Growth is all around me. As I gaze into the blooms of the budding pepper plants that will soon feed my family, I can’t help but think of my growing boys. Late on a Saturday night my husband and I are surrounded by bins of past clothes ready to be swapped out for the summer, clothes that once held their tiny bodies, possessions that hold deep memories. I am struck with that these clothes are no longer inhabited by their wobbling chubby legs, but expanding shoes sizes and little boy muscles.
In a blink of an eye, life happens. One minute we are planting seeds, discussing what will happen in the next season. Admiring a runner seed in a mason jar taking off at our home, we picture what is happening in the garden. The boys are in awe of all the parts of the plant, the rooting fibers gripping for more water, the leaves striving for more sunlight and the dying seed of where it all started.
Sowing all sorts of seeds with the family two weeks ago is a fleeting beautiful thought. A night where we all gathered, pushed the seeds down with our fingers, dreaming of what life would come out of it.
My most prized moments are when my sons sit on the kitchen counter watching me prepare our meals. Their tiny legs dangling off the edge, so eager to participate in every action: cracking eggs, snipping the ends off of sugar snap peas, swiping elements of the meal that they think momma doesn’t see. My youngest son Oba recently asked me a question that brought an ear to ear grin to my face. “Momma, why do you they call them snow peas? There is no snow on them.” Their innocent curious natures is what drives me to grow our own food. Instead of phrasing the words in incomprehensible thought out sentences to a four year old, in the garden he can see, touch and feel his food before his very own blue sparkling eyes.
As a child, I did not think twice about why things were named what they are, where the carrots came from that my momma was purchasing from the store, how chicken could possibly lay eggs, or even how to make butter. All I knew is that I loved food. Her food. The aromas coming from the kitchen brought growls to my tummy that you could hear for miles.
- According to a survey taken in 2011, adults eat out an average of 4.8 meals a week.
- 20 % of all American meals are consumed in the car.
- Americans consume 31% more packaged food than fresh food.
- The average American family spends $225 a month eating out
- A report, from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) collected the social habits of 34 countries revealing Americans spend the least amount of time cooking in the kitchen per day: 30 minutes
Before the feelings of condemnation start, lest I remind you that this is not the intent of my heart. I, too, have lived a life (excuse me, live a life) of busy schedules, tight budgets, and bedtime schedules that can not come fast enough. When I was younger, eating out was the joy of my week. Hitting up a Mickey D’s after school, lunch trips with my friends, and Chinese take out made my day. I wake up to the thoughts of what to feed these three thriving boys, and once I think one meal is finished, the next comes quickly flooding my mind. I say all this not discourage you, or guilt you, I understand the convenience of eating out. With this luxury I no longer have to think about dishes, but simply indulge in someone else serving you.
However, I think some Americans have lost the joy, the simple pleasures of food. The celebration of food, and family. The supping together at the table, glued in conversation and inquiring what their day was like. I still remember my father, after a nourishing and hearty meal, leaning back on his chair arms crossed over his head seated around our vintage yellow table, enjoying life together. Pausing from the day to day busy schedules and obligations. Rarely do I reminisce of the times we had take out, hurriedly went through the drive thru, or ate in the car. But the memories of my family sitting around the table together, is what I hold dear in my heart.
Michael Pollan, an internationally recognized food writer and campaigner puts it oh so brilliantly: “It’s where we teach our children the manners they need to get along in society. We teach them how to share. To take turns. To argue without fighting and insulting other people. They learn the art of adult conversation. The family meal is the nursery of democracy.”
Being out in the community garden, I am reconnected and reminded of what food actually is. From the first hint of a sprout, to the ever giving bounty in my basket- I am thoughtful of how to prepare the meal. Weeks and weeks considering the endless recipes that I could make, the whole family involved in the process. It is my sweat and strength digging deep holes for the pepper’s new homes. My husband’s labor and sharp mind plotting out the land. My boys eager hearts to work, while their play encompasses the garden. This food we are growing is not just about a plant. Or the dirt, water, and sun that it takes to grow it. It is about family. The celebration of life, and one another. The giving thanks for the ability to eat, and be satisfied. To hunger, and be filled.
- Michael Pollan: Why the family meal is crucial to civilisation (guardian.co.uk)