Beans and Greens

Last night for dinner I had a delicious mediterranean-inspired meal that filled my tummy and lifted my spirits. It was a simple dish of roast eggplant and tomato with cannelini beans. I stirred a little saffron into the pan juices, which I mopped up with garlic oregano biscuits. While I munched, I thought of where the food came from.

The cannelini beans were from Sun Coast Farms in Lompoc. The tomatoes were from Finley Farms in Ventura. The eggplants were from my garden, along with the chile and the fresh oregano in the biscuits. The garlic is from a family farm out toward the windmills, where chickens peck in the orchards and the farmer’s sons bring the produce to market. The staples such as flour and olive oil came from Granny’s Pantry, a local independently owned health food store near my office. The buttermilk in the biscuits I made by adding a squirt of lemon juice from the tree by my back door to some organic milk from Trader Joe’s.

I love being able to trace the food I eat back to its origins. For me that’s part of the experience of cooking and eating. It’s why I prefer eating at home to eating in restaurants or eating take-out.

My husband tells me that not everyone eats this way. And judging from the number of fast-food franchises and mega supermarkets, I guess he’s right.

I started eating this way in Montreal in the 1990s when I was part of a Community Supported Agriculture Project. I paid a yearly fee to Jamie Quinn, an organic farmer in Elgin, Quebec, and he delivered me a box of food each week containing a selection of whatever his farm, La Terre Bleu, was producing. In the winter, the boxes were less frequent and contained what he was able to store—mainly apples, potatoes and carrots. I was forced to learn to cook seasonally, in part because my meager student budget didn’t allow me to buy costly organic produce shipped in from California. And yet my body thrived on a simple diet of beans, grains and vegetables.

I think most people have a yearning to be more connected to their planet and to their food. There are more people at the Hollywood farmers’ market at 8 a.m. on Sunday than there used to be, and they’re not just buying flowers. I can feel a growing movement of people wanting to eat real food, and to be connected to where their food comes from.

Eating a meal like the one I had last night nourishes body, mind and spirit. It’s simple to make and relatively inexpensive. Especially here in southern California with its year-round farmers’ markets and freshly harvested produce, cooking and eating locally-grown seasonal food is a breeze.

After much prompting from people asking me to share more about healthy eating and maintaining a healthy kitchen, I’ve decided to share some of what I’ve learned over my 20 years of buying, cooking and eating whole foods.

I’m doing it as a blog called Joy’s Organic Kitchen. Please check it out, and I hope you enjoy what I have to share. You can post comments and suggestions as you read.

Happy eating!

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