Last year I tackled a 100-day project titled #100daysofminnesotafood. At that time I had invested in the iPad Pro, an apple pencil, and a digital illustration app called Procreate. I thought it would be a great opportunity to commit to play and exploration. From the very beginning it was clear that this subject matter would be capable of sustaining my interest and motivation for a long time! The project was so much fun and I started thinking about how I could create something larger with the sum of its parts. The result: a new boldly colored print pictured above.
Minnesota has an incredibly rich local food scene which may be surprising to some given our long winters and harsh climate. Over the past few years I have become increasingly passionate about the power that our consumer food choices (we all have to eat!) can have to positively impact the local community and our beautiful Mother Earth. In another's words:
"[Eating] is . . . an ecological act . . . and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world - and what is to become of it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction." - Michael Pollen (The Omnivore's Dilemma)
As with any new endeavor, education it the first stepping stone. Each day of the project I took time to learn about a specific variety of Minnesota produce or a local eatery. A few fun facts that I learned:
The University of Minnesota has been researching apples for over 150 years. They developed the Honeycrisp apple which is also the state fruit.
Raspberries are part of the rose family.
Wild Rice (a Minnesota staple) is the only cereal grain native to North America
So many culinary vegetables are actually botanical fruits: zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and avocados (who knew?!).
Orange and red bell peppers are just ripened versions of green ones (I think I may be one of the last to realize this, but it blew my mind).
Elderberries are native to Minnesota.
A cob of corn stored for just 6 hours at room temperature loses 40% of its sugar content.
Minnesota is home to 5,000 kinds of mushrooms with hundreds of edible varieties
Sharing lovingly prepared food with family and friends has been a staple of my entire thirty plus years (thanks Mom!). I have been a vegetarian for more than ten. The past three years I have been asking more and more questions about the impact that my food choices have on the world: Does it really matter? Are my weekly groceries too small to make a difference? Is it worth pinching my pennies to afford locally produced food? I have come to strongly believe that as consumers we hold the power to encourage change within our food production systems. There are so many benefits of committing to the intention to incorporate more locally produced foods into your weekly grocery routine:
Educating yourself on the origin of the food you consume creates a mindful connection between your body and the literal fuel that allows you to enjoy each beautiful day. It also nourishes community by drawing a line from you to the source - the humans who grow the food you eat.
Investing in local food supports the local economy and helps to keep these producers in business.
Buying local reduces the impact of harmful emissions when food travels shorter distances to your table
It tastes delicious! The fresher the food, the better it tastes! Who can argue with that?
A few local highlights that are often found in my fridge/pantry:
I have also been deeply inspired by local author and chef Beth Dooley's book In Winter's Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland, the documentary film Sustainable, and Michael Pollen's The Botany of Desire. Most recently I finished reading Eat for the Planet: Saving the World One Bite at a Time which is an informative break down of how the food you eat impacts the Earth (with an emphasis on industrial agriculture/the meat and dairy industries). I am always interested in learning more about food, it's origins, creative uses, and political implications so if you have any book or film recommendations please do send them my way!
Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires you to start thinking about the power of food (in Minnesota or wherever you live)!