I have a culinary degree, a sommelier certificate and strive to make everything I consume at home — from homemade butter and Worcestershire sauce to shelf-stable chili, chicken stock and even head cheese. My blog, Backyarditarian, is pretty erratic, moving from the trials and travails of chicken ownership to edible gardening to making lots of homemade booze. I am trying to get a recipe database on the site as well as more extensive posts about home butchering, backyard chickening and, as soon as we can get it together, urban bees and rabbits. My dreams are always bigger than my reality but that never seems to stop me from trying.
I used to think I knew too much about food. Lately, I am realizing that I only know food through one prism — and it’s a narrow one. It’s informed by my now 25-year commitment to sustainably raised food (first, organic, then local, then backyard and homesteady), by years working closely with chefs whose passion for ingredients demanded close relationships with farmers, and by a rather voracious habit of reading the kind of studies, books, articles and blogs that confirm my belief that what is in our food supply ain’t, well, kosher. That said, I am realizing that narrow-mindedness leads to narrow ideas and when it comes to the challenges of our food supply what we need is expansive imaginations. I hope to meet a few in the One Hundred Meals project.
I grew up a picky eater, surviving on peanut butter until a year spent living abroad in high school expanded my food interests. Ok, mussels were still weird, but the emergency stash of peanut butter went largely unused. My growing love of food and cooking combined with my career choice and I became a freelance food photographer based in Chicago, working with chefs in the top restaurants. For years I chased their styles in my own cooking, creating elaborate meals at home and for friends. But as I became exposed to produce from farmers markets and the thinking behind buying local, in-season foods, without packages and from people with names, I realized simpler is better. I find an heirloom tomato slice drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt is so much more nourishing than an overwrought tomato soufflé!
I blog about exploring MyFoodshed, delving into backyard gardening, chickens, small farms and local foods. In the case of 95% of what I eat, I know exactly where it came from, how it grew, how it was raised and by whom. But that is the story of only a tiny (but growing!) fraction of food in our country. We have a complex food system and I look forward to trying to understand more of it on this One Hundred Meals project.
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Ellen and Grant share a backyard urban garden that looks like this: