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Your lifestyle, your quirk
I did not come from an organic home. Two of the staple weekly meals in my house growing up were actually named “red hotdish” and “white hotdish.” The main difference was if we used canned tomato soup or canned cream of mushroom soup.
To be clear, I came from a very loving and well-meaning home, and my mom cooked our meals every night with love and attention. The whole organic revolution hadn’t come into the mainstream yet, and she was doing the best she knew to do, creating us delicious homemade meals on a budget. She came from a midwestern family of ten children, so she grew up learning how to work every angle in order to get the best deal on food, and then how to stretch that food as far as it could go. As you might imagine, there were a lot of casseroles and stews with ever-changing ingredients, based on whatever was on sale.
I never saw a problem with the way I ate growing up, as it was all I knew. We ate hot, homemade meals as a family, so my memories of dinner are actually quite nostalgic. It wasn’t until I was attending my very liberal college in Bellingham, Washington, that I began learning that organic food even existed. At age 17, I visited my first co-op grocery store with some new friends and tried not to gawk at what I saw. The store was filled with natural, local, and organic foods, with heavy signage explaining which local farm they came from, how they treat their soil, and what they feed their animals. The vegetables were colors I’d never seen before, and I learned a new word – “heirloom.” I saw pastries labeled “vegan” and premade foods labeled “vegetarian.” It was a whole new world.
By my sophomore year, my eating habits had begun changing. I ate significantly healthier, snacking on fresh fruits and eating at least one salad a day loaded down with vegetables and legumes from the college’s massive salad bar. My taste was changing, and I was becoming more adventurous, but I was still not eating organically.
Then, one fateful spring day in my sophomore year, I decided to ignore my childhood voice (which, funny enough, sounds exactly like my mother) that screamed, “Why would you pay more for the same thing?” and bought my first piece of fruit labeled “organic.”
I noticed the difference in the first bite. Organic apples (which quickly became my favorite snack) were not fire engine red and waxy, as I’d learn to expect them to be; they were crisper and far more flavorful. Instead of only buying Red Delicious, I experimented with Gala, Pink Lady, Fuji, Braburn, Jonagold and Gala. I had never had a pear outside of the little almost-grey squares served in the syrupy Dole fruit cups, and my first bite of an organic Anjou pear actually made me say “Mmmmm!” aloud. I was hooked and bought pears regularly my remaining years at college. I was thrilled to learn that pears, like apples, also came in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors beyond the traditional green Anjou.
By the time I graduated and was living in Seattle, I knew how great organic produce could taste, but I still only bought a few organic items on a regular basis, due to cost and my extremely limited knowledge of food preparation. Remember the household I grew up in. My mom was a good cook, despite not using the highest quality ingredients, and she had tried on numerous occasions to pass on some cooking knowledge to me. Unfortunately, I was never very interested beyond learning how to make chocolate chip cookies, so by the time I was on my own, I primarily ate veggie burgers that could just be microwaved, salads consisting of three ingredients, yogurt, and canned beans.
Then – thank God – I met my husband. I was introduced to him by my boyfriend at the time, funny enough, and told he had just moved to Seattle to be a chef. I wasn’t impressed. I was too cheap to ever go out to eat, so being a chef had no real relevance to me. I wrote him off as arrogant (I was just stereotyping him based on the age-old image of a chef screaming in the kitchen) and continued eating my lame daily meals.
Over time, we obviously ended up together. And I changed my mind about not being impressed by a chef. He took me to his restaurant on our first date, and my world has never been the same since. I tasted fine wine, duck pate, caramelized pears, French cheeses, and homemade ice cream for the first time in my life. It was the most variety I had even had in a single meal in my life. Even the simple apple slices on the cheese plate tasted mouthwatering. When I asked him why, he shrugged and said, “They’re local,” which, I’ve since learned, often also mean “organic” in Seattle.
Over the years, my husband has been gradually and patiently educating me on food. He has introduced me to foods I’ve never heard of, shown me various preparation techniques that turn otherwise boring or stand food into mouthwatering side dishes, and – most importantly – shown me the different organic food makes in flavor, presentation, and satisfaction.
Yes, organic tastes different. It also looks different, feels different, and reacts with your body different. In all accounts, it is better. I am now a full convert to organic food and look forward to passing on the knowledge to my daughter. I’ve even converted my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe over to the organic world.