I’m sure we have all had what Good Eats’ Alton Brown calls “chicken moments” at one time or another. During the Food Network star’s recent Grist interview about sustainability and cooking, Brown talks about his commitment to what we at Farm Aid like to call The Good Food Movement. During the interview, Brown recounts his daughter’s big “ah-ha” – that oh-so-impressionable moment when she first grasped the concept of farm-to-table over a plate of roasted chicken. Whether we recognize them as chicken moments or not, there are times when food simply surprises us – and, if we are lucky, teaches us a few things.
Mine wasn’t so much a chicken moment but a tomato epiphany. It was a gloomy, mid-January day when I bit into a tough-skinned, mealy excuse for a tomato. I was twelve or thirteen. Moments before I had outright begged for this tomato in the grocery store, even though I felt somewhat suspicious of its pinkish hue. The realization that this tomato DID NOT taste anything like the succulent, juicy sort I had fallen in love with the summer before, fresh-picked from my mom’s garden or my Grandpa Pete’s farm, changed my relationship with food forever. I was convinced that I loved anything and everything about tomatoes – I even ate them like apples, letting the juice drip down my chin to my toes – but man alive, I hated this one! It was at that moment the concept of seasonality hit me upside the head. As did some grander impression of a food system, an understanding that the route from tomato plant to my mouth wasn’t always so delightfully short (and sweet) as plucking the plumpest fruit I could find from the backyard vine.
I love how Brown stresses the importance of such moments in connecting us as eaters to the people and land that make farm-fresh food possible in the first place. I agree with Brown that our collective taste buds are at risk if we don’t whole-heartedly invest in a sustainable, community-based food system soon – not to mention the livelihoods of our family farmers and fertility of our fields. And so I find myself at Farm Aid, newly on-board as Program Associate, eager to keep spreading the good word about Good Food, and hopeful, that by doing so, many of the “chicken moments” and “tomato epiphanies” out there waiting to happen will have a fair shot at making a difference.