Growing up, we always had a garden and fruit trees that speckled our backyard. Each spring my dad would rototill the soil to prepare for planting, and throughout the snowless months, both of my parents would churn the large compost heap we had. I remember being fascinated by the mound — that it was hot in the center, that an apple turned into soil and that it forever fluctuated in size. It was like lungs — expanding and compressing dependent upon where it was in the decomposition cycle.
My childhood in Spokane, Wash., was rich. It was painted with experiences and freedom to play and explore. My mom approached my sisters and I’s impressionable years like she did a meal; well-balanced. She introduced us to “different worlds,” with trips to the Oregon Coast where we boarded my grandpa’s fishing boat and set out to catch crab for lunch to flying down to El Paso where we would walk over to Juarez, Mexico, and visit the markets. Before we could walk, we were out in the garden with her. She would keep our attention as long as she could before we were off playing again. She’d tell us, “Dig a little hole, put the seed in it, and then, cover it and pat it with love. All you have to do after that is water it and it will grow. It eats sunshine and you’ve given it a good home.”
Since I can remember, the words “everything in moderation” have been a mantra that guides my way. My mother transferred and shared her belief and knowledge of gardening with us. “Fresh is best,” she would say, and playfulness and fun is an essential part of the most valuable recipe in one’s life: health. In the summer, if I wanted a snack, I would go out and pick sugar snap peas because in my mind, there was nothing better — crisp, thirst-quenching and with a burst of sweetness with each bite.
I was blessed to absorb through experiential learning that nutrient-dense food is worth the price of gold. Food encompasses a vast breadth of life itself. It is a skill, an art, medicine, sustenance, an experience, a deep connection and much more. The way we treat the land and the way we treat our bodies is the epitome of what our lives and the state of the planet will be.
As I have grown, that curiosity has stuck with me and has led me to learn about solutions that exist to address farming practices that deplete the soil rather than work in congruence with replenishing the land. Most of the fruits and vegetables in our diets (store bought) are grown in dirt. Dirt being soil that has been depleted of all its nutrients. Growing up, I learned the importance of letting the ground rest and feeding it with compost. Soil was the “good home,” as my mom said. It is the defining factor of the nourishment you receive.
Nutrition is at the heart, but it can still be fun and delicious. I’ve adopted my mom’s chocolate zucchini cake recipe to evolve into something a bit healthier. It has a dash of vitamins, a splash of healthy fats and an abundance of flavor. Providing your day with something rich, just like the soil that provides our lives.
Jenny Gaddy is the owner and founder of Atlyss Food Co., dedicated to providing sustainable, healthy pre-packaged meals to the Lowcountry.
Help the City Paper keep delivering excellence
Winner of top 2021 state journalism honors (best editorial writing and best cartoon), the Charleston City Paper brings you the Best of Charleston every day. Support our “unafraid” journalism with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.