April 7, 2008 — Last Thursday I attended the FSEP conference at the Motherhouse in Monroe, a beautiful brick and Pewabic tile, light-filled, sprawling Catholic hub with an organic garden on premises and the spirit of the local food movement embedded in the walls.

I learned hopeful things, like the Detroit Garden Resource Program Collaborative, and its 220 families, 20 schools, 115 communities planting new life in the city’s 27% of land that stands vacant.

A few months ago, my father drove me through his old neighborhoods to show me the places where he grew up. Two of his three childhood houses are still standing, but one is not. Where my father slept, ate my grandmother’s tuna-on-toast sandwiches, and from which door he sprung to collect my grandfather from the pool hall on the corner, that roost is now an empty square of green, grasses long and bowing to the wind.

I drank creamy milk from Calder Dairy and learned about food entrepreneurs who build their businesses by establishing relationships. The overarching message was that the growth and distribution of local food depends upon personal satisfaction – of the growers, tending their crops, and of the consumers, who not only want to support efforts at home-grown agriculture, they want to taste the multi-faceted flavors and textures of food grown close to home.

And then today, in my email inbox was Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s new missive, “How to Eat Supper.” A spinoff of her new book (which I haven’t read yet), she talks about how Dressing-in-a-Bowl Salad can be an entire supper, a full meal touching on all of the above – texture, flavor, color, and taste – to reach the ultimate combination of consumption, personal satisfaction, instant gratification, satiation.

I started cooking after college out of necessity, but I grew to love it because it was the only thing in my busy New York City life that I couldn’t rush through. I am an impatient soul, desperate to taste every detail of this quick life. But if a chicken breast must bake for an hour, it must bake for an hour. Take it out too soon, and you have an upset stomach; too late, a piece of charcoal.

I also love the way I can create something from individual ingredients, and it is beautiful. I tell my children that we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths. But what I love most about cooking is not the way my hands feel in the bread dough (warm, soft, the elastic pull as it bounces back, the reassuring smell of yeast, flour specks on my shirt).

I love that I can create something in a fairly short period of time and watch people that I love enjoy it, savor its tingly tastes, and sit back in their chairs when they are done, happy, smiling, full.

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