Any time I talk about food memories with my family I can start a 30 second countdown to when someone will bring up my first culinary masterpiece. I was five years old and had asked my mom if I could make a salad to accompany dinner. She courageously agreed and I set to work. When it was done, I proudly placed the mint green Tupperware bowl on the table. In the bowl was my newly invented combination of torn iceberg lettuce, frozen peas and carrots, green olives, black olives, and grated cheddar cheese. All bathed in cups of Ranch dressing. I looked around anxiously; awaiting their feedback. They loved it! They wanted seconds! I was a culinary child prodigy! Much to their credit, I had absolutely no idea that everyone was spitting their salad into their napkins when I wasn’t looking. Nor could I have foreseen the years of comedic material that salad would bring. But in that moment, all that mattered to me was that they liked what I had made. For the first time, I had tasted the joy of food.
Over the years my philosophy about food and eating has evolved. During my junior year in high school my dad was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. That was an emotional heartbreaking journey and three years later it found me wrapping up my first semester in college and realizing I needed to make some big changes.
I had been raised on traditional homemade foods: cheesy casseroles, pot roasts, biscuits, white bread, pies, cakes, cookies. And I ate way too much of all of them. As for my physical activity, I walked to my classes on campus but that was the extent of it. I wanted to live a healthier life. I saw athletic people running around the campus streets and wondered if I could ever be one of them. I wanted to do all I could to avoid terminal disease. But I still wanted to get joy from food and cooking.
For the next 10 years I made little changes day by day. I started running, which in the beginning I thought was going to be the death of me. I began experimenting with new foods and flavor combinations. I got married, finished college, had a baby boy and then three years later had twin girls. Through it all, the day to day changes which were so hard to make in the beginning have stuck and become a part of who I am.
I love food, but I now recognize the broad roles and impacts it has. As a mom, I recognize that helping my children develop well-rounded, healthful appetites will assist their lifelong health. As a woman, I ache to see the struggle many women have to maintain a healthy weight and relationship with food. As our family CFO, I balance our nutrition needs with our bottom line. But through it all, I try to still capture the joy of food I first felt years ago in the kitchen… only without the part where everyone spits their food out.