Seasonal Recipes. Local Flavors. Sustainable Ingredients.
I’ve been curious about food since I was a small child. We grew up with many Aunts & Uncles. My mother had twelve siblings and there were five in my father’s family. Needless to say, there were many cousins and a lot of food at our family parties. But my inspiration for cooking didn’t come initially from my family. Growing up, both of my parents worked full-time and my sister and I had a sitter each day who immigrated from Holland. I remember going out to her garden to pick fresh vegetables and learning how pull the strings on green beans and snap the ends off before we cooked them in a big pot. Like us, she lived in a small row home in Baltimore with a tiny back yard and a sidewalk in the front. There didn’t seem to be any room for grass as the back yard was a mass planting of vegetables and amazing flowers. Her love of the garden was evident, and as I look back, there was a gentle rhythm and structure to each day, year after year. Her ability to inspire me to learn about new foods is what stuck with me through the years.
As I got a little older, I started hanging out with my Grandmother in her kitchen. I’m pretty sure my parents saw this as a double-edged sword. I was out of their hair for a few hours, asking someone else a million questions, but I learned a lot of colorful language during those visits. Grandmom didn’t measure anything when we cooked together either, which is probably why I don’t remember ever seeing her scratch bake. And I can’t remember her ever putting a recipe to paper. She would just hold out her hand, approximate a measurement, and throw things into a pot from memory, all the while, stopping to feed peanuts to the squirrel that came to sit by the kitchen window. Once, when I asked her for a recipe, she told me to come over and cook with her. What this meant was that I was to write what she did and how much she used as we made the dish. This is how I started collecting and developing my own recipes as a young teenager. It’s also why I constantly ‘revise’ recipes. I took up a habit of writing notes on the pages of my cookbooks years ago to compliment the stains from testing recipes. In the last few years, at the urging of my children, I began keeping food journals instead. The written logs allow me to go back and make changes to recipes season after season.
My conversion to ‘clean’ food has evolved over more than twenty years. It began after reading a book by the famed doctors/researchers/authors Francine & Harold Prince titled ‘Feed Your Kids Bright’ which discusses the link between food and early childhood brain development and the chemical processes that happen as our bodies use the nutrients in our food. The journey began quite simply as a way to feed my kids without highly processed convenience food and loads of sugar that seem to permeate our culture. Like anyone starting down this path, time management and a curious nature are both important to the process.
Learning about food takes a bit of effort and the knowledge doesn’t come all at once. More importantly, you shouldn’t feel rushed or pushed into it. I hope that you will take what works for you from the recipes I’ve developed and adapt them to most closely fit your needs. My strategy has been to give up unhealthy foods as I find replacements that I enjoy more, so it never feels like I’ve lost anything, only that I have gained something better. Adapting recipes to fit seasonal changes, dietary restrictions and nutritional challenges becomes easier the longer you’re at it so go at your own pace. There’s no quiz at the end.
Tarheel Foodie is all about creating wholesome recipes from sustainable farm and garden ingredients that preserve the environment and minimize waste from seed to compost. Yes, you will find some sweets in the mix. Life is about balance. My goal is to create a curiosity in you that sends you out to forage wild berries, discover your ability to grow herbs, or learn to preserve seasonal foods to use throughout the year. Hopefully you’ll be able to pass along any knowledge you gain when you cook and eat with family and friends.
Get out and visit your local farms and community markets. Get to know the farmers and understand the work they put into growing the food you see each week in your CSA box or at their market booth. There are many opportunities to help plant and harvest at local farms. If you enjoy eating out, many chefs across the country today use local farm foods and welcome the opportunity to share their cooking knowledge with customers through classes and market demonstrations and even email! I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve had a wonderful meal and called or sent a quick written note to thank the chef and staff only to get a reply back from the chef and a bit of knowledge on the preparation techniques they used for a particular dish.
During the process of re-making recipes to work with local farm ingredients over the last decade, I’ve learned that it is possible to incorporate more than 80% sustainable products into a healthy diet with some effort put into scheduling time to shop and ‘put up’ food from different seasons. North Carolina has many agricultural communities throughout the state with growing distribution through farmers’ markets, mobile markets, restaurant pick-up markets, and farm to home delivery services. Using any one of these services allows more money to remain in our local economy and encourages growth of small farms and small business, so I encourage using the services if you are unable to schedule time to visit a local market or community garden.
With a formal education in Environmental Design from NCSU and a few courses in Urban Planning at another large university up north, my foundation is rooted in sustainable practices. Rethinking processes and experimentation is a part of my curious nature. Cooking provides me with a near-perfect outlet to play with color, texture, taste, smell and presentation. I hope you enjoy what I’ve created and I look forward to seeing what you do with the information and your own creative hand.
For additional ideas on everything from gardening, chickens, vintage china, recipes ideas and composting, check out Tarheel Foodie on Pinterest. You can pick just the boards you are interested in following and suggest one if it isn’t already there.
If you prefer Twitter, the ‘tarheel_foodie’ postings include articles related to sustainable practices, upcoming farming & market events along with quick photos of daily food tests.
Facebook is currently used for highlights from farmers’ markets’ and daily recipe ideas or links to the website for complete recipes.
Please direct any questions regarding recipes, partner relationships, organization sponsorship, cooking contests, advertising or featuring Tarheel Foodie at a local cooking demonstration, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recipes and photographs on the website are my own, unless otherwise noted. Please give credit appropriately if you choose to link or use a recipe or photograph. Many thanks in advance for your continued support,
Susan Walter Sink