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Summer Reflection on Change

by Tammera Karr, PhD

Summers always brings a bustle of activity and change to our lives. Those activities’ involve family trips, visits, long work hours outside, and for parents like me preparing and planning for our son’s life in Montana where he is off to collage. The Son, headed out the door for the long drive to Butte Montana with a cooler packed with homemade pizza, fruit, bread, cheese, ham, hard boiled eggs, jerky, bottled water and a quart jar of pinto beans. Ostensibly to see if the jar seal would hold with the elevation changes as Butte is over 5000 feet, and he loves my home canned beans.

Growing up in remote areas of the Pacific NW, this has been the way of travel our whole lives, you pack and carry your own, you plan and prepare for the just in case. Not only is eating on the road expensive, it can be detrimental to your cognition when heading off to take the last of your placement tests.

Summer as a kid meant strawberry picking for extra money, and later bean picking when it was hot and no longer fun. My grandmother and mothers garden in early days of summer, were filled with the first or even second harvest of tender nutrient rich greens, baby zucchinis’, radishes, carrots, green onions and snap peas. Fruit trees were heavy with plums, cherries and apples.
Branding and moving cows, and haying meant cooking for crews, hot, dirty and tired, everyone washed their hands and faces before setting foot in the house to eat, out of respect for the cook and the skillet she held in her hand if you dirtied her clean floors.

When we headed to town once a month, our faces were washed, hair combed and cloths while not the height of fashion were clean. Once again I think about the abundance of food we had as poor farm and ranch family’s, we never went hungry, we were always clean and expected to have manors…..

While at a conference, I stuck up a conversation with a man and his wife; he grew up on his grandparents’ farm in Georgia, they were poor, just like many other folks, and as a black family in the 1960’s, life had other challenges as well. He and his wife were well spoken, as the third generation of his family to serve his country, he was patriotic, as a military security contractor, well versed in the events of our day…. Yet we talked mostly about food.

His and my recollections were on how much food we had as kids from poor families to eat, how good it tasted and how much love and pride the cooks put into that food from planting to eating. Equally, you could see on his face how talking about those times brought back memories of those he loved, and how no one could make this or that the way his grandmother could. Very different from the taco bell, chicken nuggets and cardboard pizza so many poor children are fed today, from parents, schools and daycare. What do our bodies, minds and spirits learn from this food culture of today…. Fast, easy, addictive, empty, disconnected are the words that come to my mind.

This is not the food that fed remarkable people like Maya Angelo and Ruby Dee who passed away in June, nor is it the food of Sir Sidney Poitier, or Dr. John from the US Virgin Islands who shared his food stories when I asked him about them during my presentation. Food instills strong memories affecting all of our senses and our connection to who we are. The look On Dr. Johns face when he described the banana‘s he ate as a young man and how he scrunched up his face over the taste of the ones offered here in the USA, spoke volumes.

After my presentation I spent time at the National Archives, moved on many levels by the photos and information on the equal rights movement of my early childhood, all of these folks regardless of color were, articulate, many self-educated, driven and hard working. They had great postures and weight, bright eyes and clear voices all signs of better nutrition than you will see in many today. How sad to see such a startling change in our national health and lowering of standards in such a short time. I like others know my Son will be fine, he will make the world a better place just because he was fed good food, and trained up to be a man of integrity.

To read more on how the food in American has changed our health over the last 75 years Check out Tammera Karr’s book “Our Journey With Food” Available Fall of 2014

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