Friday, October 1, 2010


I have just spent two whole days and one evening listening and talking and thinking about food - in particular healthy food and in special particular plant foods.   I was privileged to attend the Food for Thought - Healthy Foods Summit 2010 sponsored by the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute at the U of M, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum,  and Lakewinds Natural Foods (a faithful customer and supporter of Featherstone Farm and CSA's in general.)

I have been inspired, enlightened and encouraged.  I have eaten some nice meals.  I have made some new food friends and re-connected with old food friends.  This event was packed with nutritionists, academics, food educators, cooks, food service professionals, food media people and lunch ladies.  I even ran into some Featherstone CSA members.  I was in networkers' paradise.  (Plus I just got 7 new cookbooks from the U of M Arboretum annual book sale.  Italian.  Spanish.  Japanese.)  And I had some face time with Mark Bittman when he signed my copy of How to Cook Everything.   This was not quite as exciting as when I got to sing about rhubarb with Garrison Keillor on the Prairie Home Companion  -  but it was right up there.

My head is jam packed with facts and figures and ideas and stories.  I want to tell you all about it but of course you really don't have the time.  You need to do some cooking.  And I would rather take a nice long walk around the Arboretum before I drive home instead of write a huge detailed post.  So I will be sharing some of what I have learned in bits and pieces over the coming weeks and months.  And some time soon I will give you the link to this event so you can experience some or all of it on line when it is convenient for you. 

One of my new food friends is Sarah Kniskern Aughengaugh.  She is a Featherstone CSA member and food policy professional who attended the conference.  I asked her what the take home message was for her.  She said it was that no one needs to be perfect.  The important thing is to be moving in the right direction toward a more healthy diet -- to just keep making progress.  "There's still lots of room for butter and chocolate,"  she said.  (Amen to that.) "Food is fun.  There is value in coming together around food.  And a lot of people are working so that it is easier to make better choices,"  she concluded.

I agree with Sarah.  We are fortunate here in Minnesota to have many, many smart and hardworking people who understand how important it is - to ourselves, our communities and the planet - that we change our food system for the better.  We have many institutions - public and private -  who are committing serious resources to finding better ways to feed ourselves and our families.  More and more people - not just CSA members! - are taking Mark Bittman's advice:  "Eat more plants and less of everything else."

The main take home message for me was that cooking real food - especially vegetables, fruits and whole grains - at home is one of the most important things we can be doing as individuals to achieve a better food system.  So I say to all home cooks and CSA members (and farmers market customers and gardeners and coop shoppers and vegetable eaters) -- hooray for you.  Keep doing what you are doing.  It is no big deal if you fall off the wagon once in awhile and eat a fast food cheeseburger.  Don't mourn too long for the bok choy you had to compost.  Temporary setbacks are to be expected.  There will always be another meal ahead.  And last but not least -- do what you can to have a happy kitchen.  Restaurateur Brenda Langton (Spoonriver) made a point of that in her talk.   Put some love in your cooking.  Find the joy.  Keep learning.  And you will be fine. 


  1. such good advice! i was so excited to read in my local paper that our school district is making a commitment to improving school lunches and buying if they would find a way to cook it up instead of all the microwaved stuff they serve, they'll be on the right's a start anyway...

  2. Thanks for this, Peggy. At the end of the season (and in the midst of planning a wedding) I try to remember that I may not get to everything in the box each week but at least I'm trying. And making incredible strides. After just a summer of CSA and trying to eat less meat and more organics I can tell my palate is changing. I can taste quality and crave the crappy stuff I used to crave a little less.