The Real Food Stories series profiles the unique personal experiences that lead our writers to understand the important connection between the food they eat, and their health and wellbeing. You can find the rest of our stories HERE. Food was always what brought my family together. Each year my brother and I couldn’t wait until the holiday season arrived. This time of year, specifically Christmastime, was the only time of the year when we would travel from Michigan into Pennsylvania for a family gathering. Like many other families, our family gatherings included an abundance of food that was made by hand from every member of the family. This holiday food was special to us because it brought the joy of a close family back to life once again.
Every year on Christmas Eve before the family competes in our annual Christmas ‘minute to win it’ games, we all sit down for dinner. Grandma serves her homemade lasagna filled with her secret bolognese sauce recipe, Italian sausage, and a rich ricotta and mozzarella cheese mixture stuffed between layers of lasagna noodles and topped with freshly grated parmesan. This gathering of family and delicious meal is what the entire family looks forward to each year. I love that this single meal not only brings our entire family from all corners of the U.S. together but also fills the room with such joy that only happiness floats through the air. This moment every year is so precious to me, when it came time to begin my career path I wanted to find something that would bring happiness and joy to people just like my family Christmas Eve meal does for my family.
Soon after I began my schooling in the culinary field I got a job at an upscale steakhouse. There, I learned about flavor profiles and how to build flavor into dishes using naturally fresh ingredients. I enjoyed that the restaurant sourced from multiple Arizona produce growers, including Maya’s Farm, Arizona Microgreens, and Queen Creek Olive Mill. I discovered that Arizona could produce an enormous amount of different products from all locally grown and raised plants and animals. I was stunned. Coming from Michigan, I couldn’t believe that a desert like Arizona could produce so much food, not to mention delicious fine dining quality foods.
I furthered my personal research and got involved with the local movement, investigating growing seasons, farmers markets, and restaurants sourcing locally. I started my own garden and started purchasing more locally grown produce as well. I read some very inspiring and educational books like Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma and Farm City: Education from an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. At this time sustainability was starting to become a popular buzzword and I wanted to learn more about it.
I’m currently enrolled in school at ASU for business with a concentration in sustainability. I am also an intern with both Local First Arizona and Sun Devil Dining Sustainability Team, and I love every day of it. When I start discussing sustainable food in Arizona, with any of my colleagues, no one can help but smile. The possibilities of growth of the local food system in Arizona are enormous and I can't wait to begin implementing solutions. When local food surrounds us it brings joy to people. Have you ever been to a farmers market? The friendly faces of vendors and their love for what they do is outstanding and all they want to do is share this love and joy they feel with you through food. It is a truly amazing feeling.
My goal in life has always been to do something that makes not only me, but everyone around me, happy. Food, specifically local food, has allowed me to achieve that goal. As for my future? I’m hoping to continue educating myself and the people around me, to encourage others to dig deeper into the local food movement. With a small amount of investigation the local food movement will change your life and sharing it with others will bring an unimaginable joy that I can’t wait for you to experience.