10 May Real Food, Good Company: A Lifelong Journey
Growing up, my earliest food-related memories are of spending time in my Grandma’s garden picking strawberries. “Here one! There one! I see it!” I screamed with excitement as I toddled through the neatly arranged rows of berries. Grandma always had a garden on a piece of land across the street from her house, and she spent many hours tending it.
In the heart of Chilton County where I grew up there were numerous fruits and vegetables readily available. I came to love going to the local farmer’s market on Saturdays with Dad. It was like a treasure hunt to dig through the bins of fresh produce to find the best peaches, watermelons, tomatoes, and squash that the farmers had just delivered. Mama would take what we found and make clean meals we all would enjoy. Using olive oil and fresh herbs from the garden, Mama turned the simple vegetables into a delicious dinnertime meal.
The real food meals Mama prepared meant that we ate as a family every night. I have many wonderful memories of eating together around the rectangular wooden table Dad made in the 1970s. That sturdy table has stood the test of time and still sits in their kitchen today. Just as that table still serves as a gathering point for the family, the real food philosophy of my childhood still forms the basis of our nutrition today.
Fast forward a few years, and my husband and I welcomed our first child – a baby girl! As a new mom, I wanted her to be a “good eater.” I wanted my daughter to be a well-rounded eater that would enjoy curry as much as chicken and sometimes choose peaches over pie. Before she cut her first tooth, I began pouring over baby food books and scouring wholesome baby food blogs. The amount of information directed to new parents was overwhelming. I learned about what foods to introduce first, age-appropriate foods, how often she should consume Vitamin A, C and D, when to introduce items, a variety of feeding philosophies and much more.
I began planning her meals and snacks with great rigor and detail. As she grew, I worked to keep expanding her palate by introducing her to a variety of flavors and textures with no food being off-limits. For the first 2 years of her life, I made practically every bite of food she consumed. She loved it, and so did I. More importantly, she grew to associate the food she ate with the family time around the table.
Soon my son was born, and of course I intended to give him the same food education I was giving my daughter. But, I quickly realized it was not so easy with two small children. Unless I wanted to be a short-order cook every day and devote myself (what felt like) full-time to their nutrition, I realized I needed to find new solutions. Mama made it look so easy, and I was sure I could do it, too. I began looking for shortcuts to maintain high-quality, real food with less effort involved on my part.
Sadly, the options I found were often a compromise for me – yellow dye in the lemonade, high fructose corn syrup in applesauce, or sugar in the field peas. Have you ever had a craving for yellow #47? Me either. It didn’t make sense to me that food had to be so complicated. I am not one to give in easily when it comes to the best for my children, so after much soul searching, as Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I committed to creating better options for my family.
Real and Rosemary is the culmination of my life-long food journey. I want to share with you real, wholesome foods that I love and that my family loves. Simply prepared, flavorful, fresh food is my favorite, and my hope is that it becomes yours for years to come. I hope you find everyday food that nourishes your body and friendship around the table that feeds your soul. I want my husband to eat food that fills him up, food that I feel good about feeding my family, and a variety of foods that will round my children into “good eaters” as they grow up. If I do it well, I may never have to cook at home again. May you spend more time playing in the dirt with your toddlers, running that extra mile, reading a few more pages or sleeping a little longer on the weekends. Rest and relax, we have the food covered.