In 2007, when I first got passionate about environmental influences on health and well-being, call it, Lori’s Freak Over All the Crap Out There, I also started cooking.  They go hand-in-hand.  Or fork-in-hand, as the case may be.

As Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, back in the day, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”   If that’s true, then for most of the 90’s I was a mix of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, cup o’ ramen and sugar-free Eskimo Pie.  How did I go from processed princess to someone who knew exactly what to do with kale (and don’t say, throw it out….) Well, it took a little time.  About 2-3 years depending on how you measure the culinary missteps but, heck, no one died!

In my self-made Julia Child-meets-Martha period, I learned how to:

  •  Identify most vegetables at a farmers market.  Bok choy used to panic me, now I look forward to it, oven-roasted with sesame oil and a little soy sauce on a bed of Calrose rice.
  •  Cook almost anything with the simplest ingredients.  If you can find more than a couple of ways to use that exotic spice collection you bought on sale at Costco, knock yourself out!  (I know mine went stale before I could use it up.)
  •  Buy vegetables and fruits when they are cheapest, freshest and most available.  AKA eat seasonally.  I remember the days when I timidly went up to the produce guy at my grocer and asked, what tastes good this week?  Soon I learned that apples are freshest in the fall, asparagus in the spring, berries in the summer and winter squash, well, even I could figure that one out.
  •  Buy or grow the best ingredients you can. It’s the secret to making the tastiest, healthiest meals.

Hmm, buy or grow….let’s try grow (but let’s try small.)  I started by growing my own herbs because every time I wanted fresh cilantro or basil, I either didn’t have some or it had already gone slimy in the fridge.  Dried spices work fine for certain recipes but more and more I appreciated the difference a flourish of chopped greens made.  My first attempts were with small pots but they were tough to keep watered properly.  Many dead plants later, I moved to a single raised planter on the back porch and voila!  Lettuce (easier than you might think) and peas (none at all and then a ton) quickly followed.  This year I’m jumping into tomatoes, potatoes, scallions, shallots, eggplant and cucumber.  Upping the ante will undoubtedly end with some disasters but, as they say in show biz, first-time farmer goes all out, comedy ensues!


Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes