I originally began to learn to cook because I realized that I didn’t really know how to cook from scratch. After watching African women begin their day with a trip to the market and continue with cooking over an outdoor stove, I questioned whether throwing a store-bought spice mix into ground meat and rolling it in a tortilla was real cooking. What is in the spice mix? How does one make a tortilla? And as I later began to ask: Where did the meat come from? How was it farmed? Were the workers who helped to bring the meat to my table treated fairly?
I also began to project qualities onto the African women who cooked daily. Industrious. Resourceful. Caring. Intelligent. I wanted to be like them.
Thus, began my cooking education. I started with tacos once I returned from Africa focusing on the tortillas. Realizing how simple they are to make and how much more tasty they are when made from scratch, I was hooked. I began to aim to make as much from scratch as possible, preferring to dissect each of my favorite foods down to its basic elements. I soon realized that knowing exactly what is in my food is quite also empowering. I have much more control over my health when I don’t have to read through a codified list of ingredients containing mysterious scientific sounding words.
Because of my own background as a North Dakota farmer’s daughter, I felt particularly drawn to the art of preserving the produce from a year’s harvest. Though I now live in Oregon, I began visiting U-pick fields with my friends to pick berries to make jam, and we even harvested fruit from the overgrown, neglected pear tree in our backyard and canned our day’s work. It just seemed a shame to let the fruit go to waste when there are people who are starving around the world.