In my forthcoming cookbook, I write a little about why I started Eat Boutique and why I gift food. I had to write it down somewhere because, gosh, I really didn’t know until I finally typed it into a computer screen.
I suppose it’s easy and obvious to say, “gifting food is how I want to spend my days.” I mean, it is. At some point in your life, you wake up and ask yourself how you want to spend your days (and, frankly, your nights), and whatever the answer is, that’s what you should just go do right then and there. (And if it’s to live in the south of France, take me with you, okay?)
I did wake up one day with a very certain feeling that translating this boutique way of life into some sort of food community or business was exactly how I wanted to spend my days. But that’s not enough. It’s not an ample or even satisfying explanation for you… for my editor… nor, even, for me.
I spent eight months writing my cookbook proposal, trying to figure out if there was, in fact, a story to tell behind the years of writing this blog and shipping thousands of food gifts all over the world. The recipes flowed effortlessly but the introduction – the part of the book where I talk about all the why’s – was arduous.
I did what I’m doing right now: I just started typing stories and didn’t stop until I could weave it all together. The stories formed a dotted path that lead me all the way back to when I was a kid. I suppose, all the best stories do, and they’re right to. Each one of us is a summation of how we were raised plus all our various experiences along the way. And, gosh, I got super lucky in that department. My mother made sure I witnessed the pluses and the minuses of life at a young age.
Let’s talk about that for just a minute.
Food is a necessity:
More than 50 million Americans struggled to put food on the table last year. That means about 1 in 6 people in America face hunger. Hunger in this country isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the prevalence of poverty. In fact, 40% of food is thrown out in the US every year. That’s about $165 billion worth of food. That uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans.
Okay, so I wanted to shock you just a little with these facts and figures from pretty reputable sources. I don’t know if they’re all precise and current, but I do know this: I grew up knowing people, children, adults, the elderly, who went to bed hungry some nights. I knew people who had to choose between eating beans and rice, again, or eating nothing. I knew people for whom buying chicken was a once-in-a-while luxury. And I was gifted a mother who exposed me to all that.
There’s a story in the cookbook (and I don’t want to spoil it here) about my mother and how she raised my sister and I to know all these things and to do the little we could to try to change the food situation for a few people. She was part of a local food pantry and dragged me along during distribution. Those moments, which were certainly uncomfortable and sad, were a real gift and the very beginning of this food journey for me.
I know we’re getting a little deep here, but stick with me a little longer.
Food is a gift:
I lead a very fortunate life. I worked really hard for it – really hard – but it’s still fortunate. I get to buy my food in a grocery store and can generally afford most of what I want to eat. I belong to a farm nearby and get super fresh organic vegetables for a quarter of the year. I know how to cook pretty well, or so my husband says, and know how to use up leftovers or extra bits meant for the trash to form totally edible, satisfying dishes. I don’t waste a morsel because, let’s be honest, that would be such a tragedy.
As I meet food makers from all over the world, I get to witness the painstaking work, creative vision and delicious results in their very special food – food that can be affordable and that can also be a few more dollars than the average convenience store stuff. For example, sometimes a chocolate bar is a little bit more expensive to allow for all the work that went into that bar. But that work is really important. A chocolate maker who also ensures that the chocolate was sourced in a responsible way or processed with no additives or unnatural preservatives in smaller batches is the kinda chocolate maker I want to support. And when hundreds or sometimes a thousand of you show up to one of my pop-up shops, I think you do, too.
I buy this special food, cook with it, source and photograph it for the Eat Boutique shop (just like I did in these images with the HP Sprout, a device that lets me channel my creative energy into something beautiful) because I do believe in something more. I believe that food is not a commodity. I believe our food systems have to change. And I believe that this tiny business of mine is one of a million ways we can make a change.
Food is a precious gift. And because it’s how I want to spend my days, I’ve made it my mission to pass that message along, in whatever small way I can. Sometimes it’s sweet and sometimes it’s savory but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
This is part one of two pieces I’m writing about gifting food. In my next piece, I’ll share some actionable ways you can continue to treat food like the real gift that it is (because I bet you do already).
Just so you know, this #sproutbyhp post was created in partnership with the folks that bring you the HP Sprout and a big thank you to all the good folks at HP for letting me share my #CIY (create-it-yourself) story.
Photos taken and styled by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio.
Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers and shares our version of #foodgiftlove. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop.
Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic Studio. Follow Maggie Battista on Instagram.