Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Saturday August 04, 2012

Storytelling Saturdays:
Heirloom Meals: using food to teach us about life by Rebecca Narum

I’ve had the opportunity to write on Heirloom Meals’ blog twice during my time at Boulder Wood Farm, and as my summer comes to an end I get one more opportunity to share my thoughts, experiences, etc. about food and life.  In previous posts I shared about my future—the essentials to my “some-day” kitchen; my past—the food experiences I had while living in Spain for the year; and now I am going to focus on the present—my summer working for Heirloom Meals.  What I have learned and received from this summer was unforeseeable but not surprising.  I showed up June 16th.  I was the last of the interns to arrive and now I am the last to leave. 

When I arrived I wasn’t exactly sure what to think or expect.  Although I had been abroad for a year and struggled to leave my family after only a couple weeks at home, I was ready to embark on a new adventure and I was excited to see what I would learn.  I was drawn to Heirloom Meals by its connection between food and culture, two of my passions.  However, I did not expect the genuine, authenticity and love that flows from both Boulder Wood Farm and Heirloom Meals.  These are the foundations of Heirloom Meals, which is why it is so special and has taught me so much about myself. 

This summer I was helping Carole to put together a Heirloom Meals cookbook proposal.  In doing so I got to read through many different people’s stories and recipes.  I have always loved hearing about other people’s lives and cultures because people’s stories can teach us so much about ourselves.  But, I did not expect to be so touched by my own family’s stories.  I was able to read through the submissions of my family’s traditional recipes and hear my family’s thoughts about them.  It reminded me how much I appreciate my own family’s traditions.  I am so intrigued by other cultures and learning from people who are different from me that I often overlook my own family’s uniqueness.  As great as it is to go out and explore the world, sometimes it is what is right under your nose that means the most.  I’ve been reminded of how important and special the simple things are in life and I have realized how important it is for me to maintain them and not get side-tracked by our big and extravagant world. 

This leads me to the second realization I made here at Heirloom Meals.  Success is defined in more than one way and I shouldn’t let myself be locked inside the ‘boxes’ society creates for us.  Heirloom Meals was founded by the conjoining of Carole’s passions for food and family and her inventive business background.  Being a young women about to graduate college I am beginning to seriously think about what path I want to take next in my life.  I have always struggled with this decision (as do most people), but I find myself limbo-ing between the different clear-cut ‘boxes’ in society, not wanting to leave any of them nor be fully submerge in one of them.  The idea of leaving college is exciting but also a little scary and stressful.  Working at Heirloom Meals has encouraged me to not put aside my passions and personal interests for success by societal standards as I move forward. 

I have such high admiration for Heirloom Meals because it is so real and shares the uniqueness found in our society.  It has been refreshing and eye opening to work for an organization that focuses on food, family, relationships and stories, and that reminds us of their importance.  I have been reminded of why I appreciate my family so much and how my past has shaped what I am passionate about now.  I have always loved to cook but never thought about how I might apply this to my intellectual interests for a job.  I don’t know if food is in my future career path or not, but this experience has given me hope that I will find a future path which combine my different interests!

Saturday July 28, 2012

Storytelling Saturdays:
A Savory Summer at Heirloom Meals

Hi my name is Mia Moorehead and I am an intern with Heirloom Meals and here is my story about this summer:

 

I arrived at Boulderwood farm in Stockbridge, MA, on June 3, 2012, unsure of what to expect for the next eight weeks. I admit coming from a grueling and busy semester at Smith College, I was more than excited to be in the foothills of the Berkshires for the summer. Driving down road and taking in the scenery, put me at ease for what would become my home for the next two months. Before I knew it, it was Monday morning my first day!

As I was settling into the workspace, I would soon begin a task that would push me. That task was to help Carole manage her online presence in the emerging social media atmosphere. It is actually trickier than I thought and encompasses a deeper thought process I had ever experienced. All in all we pressed on and even enrolled in a boot camp online-course to learn from the “experts”. As the course continued I would learn the importance of being authentic and believing in an important cause. There were many days where we felt like we weren’t making progress, and it was in these moments that we made the decision to honor the values of Heirloom Meals. So we decided to embrace social media while exploring love and kindness. Through trial and error we would learn that our authenticity as individuals outweighed the fast changing social media world.

