Editor’s Note: We’re so happy to welcome a new writer Helen Berger to the Dear Handmade Life team for her second post! We loved her first post about our gift guide for creative business owners. You can read more about Helen at the end of this post.
Now onto Helen’s awesome story about food and family.
Recently, I got a text from my brother.
“Josep and I went hunting.”
Josep is his 10 year-old son. Accompanying the text was a picture of an enormous haul of chanterelles. Mushroom hunting. Some dads take their boys to the batting cages. Not in my family.
As a kid I loved watching my father work in his garden. I’d sit on the air conditioning unit, barefoot, just above the bed of strawberries and he’d tell me stories while he worked the soil.
“That was the summer I hitchhiked back home from Italy on the back of a Vespa with 30 centimes left in my pocket.”
Each story he told was as wild as they were unreal to my little suburban Los Angeles mind.
I would stare at his sunburnt neck as he bent over the collard greens to pick off aphids and I’d marvel at how he could make things grow from the tiniest of seeds. If I paid attention, sometimes I’d even gain wisdom.
“There’s a reason why some people are so unhappy… they don’t put their hands in the dirt. You have to touch the soil. You have to let your hands get dirty.”
When he was finishing up, he’d have me run the veggies in to my mother, who was invariably preparing the meal that was coming up next in the order of the day. And whatever I handed her – chard, eggplant, green beans, etc. – would end up on the dinner table. She’d have me wash the soil from the mini-harvest while she sautéed onions and garlic and sang beautiful songs in her native Portuguese. And if she wasn’t singing she’d tell me her stories.
“I never learned to ride a bike or swim, it wasn’t considered lady-like. But I knew how to gallop on a horse by the time I was eight.”
We’d always sit down for dinner together as a family, each meal nutritionally balanced and prepared with love. And the discourse would continue. I didn’t know it then, but my parents were teaching my brother and me to associate food with process. From our little suburban farm, over to our dining table and right down our gullets; it was there that we began to innately understand that food has a story and the people who make your food have history. And with each bite, if we choose to, we can connect.
It’s no wonder that now when I cook a meal I always look for the very best ingredients. I pay attention to my food. It’s always in season, free-range, wild caught, and non-GMO. I use well-crafted cookware and my knives are always sharp.
We are all very different, my family members and me. I can’t tell a chanterelle from a shitake. I don’t know many songs in Portuguese. I’m afraid of Vespas and, even more so, hitchhiking. But the differences melt away while we catch up over bowls of risotto con funghi. And when we leave the table to go back to our busy lives, we all make sure to get our hands dirty every now and again, just like my dad said. And on that we can all connect.
The Dear Handmade Life team has hit the nail on the head with our gift guide for the Artisan Food and Drink Lovers in your life. I’ve got my eye on that gorgeous “Eat Great Things” poster. And I’ve already ordered Cocktail Dice for everyone in my family.
1.The Home Artisan Bar Online Workshop by Dear Handmade Life
2. From Seed to Skillet Cookbook by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger
3. Recipe Dice by Leafcutter Designs
4. Eat Great Things Poster by Victory Gardens of Tomorrow
5. 8 Pack Gourmet Sea Salt Sampler by SaltFarm
6. The Home Artisan Bar Kit by Dear Handmade Life
7. Air-Lock Lacto-Fermentation Kit by Ernest Miller<
8. Fermented Vegetables Cookbook by Kirsten Shockey + Christopher Shockey
9. Keys to the Kitchen Cookbook by Aida Mollenkamp
10. Cocktail Dice by Leafcutter Designs
11. Greensward Toothpicks by Sideshow Press
12. Beginners Guide to Preserving Food at Home Book by Janet Chadwick
13. Oyster Tea Towel by Nell & Mary
14. Farmers Market Recipe Cards by Maria Schoettler
15. Blackbird Bakery Cookbook by Karen Morgan
16. Wooden Bottle Opener by Areaware
17. Cork Custom Letter Wall Art by J&J Studios
18. Wine Bottle Chandelier by Glow828
Helen Berger is a writer, script coordinator and producer who has worked on several television shows and movies including 30 Rock, Royal Pains and The Blacklist. She’s half Brazillian and half Swiss which means she tans well and makes an excellent fondue. She loves photography – check out her pictures here: https://hlb323.tumblr.com/ and follow her on twitter: @hlb323