I was privileged to be born and raised in the south-west of France.
First, there was my loving family. Then, there were the diverse landscapes where each Sunday family outing felt like a brand new adventure: rolling hills covered in orchards and vines; gorgeous gorges that dramatically open up into small cultivated valleys as cute as postcards; rugged plateaus where groves of dwarf green oaks hug tiny pastures. My young brother and I would invent stories of knights and rebels as we roamed through the narrow streets of the old villages, with house stones the color of honey and Romanesque churches that make you feel like your soul stands on foundations at least a thousand years old.
And then, there was the food.
Where I grew up, food was local and free-range because that’s just the way it had always been. Family farms are still growing and raising food in abundance in this region that is especially famous for its fruits, wine and duck delicacies. Back when I was a child, no one advertised or searched for “organic” food: the tomatoes and the peaches were picked ripe a few miles out of town and just tasted incredible. The local butcher would choose the animals himself “on the hoof” at a couple of farms that he had come to trust over the years. Ducks, chickens and even rabbits could be bought live at the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings.
The quality of the ingredients was taken for granted and so it never was a topic of conversation at home. That is not to say that food was never discussed in the house. Quite the opposite: in a family where every meal was prepared from scratch, recipes were discussed and no meal would ever come to an end without the question of the next meal being raised.
The kitchen was truly the heart of the house. However, I didn’t stand at the stove until I grew up to be in my own kitchen. To this day, I can’t help myself: cooking is possibly the best way I know how to tell my friends I love them.
As a student, my cooking skills were limited to what I had witnessed in the family kitchen and were regularly enhanced by parental advice requested and received over the phone. I already loved the experience of planning and creating a meal that would delight my guests. It was never anything fancy, yet even a simple home-cooked meal would typically be a welcome respite from the usual fare of pizzas, sandwiches and canned food that most of my student friends lived on.
And so it was that cooking steadily grew on me.
As a young French woman who had recently arrived in the United-States, I realized that it was not only a delightful hobby but also a therapeutic practice that allowed me to stay firmly connected to my roots.
I had been living in San Francisco for a couple of years when I made a discovery that would change my life forever: FOOD IS MEDICINE. I learned that some foods I love, like bread and dairy products, compromise my vitality. Meanwhile, others like raw vegetables boost my energy. I changed my diet drastically and never looked back.
At the same time, I started paying closer attention to the quality and the origin of the food I buy. I researched the American food industry and realized in a shock that I had been foolish to take the wholesomeness of my food for granted. It dawned on me that while food is medicine, farming is stewardship of the Earth. Or not. After all, farming can be as destructive to the planet as food can be to the body. I realized that the two are deeply connected. That’s when I made a commitment to strive for sourcing ingredients with as much integrity as possible—food that is good for the body and that is produced with no harm to our environment. In the process, I opened a can of worms — daily interrogations that I’m still struggling with more often than not.
We are in charge of our bodies and our health, as well as that of our community and planet. I’m fascinated by how those things are interconnected and am eager to learn more about them every day of my life. In the midst of the current public debate and anxiety about climate change, I am sure of one thing only : change starts on my plate. My food choices are the most tangible and significant contributions I can make to shape the world I live in, including public health, biodiversity conservation and food access.
So here you have it in a nutshell: I’ll come back to this space as often as I’m able and will share with you my excitement, frustrations and surprises with regard to food and farming. We’ll have a LOT to discuss. See you there!