almost in disbelief.
Right, I thought, it’s a tomato. I began going through some soul-searching questions in my mind: a) How did I not know what kind of plant that was? b) Why did I question, after finding out what it was, whether or not it was safe to eat just because it was growing unintentionally? c) If this can grow without me even trying, is it possible that with a little effort I can do better?
I picked the little cherry tomato, ate it, and it was oh-so-delicious. I realized that if something could grow in the haphazard conditions I provided, then with any bit of intentionality I might have some luck.
And there the seed of interest in real food, grown from the ground or made with my hands “volunteered.” I didn’t plant it intentionally, but it definitely started to grow.
Have you started the journey to real food? What sparked your quest?