I was not always a foodie, however. I grew up on a diet of meat and potatoes, refusing to try anything green, spicy or ethnic. Seriously, as a kid, eating a taco was a very big deal. It really was not until six or seven years ago that I began experimenting with my taste palate and discovered my love for Indian food, sushi, spinach, mushrooms and various produce.
Then, four years ago, after much research and thought, I decided to go vegetarian, which forced me to look into new protein sources; thus opening my eyes to the world of beans, tofu, tempeh and nuts! I had to find a new way to make a “go-to” meal upon arriving home from a ten to twelve hour day of organizing (this time period was during my Union organizing days!) that replaced my frozen chicken breast on the George Foreman grill with something else just as protein-rich and filling. I would peruse various cookbooks, complete online recipe searches, and wander the aisles of Horrock’s looking for new items to try and new ways to combine some of my favorite foods to create a meal with extraordinary flavors- meals that would not only fuel my body but bring enjoyment while eating. I started to host dinner parties to test out some of my new culinary creations and began to appreciate the dishes I ordered at restaurants more than I had when I was ordering the standard cheeseburger at the nearby chain.
I learned that I love to try new foods, experiment with different ways to prepare my favorite food choices, and dine out. I just so happen to think that there is not a more intimate way to bond with friends and/or a partner than cooking a meal together, then enjoying said meal in amazing company. I began to look into where my food was coming from and the impact it has on not only my body, but my community. This led me to trying to grow my own veggies in Anika’s garden last summer and spend a lot of time learning about where my food comes from at each restaurant I choose to patronize.
For all of these reasons, I decided to register for Lansing’s third annual local food system conference, “Everybody Eats: Cultivating Food Democracy”. This conference builds on earlier local food system conferences and will bring people together to explore opportunities for optimizing local resources, supporting local farmers and businesses, addressing health, hunger and food sovereignty issues in our community.
The overall theme of this year’s conference is food democracy. According to the conference press release,
This is a topic of critical importance to all citizens including our elected officials, our health policy teams, and our area businesses. As interests and approaches to food and farming proliferate, there is a need to take stock of the process and to critically reflect on what has been happening, individually and collectively. Has it been an inclusive process? Are all the voices within the food system being heard? Can people throughout the food system make a decent living? In short, are we moving toward greater self-reliance and deeper food security – and what do such things look like? These are among the topics that will be discussed.
There is so much that goes into a meal, besides the preparation on our part. As I mentioned in a previous post, in terms of creating a sustainable community, it is increasingly important not to rely on large corporation-run farms (agri-business) to genetically modify our produce, while using cheap labor to do the harvesting, then ship the product across the country (and sometimes world!) so that we can then make dinner. We often feel like we do not have a say in how this all goes down, but attending a conference like “Everybody Eats” gives us a chance to not only learn first hand about many of these issues, but educate ourselves on many other components of “food democracy.”
As the conference planners boast, this conference is not just for growers, restaurateurs, cooks, grocers, processors, distributors, emergency food providers, and institutional food preparers, but for interested citizens as well, because let’s face it, everybody eats. And because we all eat, we should all have a chance to be included in the process of where our food is coming from, how it is being farmed, and how that effects us- as individuals and as a community.
I encourage you all to join me the weekend of February 10th at this one of a kind conference! With a free keynote on Friday night and a $15 registration fee for the Saturday workshops- lunch included!-you are getting a lot for your money! Look to the details below and consider it!
Title: Everybody Eats: Cultivating Food Democracy
Date: Friday, February 10th-Saturday, February 11th, 2012.
Location: Pattengill Middle School, 626 Marshall St., Lansing, Michigan.
Registration: Friday’s keynote speaker, Katherine Kelly, founder and Executive Director of Cultivate Kansas City is free, Saturday’s workshops are $15, lunch included. Register online at: http://www.every-body-eats.com/
Some sessions include: “Local Fair Trade”, “Democratizing Drinks: Who Owns Our Beverages?”, “Finding Your Niche in Your Local Food System”, “Increasing inclusion in urban gardening”, “The 2012 Farm Bill and how it affects eaters and farmers alike”, and a yoga session from Belinda at Just B, with some ideas for how to tie that into the the greater food system.
I hope to see you there, #lovelansing!