There are three things that I remember most strikingly about my childhood: faith, food and family community. As Christians we had a strong faith, and for that we were taught to be honest, respectful, kind to others, and kind to the earth. Aside from that, though, food was the central focus of our life. We grew it, cooked it, ate it, shared it, talked about it, used it for healing, and, as it was also the source of my dad’s income, counted on it for our health and livelihood.
That sounds grandiose, but it was true. Food is life sustaining, if you’ll allow it to be. It has character, balance, sensitivity, and the ability to heal or harm; but it takes being in tune enough with your body to know which foods to eat in order to heal and not cause harm.
As you can well imagine the foods we ate were quite different from what most people were eating at the time. While other kids my age were downing their sugar smacks and brownies, we adhered most closely to a macrobiotic diet, eventually adding in a little meat but sticking to meals involving cooked vegetables, whole grains like bulgur and brown rice, sea vegetables like nori and kombu, and magnificent stir fries and salads from our gardens.
We learned lessons from food too. I remember going to friend’s houses for overnights and play dates. And my mom would say to us, “Laura’s mom is probably going to make those peanut-buttery, caramel, brownie bars”…foods we obviously didn’t get to eat at home. And then she would assure us that it was ok to have one if we felt like it, but to pay close attention to how it made us feel; did we feel hyped up at first and then low on energy an hour later? Did it give one of us a headache and make the other feel like taking a nap? Did it make us bounce off the walls or hurt our stomachs?
It was an experiential situation, like everything else in our lives. And, later when we returned from Laura’s house, we would talk about why we don’t eat foods like that in our family; because they don’t make you feel great, they do your body no good, and so, aside from the occasional indulgence, they may as well be ignored. Because of this I never felt deprived growing up. I experienced junk foods that other kids were eating and decided on my own that I didn’t like them.