Aside from updating the online world with Heirloom Meals, I was able to get back in the kitchen. In fact, my interest in Heirloom Meals was sparked because I learned at an early age my way around my Gigi’s kitchen. I was able to relive some of my most memorable memories in the kitchen, truly makes my soul smile. I know my Gigi would be proud of me. There was a day when I made lunch for the Heirloom Meals headquarters and I made one of my favorite recipes growing up, Okra Gumbo and Hot Water Cornbread. It was such a powerful moment for me to have made something that connected me with someone I miss more than anything. And in the moment there were tears in my eyes, but on the inside I was smiling because I was doing something I love.

About eight weeks ago, I would not have imagined that I would have learned so much about myself. I had formulated a recipe for how things would go for me. To my surprise it changed my perception of how I view myself. For one, I prefer contact with human beings and I love sharing. I learned how to share with everyone my happiness through cooking, and plan on being a success. For me that means I will continue to relish my upbringing until it translates into becoming a businesswoman, remaining true to myself. This will forever be known as my Savory Summer at Heirloom Meals, because through the bonds I formed I was able to get back into tune with Mia.

 

Wednesday July 11, 2012

Storytelling Saturdays:
Considering Cravings (by Michelle Anderer)

This week, Carole has asked me to consider the foods that I crave most on returning home to my small mining town, Copperton, in southwestern Utah.

I pondered this a while, as my tastes from early childhood have considerably changed with the exposure to new foods and a stronger sense of where my meals originate and are processed from.  As a result, grape juice from concentrate, frozen French fries, and pancakes from quick mixes are now off the list. Regardless of this, I still have a weakness for Kozy Shak’s Tapioca pudding cups and beg my mother profusely to buy them before I return home, so that they are waiting for me in the morning. 

My grandmother never cooked more than the odd dry chicken or ham for the holidays when my mom was a kid, so she tells me. Her expertise lay in the sugary confectionary of candies and sweets, which were about the only homemade things that my mom could ever recall her making, to this day. In hindsight to this, my mother has come considerably far in her own meal-making, and there are several, relatively homemade dishes that I find instant comfort and inner peace with as soon as I smell them. Her famous chicken Coq a Vin, for one.

My mother’s job keeps her away from the house most of the day on weekdays and is thus a big fan of the bag-freeze method of making meals that are time consuming. She will often devote an entire day to making the Coq a Vin, cooking it slowly in a huge soup pot for hours, adding in a touch of this and that for seasoning, sticking her wooden spoon in every so often to balance the flavors. Once the chicken is finally cooked, the meat is practically falling off of the bone and is infused with the delicious broth from the pot. Quick as anything, she will lay out handfuls of plastic zip lock bags onto the counter and ladle portions of Coq a Vin into each bag, carefully labeling each bag in black sharpie. Then off to the big freezer downstairs they go, to be slowly consumed over the next few months at the family’s leisure. For me, there is nothing more comforting than coming home for lunch and getting into one of those freezer bags. Even the defrosting part in the microwave is a kind of food ritual in our house. And the Coq a Vin? To die for.

Since coming to Smith College and getting absorbed by Carole’s own food process, I’ve come to appreciate the difference between canned vs. locally grown produce, plantation beef vs. grass fed, and admit that the homemade tapioca pudding that we made several weeks ago, seriously trumps my treasured Kozy Shack cups. I see this as a positive thing, as I am likely to make more meaningful decisions regarding food when I return home in the future, bringing with me the recipes and cooking skills that I have developed over the summer at Heirloom Meals headquarters. I plan to make some killer batches of tapioca, canning them in the fridge for months of enjoyment in the traditional family way. More importantly, it will be my way of giving back to my mother, of saying, “thanks for the home cookin'.”

