This is part of a series of an alphabet of help for living well, despite everything: G is for Grow.
Do you want to live well? Then grow, despite everything.
Grow something to eat.
- I began by nurturing a pot of basil on my windowsill. Added a pot of rosemary and cilantro. Next, I planted scallions, radishes and leaf lettuce in small patio containers. And flowers for beauty. Then I asked Ken to build a trellis for cucumbers. Eventually we dug up some lawn to make a tiny vegetable garden and planted tomatoes and flowers. More digging to make room for squash and peppers, beets and spinach.
Participate in food production in some small way. Then grow more, whenever it’s reasonable to do so.
Grow kitchen skills: prepare your own food.
- Learn the art of cooking. Then teach someone. No capable body who eats is too privileged or important for the necessary work of food production and preparation. We need to know basic survival skills.
Eating has become a primary form of entertainment in our culture. The calorie-burning work of preparation and clean-up balances the consumption of food.
Grow community: discover where your food comes from.
- Local food is fresher and tastier. Plus, it’s sensible to support our neighbors.
When we know our food-growers we build a relationship, earning a say in what is grown and how.
Grow economic and political influence: buy directly from food producers (farms, orchards, bee-keepers or maple-syrup producers) whenever possible.
- The largest cost-share of processed and manufactured food is not the food, it’s the transport, the processing, the packaging and the advertising; the food producer of mass-consumption food does not make enough money to subsist. This leads to the necessity of government subsidies for food producers, and government policy-making about the kind and amount of food produced. Whether we like it or don’t, whether we’re ignorant or informed, food is political.
If we believe in grass-roots democracy, we should spend our food dollars locally whenever it’s feasible.
Grow knowledge: learn what is added to packaged, processed and restaurant food.
- Are those ingredients actually food? If not, then what are they, and why are they in our food?
Truth is empowering. For health’s sake, let’s know what we’re eating.
Grow consciousness: learn to recognize real food.
- The more deeply we know food, the more deeply we can appreciate its goodness.
- Food consciousness makes us sensitive to the unnatural and unwholesome, enabling us discern between what is authentically good and what is enticing, but harmful.
When we become conscious of our food, we won’t need to read labels to know whether what we’re eating is good for us–we can tell by the taste, smell, texture, and the healthy (or unwell) after-effects of eating.
Authentic growth doesn’t happen overnight. We learn and grow little by little, step by step, continuously throughout our lives. I’m still learning.
49 thoughts on “G is for Grow: living well, despite everything”
There is so much great advice in this, I don’t even know where to begin to praise you for it. I have passed on my cooking skills to Nina, and boy has she learned, grown, and surpassed me with a number of dishes. It is so fulfilling to share what you have, be it skills or goods…and we grow ourselves by sharing. Amazing, isn’t it?
Yes, it Is so amazing–everything about our connection/sharing.
And we’re going to meet (and hug) you both in person soon. I’m counting on it!
We will. ’nuff said. 🙂 Giving you and Ken a virtual hug for now, but we know it will be a real one soon.
I prepare food very simply. Although I have to buy most items at my local grocery stores, I seldom wander into those inner aisles! I also grow a small garden in summer to supply myself with fresh vegetables and a few berries. When I lived in Texas we were able to raise our own beef, poultry and eggs, as well as vegetables. I also lived in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and it struck me as silly and wasteful to NOT grow one’s own food, or at least patronize the local orchards and truck gardens! Two of my children are into gardening and one is also keeping bees! They are all into eating healthfully, reading labels and questioning why so many chemicals are added to the mass-produced foods available. And you are so right about the agricultural subsidies and politicalization (is that a word?) of our food industry! Besides that, it is so satisfying to work outdoors and know that you are building your soil and creating something of value, while listening to the birds sing and enjoying the fragrance of the flowers – why, of course, we have to grow flowers!
Darlene–I’m quite sure we are soul-sisters/kindred spirits. We are so alike.
I’m SO looking forward to seeing you–and hope that will happen soon.
I was really hoping a winter windstorm would knock my neighbor’s tree down so my backyard would have enough sunshine for herbs and veggies but, alas, the tree is still standing. I love your idea of planting in pots on the deck though. I could do that!
Oh, Trisha, I’m LOL. I know what it feels like–(and am currently in the same position) of not being able to have the ideal garden.
Yeah, this year, for us, too, it’s going to be a few plants in pots.
I nodded vigorously while reading this post. I love it Tracy!
I don’t know the keyboard sign for “nodding vigorously” ..
but if I did, I’d be typing it in, right now.! 🙂
Excellent advice and well put. Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? That was a real eye-opener for me, especially about food and the transportation industry. Crazy!
