I think I was 5 or 6 when I first remember shopping with Grandma at the farmer’s market in Kingston, Ontario. We had a cottage across the lake on Wolfe Island. Three times a week we braved the ferry lines to carefully purchase our summer delights.
It wasn’t just a matter of getting what we needed and heading back to the cocoon of the cottage. There was a system. First we walked the entire market examining the offerings at every stall, making note of where the juiciest raspberries were and who had the plumpest corn. I still do this and have trained my family well. Once we had narrowed it down to the final contenders, we’d split up. My mother would go one way and Grandma and I would go the other, swooping from one stall to the next, scooping up our prizes and quite literally getting the cream of the crop.
I loved going to the market. I loved hearing the farmers talk about their crops as if they were their children. I loved the earthy smells, the kaleidoscope of colours and the anticipation of eating it all. But there was something else, something intangible that my adult mind now calls potential. The potential of all that food – to delight my tongue, to flood my body with nutrients and, as I now know, to deliver information to each cell of my body. Sometimes I would even get to go visit the farmer down the cottage lane and bring home the prize of fresh dug beets with the earth still clinging to them.
I remember when my mother read Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet and having to make sure we were getting complete proteins with every meal. There was the home-made yogurt phase (too bad I didn’t appreciate it at the time), the “tiger milk” phase (orange juice and brewer’s yeast – dreadful) and the home-made granola phase (bingo!). We’d go to the health food store to grind our own peanut butter and buy whole grain, stone ground dark breads, only edible (in my child’s mind) when toasted and smothered with butter and honey. Oh, the honey! It was from the “bee man” on Wolfe Island. I don’t remember seeing the actual apiary but my brothers and I always tried to be around when he unloaded the big honeycombs into this “spinner” to extract the liquid gold. We’d always leave with a hunk of honeycomb still fully loaded to chew on the way home. My favourite was always the buckwheat honey but the red clover was a close second.
I remember not wanting to eat potatoes in high school thinking they made you fat and then sneaking to the corner store after school to devour candy. I remember going to McDonald’s for the first time – when I was 14. I remember residence food in university and iceberg lettuce salads and midnight pizza. I remember eschewing fat of any sort but collapsing in front of the TV with a big pot of spaghetti after a long day at work.
Then I had children and what I had seen and absorbed as a child from my mother came home to roost. I made my own baby food. I started using organic foods. I made sure my children had protein at breakfast. We all drank water, not juice. We were moving more towards a more whole foods diet. My children thrived. I went back to school to study holistic nutrition seriously and start to put the science together with that feeling I had as a child of the potential of food and the information it carried.
What I know now is that, as basic as it sounds, food is foundational. It is the most powerful medicine we can use on a daily basis
Today my food story continues to evolve as I learn and experiment. I still love shopping at farmer’s markets. I love sharing what I know about food, cooking and the science of nutrition with my clients. My hope is always that they feel empowered by our consultations to embrace the food and lifestyle changes that improve their health and well-being.