Story Bank: Connecting with the Seasons with Jessica Prentice
Jessica Prentice is a professional chef, author, local foods activist, and social entrepreneur. Her first book, "Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection," was released by Chelsea Green Publishing in 2006. Prentice is a co-creator of the Local Foods Wheel, and coined the word “locavore.” Jessica is also a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, a Community Supported Kitchen in Berkeley that uses local, sustainable ingredients to prepare nutrient-dense, traditional foods on a community scale. She lives, works, and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Douglas Gayeton: How important is the idea of being and eating local?
Jessica Prentice: The idea of being local is not so much about geography, or even food miles or use of resources. The beauty of a local food system is that it brings you back into a relationship with the source of your food, the land, the animals, the plants, the farmers and each other. To me, the most important thing about eating locally is that web of relationships. It also has all these other benefits: it cuts down on use of fossil fuels, helps you to eat more seasonally, and it’s inherently more nutritious if you cut out imported foods or foods that travelled long distances. If you know where your foods come from, you’re likely not eating processed foods and eating more whole foods, and it’s going to be better for you and better for the planet. We tend to think of seasonality in terms of produce: tomatoes in summer, asparagus in the spring, root vegetables in winter. Seasonality can be reflected in animal products as well. Eggs are a great example. If we let go of the industrial model of eggs, we have lots of eggs in spring and summer, and fewer eggs in winter, or we have a different price. Eating seasonally works on a lot of levels. You’re going to be eating more locally, but also you’re reconnecting with the earth and its rhythms. Because we can get anything from anywhere, anytime of the year at the grocery store, you don’t have any sense of where anything has come from. We become more disconnected through purchasing that way.
Douglas Gayeton: How can people be more connected to what they eat? What’s the secret?
Jessica Prentice:There are two primary paths. One is to garden and grow some of your own food. Just eating some things that you’re growing yourself makes a huge difference and it will inherently reconnect you. Or keeping chickens, a beehive, or any of those things that are part of the urban farming renaissance. The other thing is to shop at farmers markets because then you’re getting food directly from the people that grew your food and you’re putting your money right into the hands of a farmer. You are able to ask questions about how that food was raised, have a conversation, look that person in the eyes and talk about the food. It slows you down.