Yes!! And in addition to that particular book having a huge influence on my lifestyle choices, Barabara Kingsolver is my literary hero. I’ve been reading everything she’s ever written, avariciously, since I discovered her first book decades ago. I call her “The Queen of Metaphor.” In her novels her use of metaphor is simply genius!
You and I are even more Kindred Spirits than I first realized (and the first realization was BIG).
Tracy, thank you! I agree. I think we’re drawn to the same thoughtful, reflective writers, because, well, we are thoughtful and reflective, and young and gorgeous for our age!
I love how you introduced so many concepts of growth yet related them all back to food (and us). This was a very very clever post.
Thank you, Elizabeth. I worked on this one for quite some time before it came together…
Now THIS is a great conclusion: “The calorie-burning work of preparation and clean-up balances the consumption of food.” Right on!
It seems so obvious–and yet I never hear anyone talking about it. I think it goes back to the “he who will not work; neither should he eat” philosophy, which just makes good sense.
I did chuckle over the Grass-roots item. It seems so fitting for this great article.
I think the largest contributor to our ‘growing knowledge’ was the development of supermarkets. When there were green-grocers, butchers, bakers etc. even town people had a better idea of the source of what they were eating. I notice the ‘growing’ trend of pre-prepared vegetables and fruits – all requiring excessive handling, packaging, transportation and preservatives. All to save what? 2 minutes of washing and chopping?
Even in areas where green foods can’t be grown for several months we can still move to avoid these over processed foods.
Ooh now I am growing angry!
Good thought provoking start to my day.
I try not to think about all the excessiveness and waste that goes on, because it raises my blood pressure. But I do feel compelled to mention it every once in a while, because I figure if enough of us start taking small action, it can add up to large-scale change. I hope…
A little bit of anger is the energy behind change, right?
You’re so right Tracy, there are many ways that we can incorporate growth into our daily lives. Sometimes as an adult it seems we have to try a little harder since we’re not in school growing and learning every day. This summer Matt and I have a plot in a community garden and we are planning to grow some vegetables. It’s a first for both of us and we’re very excited!
Yea!!!!! If you have any questions, feel free to ask. But you’ll probably be neighbors to some experienced gardeners–and gardeners are by nature generous with their help.
Tips: start small, don’t be overly ambitious. And grow the easiest vegetables, from good, reliable seed and/or nursery plants. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1293
P.S. — that picture? It’s one of my gardens, 2008.
I echo everyone else’s comments. Great, informative, well-written, blog post! Thanks for writing it and inspiring some blog conversation. I have been sprouting green lentils for most of the winter and eating them mixed with other foods, such as brown rice. It is truly amazing to watch their transformation from seed to sprout to photosynthesizing seedling over the course of a few days.
I haven’t tried sprouts–I need to give that a whirl. Thanks for the idea!
One just needs water, a jar (preferably clear glass so that one can marvel at the daily changes), some lentils, and light. After soaking them overnight to get started, all I do is rinse them each morning with fresh water. Within days they are ready, bless them, to be eaten.
Thanks–I’ve got the jar, got the organic lentils. I’m thinking of giving it a try right away. How much light? I have only east-facing windows in the condo I’m living in right now.
Another thought provoking post, Tracy. I don’t grow much in the way of edibles but I do always have fresh basil on the windowsill. I’m a huge fan of tomatoes and there is no better accompaniment.
We eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg here so I think we are pretty well on the way to healthy living. No ready meals for me – although I think my son might succumb when I’m on holiday …
I’m not in a position to grow a garden this year (living in a condo and there aren’t any community gardens nearby)–but, like you, there’s always a pot of basil….
How do you find fresh food during your holiday? I really am not terribly fond anymore, of traveling and eating out, because it’s so difficult to get fresh fruit and vegetables. I’m puzzling over what I’m going to do this summer, as we travel around New England for my book tour….
Oh what a beautiful garden this is Tracy! I used to love growing Morning Glory in my Californian garden, it was prolific, just gorgeous.
I grow tomatoes every year but they never do as well as they did in CA when they were magnificent, and the zucchini too (we call them courgettes here) so we lived on ratatouille!
Now I have my basil, chives, rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme and garden mint just outside my kitchen door in my little kitchen garden, would be lost without it. I do love to garden but we don’t have a veggie patch at the moment, just my shrubs, flowers and trees.
Here in the UK there is a huge push for food to be locally sourced and the menus in restaurants list where the ingredients are from – local butchers, farms, dairies etc. It is so important to know where our food comes from and your excellent post certainly highlights this, thank you.
Have a lovely, restful weekend Tracy 🙂
Wishing you the very best of weekends, too, Sherri. I am scheduling the post to feature you right now (for May 26th).
I’ve always loved gardening, but I can no longer do it on my own. I’m so grateful that Ken is an avid (and strong!) gardener. He did the hard-scaling of this garden (fences, walkways, tilling) plus the shrub planting, and I did the easy part–the selection and the planting of seeds. This was my first experience with Scarlet Runner Beans.
