Throughout my short life, my relationship with food has gone through many stages. I dislike the label “foodie” and therefore refuse to call myself as such. Also, I have never had an eating disorder, but there was a point when food didn’t matter to me.
When I was a kid, I ate to sustain myself. End of story. I was too busy with all of my other interests to be bothered with enjoying eating the food my parents were making me eat. Not that they cooked bad food, although the meat was like shoe leather, I just wasn’t all that interested. There were always moments of pure enjoyment when my mom or grandma would make something I loved. Onigiri and teriyaki chicken, Chow Mein with sekihan, tuna noodle casserole (I have no idea why, but it could be the addictive factor of potato chips, noodles, and a creamy sauce), and beef with Bok choy over rice come to mind. Mostly though, the food didn’t matter. By the way, dessert doesn’t count, because what kid (or adult) doesn’t love a little sugar?
As a young adult I had a somewhat better relationship with food. The first two years of college I lived in a dorm and ate whatever they cooked, for the most part. I had more choices, but nothing helped change my view of food. We are talking about dorm food after all. My third year I moved to an apartment and was thus forced to start cooking. I could boil and egg and knew how to make a few dishes and therefore was comfortable knowing I wouldn’t starve. Besides, just off campus there were a dozen restaurants that catered to the poor college student. One of them, a Korean place, made really good beef bulgogi. To this day it is still one of the best I’ve had. During this time I dated a guy who liked to cook and was quite good at it, although now that I think about it, nothing really stood out. What I do remember eating was a lot of grilled chicken salads because he wanted to lose a few pounds. I did, however, learn how to peel garlic.
After I graduated I moved down to California to pursue a Master’s degree. I became friends with several people in the food science department, and boy did they like to eat and drink. I think this might have been the start of my appreciation of food, but I was still reluctant. My parents would send me grocery gift cards and tell me to not skimp on food. I am thrifty by nature, but they didn’t want me to starve because I was unwilling to spend too much money. It was during this first year that I met my husband. As with all serious relationships, they change you. My husband loves good food and dessert. When I met him he was still coming into his own food-wise. This was good timing since I was just at the outer fringes of discovering the power of food. However, I think it wasn’t until I moved back to my home state for work that I really developed an appetite for good quality food.
I started working as a research assistant on pears and sweet cherries. We worked closely with the growers and that’s when I started to understand the business of growing food. Not subsidized crops, but high-value crops. I began to see how difficult it was to make money, find good labor, and the chain in which the fruit travels before it ever reaches market. When I was in California I often wondered why the produce was so bad since they produce so much good vegetables and fruit. What I learned was that the best quality was sent for export, where the money is. During this time my mom started getting really into food and began trying new recipes. Since I would visit often (my husband was still in California at the time) we would often experiment. It was also during this period of time that I started to get more interested in cooking. After we got married, bought our first house, and got dish network, I stumbled upon the food network. They must be doing something right because it whetted my creative appetite. Armed with a good set of pots and pans, kitchen knives, a couple of cook books and the food network, we started cooking up a storm.
Since then, my husband and I have grown to appreciate food so much more than where we began. I have such a different view-point of food and have learned that food can really bring people together. Price, while still important, isn’t secondary to quality of the product. I have learned to evaluate the ingredients and what goes into producing the food and to really value what I put in my body.
Now that I have a child, I don’t want him to grow up without appreciating food. Last summer, before he started solid food, I went to the farmer’s market to buy the best fruit and vegetables so I could to make my own baby food. I froze it, and when it was time, he loved it. Now he eats everything and loves everything. Sometimes I worry that I’ve created a food snob. But overall, I think it’s better for him to learn to appreciate food and not just eat to quiet the hunger pains. I have to admit that sometimes I eat just to quiet those hunger pains. Whether it is be because I’m just too tired to cook or I don’t know what I feel like eating, I’m not always certain, but I figure that’s okay…as long as I am setting my son up to have a good relationship with food.