With everything else going on right now, the one thing I’ve been able to take advantage of is the opportunity to be able to really think about where I came from, family that raised me, where I’ve been so far, the friends I’ve made, along with some of the places I still want to go and people I still want to meet.
When I think about how I grew up, one of the things I keep going back to is food. The growing of it, supplying it, cooking with it, discussing it, sharing it, and simply enjoying it. Growing up on a farm outside of Chicago, the one thing that always brought our family together was food:
✦ Daily lunches with my dad and grandpa, listening to Paul Harvey and the commodity commentary while eating whatever my 5-year old hands could make – those were the days of a lot of macaroni & cheese and canned green beans
✦ The treat of fresh asparagus picked from our ditches the same day
✦ Those 3 – 4 sweet weeks each summer that I was able to spend picking and gorging myself on the most delicious black raspberries that grew wild all over our barnyard
✦ Getting in the crop of sweet corn that my grandpa planted each year just for me to sell to earn my spending money for the Sandwich Fair
✦ Joining my grandpa and dad on the trips to butcher/meat locker in Earlville to take in that season’s pork bellies, the product of which either stocked our deep freeze or was traded for a side of beef from the neighbor down the road
✦ That unbelievable smell of dried corn cobs on the grill – to this day, I’ve never found a better burger than those grilled up over those cobs
✦ Climbing up into the fort my grandpa built in our main apple tree, or hiding out under our giant weeping mulberry bush, to read and daydream
✦ Sitting with my great-grandmother for our daily afternoon coffee and cookies
✦ Waiting in anticipation to see what treats my great-uncle would bring out from the city for our holiday
dinners – the biggest shrimp I’d ever seen and fresh shark steaks were my favorites
✦ The jars of homemade black raspberry jam my grandpa hid under the Christmas tree every year from the time Smuckers started the "seedless only" crap (that’s another soapbox) up until the year he passed away
I could go on forever listing memories that somehow connect my family and food. So I am starting to understand why, when everything else around seems to be up in the air, I always go back to food for comfort and to help put some pieces in place.
As I read through the list above, there are other key themes that stick out: food, family, farming, locally grown, seasonal/fresh produce, self-supporting community and education.
All of which help to explain why new recipes and food finds are a part of every phone call with my dad, going to the farmer’s market always makes me giddy, the idea of a community food swap inspires me, and supporting local farmers and business simply makes sense.
Because it’s how I was raised and an inherent part of who I am today.
So going forward, please don’t be surprised by the amount of recipes and cooking stories, drooling over restaurants and menus, and other random food-related excitement that I will be sharing. It’s just how us "Chicago[land] Fat Kids" roll and it’s about time I owned it.