My mom immigrated from the Philippines to work as a nurse in the America. She enjoyed her job; the only problem was that she did not see the value in many of the medications she was giving to her patients. When she left the job to take care of me, she soon became immersed in preventative and homeopathic health remedies, which greatly influenced my family’s lifestyle. For example, our eating habits were strictly controlled. While all my classmates got to eat white bread, we could only have brown. We rarely ate grilled food for fear of carcinogens. Desserts were restricted to fruit, and a small bag of potato chips was a treasure I had to share with my sister. Each day, we’d take multivitamins and eat a brazil nut. The only oil in the house was olive oil. Because eating at fast food restaurants or purchasing unhealthy food was deemed “expensive” and “wasteful,” I learned to bake with whole wheat flour, reduced sugar and butter alternatives.
When I started getting interested in environmental issues, it wasn’t soon before this interest began to cross paths with my obsessive healthy food background. After writing to the non-profit called Friends of the Earth in elementary school, I received a magazine from them highlighting natural foods. One article described a middle-income family who only ate organic after the father began his job as a food inspector. They would buy meat in bulk and save the bones after meals for soup and grow some of their own vegetables to cut costs. As a family, we started to start buying produce straight from the farm as well as transitioning to more organic produce. The reasoning was two-fold: organic produce not only had fewer pesticide residues, but also helped the planet. After reading up on composting and chemical-free farming methods, I began to grow simple plants in my backyard and composting our food scraps. My garden taught me what fresh broad beans and potatoes really tasted like– cooked right after being harvested. Vegetables no longer had to be bland boiled additions to a meal: they could also bring their own distinct flavors to add texture and interest.
However, there’s a part that has always been missing in this story: the large farms from where our food comes from and how the environment handles it. Through this asb, I’m looking forward to learning more about the issues that are going on from the perspective of people living in agricultural areas.