Don’t Be Afraid to Branch Out When Choosing Your Cuisine

Columnist Stephanie Casey
Columnist Stephanie Casey

This year I’ve been getting more inquiries from friends and followers about their own food issues — confiding a dietary struggle or wanting to pay more attention to their food.

But how and where does one start? Can I recommend blogs, websites, books as guides? Should they join Community Supported Agriculture? How about one of the “meals delivered as ingredients with cooking instructions included” services? While those are all awesome resources, my advice is always to get their hands dirty. What I mean is, go to food markets, look, smell, ask. Buy stuff and get in the kitchen.

Something happened to American food culture starting in the 1950s: the advertising of convenience. Companies offering boxed mixes, frozen meals, and fast food began the big sell, teaching that growing food, knowing food, and cooking food was just a plain waste of time, a chore.

I’m here to tell you, it’s not. I’ve come to the belief that, like showering or brushing your teeth, intimate involvement with sustenance should be part of a healthy person’s regular maintenance. Food is fuel providing for the body’s strength, energy, and regulation so treating that fuel as a rushed afterthought really makes no sense.

Cooking can be very calming. Food shopping can be an adventure. Slicing, dicing, sautéing, stirring, smelling, seasoning, cleaning up as you go — these are therapeutic actions, meditative even. Listen to full records from start to finish while you cook. Turn off the TV. It’s the perfect way to take a breather from the bombardment of snippets that scroll in front of our faces on screens all day.

Hit your local farmer’s market and buy something you’ve never had in your kitchen — ask the farmer how they like to use that item. Let your kids pick out something they are attracted to in the produce section of the grocery, then work as a family to figure out how to prepare it. Get wacky and creative — purple potatoes, Romanesco broccoli, and a full head of oyster mushrooms all look like something from a Dr. Seuss book!

And about those blogs, books and CSAs? Once you’ve taken the first steps to working real food back into your life, yes, there are many others aligned with whatever path your food direction leads you. You’ll have started to come across them as you browse for recipes and spy dishes on Instagram that inspire you. It’s a positive, healthy, sharing community that is millions strong. And there’s always room for one more.

Stephanie Casey can be reached through her website at

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