Essay Contest Runner-up: Call Me a Food Snob by Patricia Hawley

25 Jul

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

Call me a food snob. Say that I have a refined palate. But growing up in the 1970s I was most often called “picky eater.” There was no convincing me that the engineered taste of Tang even remotely resembled fresh-squeezed orange juice. Astronauts be damned! Steaming bowls of reconstituted potato flakes routinely stood in for the real thing; I turned my nose up at those too. Typical dinner fare for the times but odd when you consider that I grew up in a small city surrounded by a checkerboard of farmland. And not just any farmland. Muckland. Rich, composty, black-as-night muck that grew some mighty fine onions and POTATOES! Seriously. We took field trips to those farms. A few dozen fourth graders piled in a rickety school bus traveled 12 minutes north in an effort to learn that ‘taters weren’t just for “tots.”

But as a kid, you eat what you’re fed and I managed to find some palatable options. Cool whip was a favorite. Ditto Manwich. It wasn’t until a brush with food allergies in early adulthood that I had to rethink my diet. A few viral videos later (thank you Food, Inc.) and the transition was complete. I was determined to eat whole, fresh foods (nothing canned, bagged, or boxed) that were in-season, local, and organic. I felt better, I looked better, and I was able to file my food intolerances away next to my Elton John albums.

Patricia and Ted Hawley own New York Craft Malt, LLC. They malt grains that are grown within 15 miles of their malthouse for the microbrew industry.

Patricia and Ted Hawley own New York Craft Malt, LLC. They malt grains that are grown within 15 miles of their malthouse for the microbrew industry.

Like a pack-a-day smoker who quits cold turkey and lives to tell the tale, I became “that person”. You know the one – the food police: “You’re going to EAT that? Do you know what’s IN that?” Until it hit me. Everyone, on some level, wants to do the right thing. They want to eat healthy foods. They want to support local agriculture and sustain their community. But they don’t need me, or anyone else, demanding penance for their food sins. They need, instead, an advocate. So, I write to my legislators asking them to say “No” to GMOs. (Yeah I actually follow those email links asking me to sign online petitions!) I shop at road-side stands. I worked with a local farmers market to create a cookbook with hundreds of recipes using local ingredients. I mean, kohlrabi is just a weird looking root unless you know what to do with it! I talk to farmers. I pick their brains. I want to know everything about that blueberry – from soil conditions and varietals to the name of the 16-year-old niece who picked it! Because we have to put more than a human face to the locavore movement. We have to convince others that selecting that carrot at the green market whose silt stubbornly clings to its roots – the same dirt that’s under the fingernails of the farmer who sold it to you – is not only a noble pursuit but is undeniably sexy! And we won’t get there by bullying or scare tactics. We’ll get there by knowing better.

About the author: Patricia Hawley is the co-owner of New York Craft Malt, LLC, a malthouse that focuses on small batch, artisanal malts for the microbrew industry. Patricia previously owned Fountain of Youth Organics in Brockport, NY and still sells online at foyorganics.com.

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