I have always loved food and cooking and all that food is, beyond the requisite calories. My childhood in West Germany and my creative, efficient, cook-with-what-you-have mother with a sprawling vegetable garden, shaped my early years. A Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in 1996 took me to rural Italy and Mexico to deepen my understanding of how and why people cook the way they do. More than a decade of involvement with Slow Food, locally, nationally and internationally brought together my interest in food systems, regenerative agriculture and the combination of pleasure and politics.
Our food system is complex and riddled with injustice and exploitation and mistreatment of human beings, animals and our soil, water and air. Our collective preoccupation with fads and diets often disregards the impact these have on the places and people that supply the items that fuel our fancy. As the global population grows and industrializes the demand for animal protein continues to rise. In light of a rapidly changing climate, the land and water it takes to support this trend, not to mention the devastation it wreaks in all facets of production, I choose to eat fewer animal products.
Our food system is also teeming with creative, brilliant, highly skilled and relentless farmers, food producers, workers and advocates. I lift them up, enjoy the fruits of their labor daily, and thank them from the bottom of my heart!
I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and son and am a breast cancer survivor.
-- Katherine Deumling
ManifestoFood is beautiful. Food is nourishing and delicious, and yes complicated. However, food should be a joy, not elicit fear.
Yes, I love vegetables. But no, I won’t tell you to only eat brown rice. If you grew up eating white rice and you love it or are short on time, eat white rice. If you want to explore whole grains, do it, but don’t feel bad if you don’t.
Eat burritos every night of the week (like we sometimes do!) when you’re too busy for anything else. Grab some take-out and make a quick salad to go with it. Have an energy bar for breakfast if you don’t have anything else. Enjoy a big plate of vegetables and then half a bar of chocolate—something I did for weeks when I was recovering from surgery and could finally enjoy all the chocolate bars people had given me during chemo, when I couldn’t taste them properly!
We know vegetables are good for us and they are so varied and beautiful and delicious. Whether you eat mostly plants or have butter on your toast every morning or bacon in your greens, enjoy your food and let taste guide you! Cook when you can and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t.
The more I cook and the more confident and creative I’ve become the more I enjoy things that also make me feel good and I eat less of the things that don’t. But be kind to yourself and tune in to how you feel. Stress and guilt over not carefully sticking to some standard of healthy and virtuous eating is unhealthy in and of itself and no fun at all. Here’s to less stress and yes, vegetables!
Audio DocumentaryEnjoy this 12-minute story about Katherine and Cook With What You Have:
PhotographyI have had the privilege of working with photographer Shawn Linehan for years and her photos on this site bring such warmth and vitality to the work