Friday July 06, 2012

Storytelling Saturdays:
What Spain taught me about food (by Rebecca Narum)

“Come y bebe, que la vida es breve" ...my madre española, or Spanish host-mom, used to say this phrase to me as we would sit down to eat.  Translated it means “eat and drink because life is short”.  I was fortunate enough this last year to spend nine months living and studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain.  As you can imagine, it was an amazing and life-changing experience.  I could go on-and-on about Spain and its interesting history, unique culture and amazing food!  Spain is somewhat of a “hidden treasure”.  Most people seem to pass over it during their travels and only in recent years has it started to gain recognition.  However, after having lived there I have learned how vigorously Spain maintains and treasures its traditions and culture.  Ironically, or tastefully in my opinion, many of Spain’s traditions revolve around food.  To begin with you have the traditional paella; historically a workman’s meal that is eaten year round and continues to appear at every town’s Fiesta Mayor (Major Festival). When made for these festivals it is large enough to feed thousands of people!  Beyond the Paella, Spain is well-known for its Sangria and Tapas dinner (an appetizer-style dinner).  And finally each holiday has some kind of traditional food to go along with it.  The Spanish are fond of food and love to dine-out with friends.  Nevertheless, some of my greatest food memories were at home around the table of my madre española

 

(A traditional Spanish meal my madre española made.)

Spain’s food scene is uniquely diverse.  Each region has its own specialties.  Living in Barcelona I was in the providence of Cataluña, a politically and culturally unique area from the rest of Spain.  However, my padres (Spanish host-parents) were from Valencia and so I got to see a unique blend of the Spanish food traditions.  From the time I arrived my madre introduced me to a plentiful array of Spanish food and eventually let me assist her in the kitchen (a rare occurrence by a Spanish madre).  The kitchen was my madre’s domain and it was how she showed her love and affection for those closest to her.  It was over the food that I bonded with her.  I spent many days sitting on a little stole in the kitchen watching her cook and talking with her.  She loved food and was particularly appreciated really good, fresh pan (bread) doused with good Spanish olive oil.  Almost every morning she would wake-up and go down the street to retrieve freshly baked pan.  Greeting people along the way she had been going to the same bakery for the past 30 years and the family considered her a friend.  Some mornings she would come home with a surprise croissant for me.  I am convinced that Cataluña has better chocolate croissants than France.  You may hesitate to agree but Cataluña is known for its bakeries and I could not stay out of them!

One of my favorite things about the Spanish cuisine is the freshness of the food.  Each neighborhood has their own Mercado (Market) heaping with fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat.  During our trips to the Mercado my madre taught me the best tomato is always the heaviest one because they have the most “meat” to them.  The Mercado was a meeting place; everyone knew each other and in addition to the food stands there was a bar where people would grab lunch or coffee after their shopping trip.  My madre was an amazing cook but the fresh foods only made it better.  Often while I sat in the kitchen watching her cook she would come up to me, place a tomato below my nose and tell me to smell its freshness.  As I sit here trying to think of my favorite dishes my madre would make I think of the traditional Spanish flavors such as garlic, olive oil, chorizo, rice, onions, seafood, etc.  The Spanish flavors remain a prominent memory in my mouth but it was the approach my padres (host-parents) and other Spaniards have towards food that I’ll carry with me.

Fruit at one of Barcelona 
Mercados 

(Fresh fruit at one of Barcelona's Mercados)

I would frequently come home between classes to sit down and eat lunch with my padres.  This is a common practice in Spain and children still make their way home from school to eat lunch with their families.  While in Spain I learned how to slow down and appreciate the simple things.  For the Spaniards, sitting down to a meal or having something to eat is not just another check on their ‘to-do’ list but is something to enjoy.  I’ve make a pact with myself that as I return to Smith College this coming year I will make an effort to sit down for lunch with friends as often as possible.  I want to take that little extra time to enjoy the food and the people instead of racing off to complete the things on my checklist.  

As I finish up this blog post I must admit that I have only brushed the surface of Spanish food and its culture.  If I had more space I would talk about their unique summer dishes such as gazpacho or jamón iberico with melon.  I would share the uniqueness of the Catalan pastries in their bakeries and the sweets they made for different holidays.  There are also fun, little stories behind different dishes and Spain is brimming with freshly cultivated foods.  The more I learned about Spanish food while I was abroad the more I wanted to know, and the more I realized how connected food is to culture.  So much of understanding the Spanish culture is understanding  the food and the customs around it.  For the Spanish, food is connected to tradition, history, family and friends and it is an experience that should be enjoyed everyday.  As my madre would say, “Come y bebe, que la vida es breve”.  After hearing this for nine months I don’t think I can approach food in any other way!

 

 

(My madre and I when I showed her my family's apple pie recipe)

 

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