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Eater’s Almanac: From calories to memories


Eater’s Almanac is our weekly newsletter for the Huss Project Farmer’s Market. You can receive a print copy each week at the market, which includes a recipe for seasonal vegetables!

Before I understood anything about the pain and exploitation of the southern system of sharecropping, I understood that grown-up black folks loved the land. I could stand with my grandfather Daddy Jerry and look out at fields of growing vegetables, tomatoes, corn, collards, and know that this was his handiwork…. I knew that my grandmother Baba’s backyard garden would yield beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and yellow squash, that she too would walk with pride among the rows and rows of growing vegetables showing us what the earth will give when tended lovingly.

bell hooks in Belonging: A Culture of Place

Everything that’s alive eats. Dogs eat kibble, table scraps, and sometimes roadkill. Or crayons. They’re not picky. Possums, our only local marsupial, eat lots of things, including up to 5,000 ticks in a single season! Fungi (the organisms that produce mushrooms) eat sugar from wood or plant waste, and recent research shows that they also share food with other organisms.

And then there’s humans. We’re not often up for roadkill, ticks, kibble, or dead trees, but some of us eat mushrooms. Some of us eat the corn, collards, beans, and cabbage that bell hooks mentions, while others prefer Doritos, Mountain Dew, and a Hot Pocket. 

What humans consider “food” differs from culture to culture. Our preferences are also shaped by our memories and experiences. If our parents grew vegetables, we’ll probably be more inclined to enjoy and know how to prepare fresh foods.. If our families struggled to get by with a microwave in a motel room, our memories and skills might only extend to cans and packages.

Whatever our background, we all have access to memory and imagination. Think back to your childhood: what flavors and foods surprised you and gave you pleasure? Who in your life enjoyed food and how did they express that joy? Now think about the future: what kinds of food memories do you want for yourself and for the next generation? What can you do this week to spark joy in eating, even if it’s a meal-for-one?

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.