When you choose ingredients or recipes to cook, do you ever realize that sometimes you are trying to recreate flavors of your childhood?
Somerset Charter School in Las Vegas is doing their part to create food memories for their students. As I cook for adults and have conversations about the food they are eating, I can't count how many times I hear stories of their childhood. Sometimes, the stories are about their grandparents or parents garden or specific tree or small orchard they grew up next to. It's amazing to me how it's the recipes with such simple ingredients that spark those memories. It's a very intimate conversation between a Chef and diner to hear how food influenced their lives. It's an even deeper emotional feeling to be a Chef that creates those memories.
It's usual the flavors of organic food, in my experience, that are the triggers for such stories. Not only is it the flavor, but the textures and juices of the fruits as they pour out as you take that first bite. I can see the story in their eyes and the expression on their face before even a word or a mumble of words has a chance to come out.
I can remember as a kid that every year in the back yard my parents would plant a small garden near the woods line of our 1 acre rural property in Connecticut. I would help my dad hammer stakes into the ground to hold up the chicken wire fence to keep the animals out. There weren't any elegant animals really. We had some deer but not often. Mostly skunks, opossum, raccoons. Putting up the garden fence was definitely the annual sign that winter was finally coming to an end and spring was coming, so were flies, mosquito, worms and gnats. There are still memories of the garden I can see so vibrantly and smell actually... wet dirt for one, the buzzing of flies circling the plants, the smell of the sticky tomato and cucumber vines and something we often don't experience, but the feeling of the prickly cucumbers. Commercial farming completely removes us from experiencing all of this. When was the last time we had salad that was never refrigerated? We would just make sure it was rinsed off in the kitchen sink, chopped up and served in abundance.
If every child was able to plant the seeds of the produce they ate, I wonder what our diets would really look like. Would we still prefer to wait in line at the drive through? Would the rotating plate in the microwave still have more miles on it than our pots and pans? Would we even question why organic produce is more expensive than conventional or would we question why conventional produce is even a thing?
We don't all live on farms or have a yard for a garden, I get it, I really do. We can have indoor plants though, we can have this experience on some level no matter how large or small.
Somerset Charter School is doing something this year that kids may not realize is so amazing until years and years down the road. One day, they will come across a fruit or vegetable that tastes and smells just like the ones they grew at school and they will share that unforgettable story with everyone at their table as if that food was invented in their own personal garden.