I love that the UK is pushing for locally sourced food. That’s starting here, but I don’t think it’s quite as far along…
Tracy, you “grow” such inspiring and genuine encouragements for me. All of your “grow” list is excellent, but my favorite is “Grow consciousness: learn to recognize real food.” Each effort makes a big difference, and all of your recipes and recommended markets and restaurants move the awareness ahead. Thank you.
It was definitely a process of growth in awareness for me, Marylin. I used to drink diet sodas like crazy, ate mostly processed food (I loved Kraft Mac & Cheese, with that neon orange powdered stuff!). And I was practically addicted to Big Macs.
And it really was a slow process of change over years’ time. Now I no longer crave the overly-processed stuff with multiple chemical additives, and will go out of my way to NOT have to eat it, because eating it makes me feel immediately ill (but that quick reaction is surely a product of my hyper-sensitive central nervous system). In any case,
I don’t want to be a nut, but I do want to help people feel better and be healthier. (I also understand how difficult it is to make lifestyle changes, and have huge compassion for people who don’t have the necessary support to make it happen).
There is so much food wisdom in this post. I totally agree about food consciousness making us discerning about our food choices. And I think that buying directly from producers is such good advice. 😉
I’m wondering whether, for a lot of people, the advice of “experts” about health and nutrition gets so overwhelming and confusing, that they just give up trying to figure out what’s good for us.
I’m all in favor of simplifying it down to “eat consciously.” It’s basic, but very effective.
Several years ago, I studied the labels on the food we bought. One welcome discovery was tomato sauce that was lower in calories, sugar and salt. I admire your many plants. Knowing my ability to kill even cactus plants, however, is the reason why I have – for their sake and mine – sworn off growing any more plants. 😉 We do try to follow a Mediterranean diet which I occasional sabotage by indulging in my love of chocolate. Keep telling ’em, Tracy. Your message is needed.
I agree about reading labels. And every now and then some chocolate (the darker the better for my palate/metabolism/constitution) can be an earthly delight.
With chocolate, “every now and then” is not in my vocabulary. 😉
Reading labels in incredibly self-instructive!
(and not reading them can be self-destructive, in my opinion…)
Trying is all that’s needed, Judy–
even failing to bring plants through the growing season teaches us a deeper respect for the earth, seasons, water, plants, life….
I’m pretty sure a bit of chocolate is in the Mediterranean diet plan. Isn’t it? 😉
Such a beautiful garden, Tracy! I don’t have a garden, but I do purchase locally grown produce.
Living with a chronic disease, I make a conscious effort to eat in order to fuel my body.
I’ve also learned not to trust the label, it doesn’t always reveal what’s really in the product.
You’re right about that, Jill, and it’s scary. I didn’t even want to get into that…
and that’s the reason we make almost all of our food from raw ingredients that we know the exact source of. That’s totally overwhelming for people who are just beginning this journey, and we both love to cook, so it’s okay for us.
But it’s discouraging that manufacturers can, and do, slip junk into our food supply without disclosing it to us.
Oh, I love the ‘alphabet of help for living well’ ! Great post and so neatly written Tracy!
I’ve always been very conscious about making healthy food choices and cultivating a well balanced diet and lifestyle. Most of the time I cook fresh unless I’m booked on a busy schedule but even then I tend to make it as nutritious as possible. I sometimes spend too much time reading labels..I can’t help it, but unless I can understand and pronounce what I’m reading, it usually stays on the shelves. This summer I’m planning to grow a small herbal garden and who knows some other things as well (strawberries, cherry tomatoes) I’m a health and wellness advocate in heart & soul and love to educate people about how to make responsible healthy choices for their bodies..and souls 🙂
We need more people who are educators, Karin, to help others learn about how to nurture their bodies.
Jill and I were discussing the fact that you can’t always entirely trust the labels; they are allowed to sneak in small amounts of certain chemicals and additives (stuff like Propylene Glycol) without telling us. I find it comes down to trusting the integrity of the manufacturer — and learning how to cook and getting fresh food from trustworthy growers.
Cherry tomatoes, strawberries and herbs are very good crops to start growing. And small is definitely the right way to begin. Wishing you the best of luck with your garden!
So much agree on the labeling Tracy. Thx.
Enjoyed the post with great reading material, you are quite creative! I like the different ways things (and we) can grow! Smiles, Robin
You’re a dear. :)’s back to you!
Ahh, thank you for such a wonderful post. I love every single one of your suggestions and have made a conscious effort to cook our food at home, buy organic, unprocessed whole foods and in the process of doing this, my husband and I have found a passion for cooking and enjoying the process. Sure, it’s easier to eat-out, but we now love that we know exactly what goes in our food to nourish our body.