A Journey Through State and Food (How a Self-Professed Picky Eater and Reluctant Cook Found a Life in the Food and Wellness World)
This is an edited transcript of my IceBreaker speech for Toastmasters. The purpose of the IceBreaker to tell about yourself in 4-6 minutes.
Growing up I ate roughly 5 or 6 things. Brownies, pizza, cheese, pasta, turkey and matzoh ball soup. I grew up in Great Neck, New York, which is a small town on the North Shore of Long Island. For you literary fans, it’s the home of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, and of the doomed romance between Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. My mom was a baker, so to me it seemed perfectly normal to have cookies, brownies, or lemon cake for breakfast. I, obviously, paired this with a glass of orange juice because I wanted to get my vitamin C.
I went to college in Waltham, Massachusetts, and it was there that I really started to take control of my time in the kitchen. I learned how to boil water and found that by combining things like macaroni noodles, cheese, milk, and butter I could create something! I was very proud of this accomplishment.
But Massachusetts wasn’t exotic enough for me, so when I was 21 I ventured across the pond, to spend 6 months studying in London. It was there that I discovered the wonders of the baked potato. I used to go 3 or 4 times a week to a small kiosk by my flat and buy one of these potatoes. They were enormous and could be filled with the most random amalgamation of food you could hope to see on a baked potato. una fish, cheese, sour cream, coleslaw, roast beef. You name it, they’d put it on a potato.
Living in London gave me easy access to travel. I remember a trip to Spain, when I walked the streets of Madrid, looking up at the carcasses of the pigs, hanging in the windows. I also questioned how it was possible everything they served tasted fishy. But, as I sat down to dinner one night, pondering what I was going to eat, a small plate was placed before me. And on it, was an olive. I had never had an olive before. But I said, “you know what, you’re in Spain, you haven’t had anything to eat, and perhaps you should try an olive!” And, I bit into the olive, and I tasted the salty, briny awesomeness of it. It felt like a door opened before me. Not kicked open, more like a crack, but in that opening a voice came down and whispered in my ears, and it said, “if you try it, you might like it!”
After this adventure, I finished my studies and moved to New York City where you can get any type of cuisine, any hour of the day. My boyfriend and I would go out once a month to the hottest restaurant in New York and do the tasting menu. Plate after plate of food. A variety of food and flavors I had never thought to try. Beef cheek? It was a wonderous time. Our tasting menu plates became wedding menu planning, and after that, we started making baby food. And soon after that, my husband came home, and told me he wished to go back to school. So we packed up our things and began our sojourn west. Leaving behind my restaurants and take out menus, my friends and family, and all the comforts I knew.
We landed in a town called Oak Park, just west of Chicago. Birthplace to Frank Llyod Wright, Betty White, and Ludacris. Chicago food to me was cake-like pizza, saucy saucy pasta, and lots and lots of beef. It was here that I realized I had to learn to do more then just boil water. I started small. I busted out the George Foreman Grill and made grilled chicken with rice and veggies. Then I branched out to taco night. I wanted my family to have the same memories I had of holiday meals with family so I schooled myself in Jewish soul food. I learned how to make brisket, latkes, and, of course, matzoh ball soup.
And then baby number 2 arrived. And this one cried. A lot. And I didn’t know what to do. My husband, the former ad man turned chiropractor said to cut out dairy. I didn’t want to cut out dairy. It was one of my 5 food groups! But I did. And within 3 days the baby stopped crying. And in three weeks, 15 pounds of baby weight feel off.
And then, the door that had cracked open with the olive was kicked wide open. I realized then that food wasn’t just about taste and calories. Food is literal fuel for the fire that powers our bodies. What kind of flame do you want to burn with? For me, I realized I wanted to burn with the brightest, cleanest fire possible. So I went back to school to become a Certified Health Coach.
A year and half ago, we landed in California, the land of perpetual spring. I cook 5-6 nights a week. My kids are, of course, picky eaters. Given their druthers, they would eat pasta, cheese and yogurt. But that’s ok. I encourage them to try new things.
As for me? Well, I tried hot sauce recently and, again, “wow.” But I still like my macaroni and cheese. Only now, I make it from scratch.
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About the Author: Courtney Abrams is a Health Coach and Founder of Roslyn Wellness. Trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she helps clients work within the realities of their day to day lives to find ways to make small and manageable changes to their health that can maintained over time. Her clients include people trying to lose weight, beat sugar, increase their energy, cook simple healthful food and reduce stress to name a few. She also shares a passion for food policy and educating people about the foods they are eating and the governmental role behind much of it. You can learn more about Courtney and Roslyn Wellness at http://RoslynWellness.com.