Recently, DD1 was briefly home from college on a short mid-term break. One of the things she has missed most in her almost two months away at school, has been home cooking. Homesickness has been surprisingly hard for her, and apparently just about every meal in the cafeteria was making it worse. Her first complaint about college food, two weeks in:
"the chicken isn't right"
A few days after the chicken text, I got this text: "the corn is mushy". Followed by, in the next two weeks: "I'm not eating these eggs, they're gross," "I want real potatoes, not instant," "even the cookies are not good," and "I want milk, not white water." 'White water' is what my family refers to skim milk as. We're whole milk drinkers at this little place here.
It was a great day when she texted me: "Broccoli for lunch! Yum! They got it right! I think I was the only student who ate any. I even had thirds." Eating broccoli was not anything new; my kids all love broccoli. I used to make baby food broccoli when they were too little to chew it. But the fact that she was excited and had found something that was cooked 'right' and tasted 'right' that was good news. I thought perhaps the homesickness was abating and that she was necessarily adapting to a lower standard of food; that she was able to accept the commercially mass prepared type of fare the college cafeteria offered.
Setting culinary precedents for my children's palates is one thing I never considered when I began cooking from scratch, then growing and preserving our own foods. At first, my incentive was purely financial--it just cost less to buy ingredients and put them together than to buy ready-made or boxed mixes of stuff. Then came the discovery of how fake stuff in food, and by that I mean imitation flavorings, artificial colors, preservatives, etc, affected DS2's asthma and eczema. It was his health that really nudged me to organic gardening and producing as much of our food as possible. If bug spray or a chemical additive in his shampoo, lotion, or laundry detergent could have such a negative effect on his well being, what about chemicals on his food? What about the pesticide on his veggies?
An interesting thing I noted along the way: when we ate more home grown food, we all got healthier. When the entire Christian Kindergarten through Eighth Grade school that my three oldest kids attended was suffering from the flu and strep throat, my kids were healthy. Not a single sore throat, not an upset tummy, no hint of a fever.
Then came the day when I tried to make an appointment for DD2 to have her pre-kindergarten physical, and the doctor's office didn't have her in their computer. . .because she hadn't been to the doctor since the last round of vaccinations she got about the time she turned two years old!! She hadn't needed to see a doctor, hadn't been ill, in three years! This was during an age where most kids are coming down with illnesses nearly monthly because supposedly their immune systems are still developing, and are weaker than those of older children.
It wasn't just the kids who were healthier, either. DH's cholesterol had dropped since his last physical exam a few years earlier, when we were still eating store food even though a lot of it was cooked pretty much from scratch. He didn't need to take sick days from work (not to say that at times he didn't wish he needed to, but he just didn't get sick). Similarly, I was healthy as a horse, despite working with the horses in all kinds of weather, including windchills of 20 to 30 below zero sometimes.
It was for money and health that I fed my family the way I did. It never occurred to me that I was setting them up to be disappointed in the food they would eat when they left my table and went out into the world as adults.
Which brings me back to loving eating local and DD1's recent visit from college. While she was home, we ate lots of her favorite from scratch things. One of these, I realized as we sat at the table devouring that particular meal, was not only from scratch, it was totally from this little place here. I had made venison gravy (venison stew meat simmered until the gravy is naturally thickened and the meat pretty much falls apart) over mashed potatoes, with whole kernel corn on the side. The venison was from a deer that DH harvested last fall in our own woods. The potatoes I had grown in the garden this summer, and harvested just a few weeks earlier. The corn, too, was grown in my garden, and had been canned (my first home-canned corn!) the day before I left to take DD1 to Minnesota for college.
You can't get more local than that. I love eating local. It not only tastes good, and is nourishing to the body, but it's nourishing to the soul. It gives me a great feeling of accomplishment when I serve a meal that was grown and harvested right here, by our own hands.
As a side note, the three of my kids who so far have left this little place here for other dwelling places all cook. They do so because they don't feel cooking is a bother. Rather, they see it as a way to eat decent tasting and textured food. Not only do they cook in their own homes and/or dorm kitchens, they all scam home grown food off of me every time they come home to visit. I can't tell you how many jars of dilly beans and other things have been raided from the cellar by DS1 and taken back to South Carolina with him. Or how many jars of blackberry jam (DS2's favorite) have been smuggled to the U.P. I do know how many potatoes DD1 took back to Minnesota with her though; just as many 'real potatoes' as she thought would get her through until she comes home again for Thanksgiving break!