I was born and raised in California: home of farmers markets, conscious eaters, and Alice Waters. I grew up on three acres in the beautiful Carmel Valley, spending my days roaming my family’s property with my faithful companion and yellow lab, Chloe, by my side. We would run through my family’s orchard, ripping yellow apples off of the trees and gorging ourselves on green gage plums that had fallen to the ground. We trampled our berry bushes, smeared raspberry juice across our faces, but avoided the loganberries – they weren’t sweet enough for our unsophisticated palettes.
My father, a brilliant, self-taught gardener, spent too many summers trying to teach me how to cultivate the vegetable garden. Chloe and I were always more interested in our jungle of giant pumpkins than in the slow process of sprouting seeds; but, with time, I grew to appreciate the magical plant and flower species native to our slice of California. I would help with the harvest by eating most of the crop and sold our burgundy plums at a fruit stand near Hacienda Hay and Feed for a small thrill. I respected food – real food – and took for granted what has become all too rare: a family coming together at the end of the day for a well-crafted, locally-grown meal.
Despite its picturesque beginnings, my love affair with food has not been without hiccups. In high school, while traveling in Indonesia, I was hospitalized and treated for a rare parasite that would take over a year to kill. Treatment involved a detrimental sacrifice of my microbiome and instigated a host of side effects that linger to this day. It has taken countless doctors and conflicting diagnoses, multiple biopsies, a cancer scare, an infamous 3-day water fast, naturopathic tonics, and dietary restrictions to begin a new chapter of healing. If only I had also known that I would eventually discover the power of breath, of yoga, meditation, holistic remedies, and an inner strength ready to be unleashed.
Today, to ease pressure on my digestion, I no longer consume gluten or dairy and follow a whole foods philosophy. While these restrictions are cumbersome at times, I have explored the emerging world of plant-based and paleo diets and ultimately have discovered a fusion of the two that keeps my gut happy. I’ve also returned to school to pursue a masters degree in nutrition, as I’ve realized that scientific knowledge in an age of misinformation is critical to nourishing the body.
Good health is about balance, but more importantly it’s about listening to your body and discovering your own personal food code. Diets shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all; our bodies are much too complicated and nuanced for strict observance of just one philosophy. Whether you hand-select a few of my personal recipes or choose to make them all, together I hope that we can reshape our understanding of healthy living and reestablish respect for real food. It begins with the first bite.