News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 24, 2013

YOUR GREEN VALLEY: A look inside at what it takes to become a foodie

What is a foodie?

Mathea Tanner, 33, was raised with a strong interest in food. Her father was from the South and her mother was Greek. Dinner time was a fusion of foods from their two cultures. Her upbringing played a role on why she is a foodie, today. For Mathea, one of the first things she thinks about in the morning is, “What am I going to eat and prepare today?”

“I think being a food lover, you start to think about where your food comes from and that naturally starts to impact; what you think about as far as who you are; what it means for your health and what it means for everyone around you,” Tanner said.

Mathea has a food blog called littlefigblog.com. She posts seasonal recipes with a focus on how she eats. Her diet is gluten light with a focus on creating vegetarian dishes during the week and meat-centered entrees on the weekend. Her blog has not always been so health conscious, previously she had one focused on fun food and baking. Then she had an eye-opening moment when both of her parents passed away before their 60th birthdays. Her father passed away from a heart attack, and her mother lost the battle against breast cancer. She started to realize, for better or for worse, a lot of their health issues could have arguably been prevented or improved if their diet had been better.

“I was going through all of my dad’s things, and I found his final bank statement, which was filled with charges from fast food restaurants. He had gotten into a bad habit of picking up fast food on his way home from work,” Tanner said.

Seasonal Eating

One thing you will not find on Mathea’s blog is a recipe with pineapple in the middle of winter. She has a lot of recipes she would like to be posting right now, but she said it almost feels inappropriate — “like wearing white after labor day.”

“Not only is food more nutritional when you eat it in season, but it is hugely better for the environment. Much more energy goes into producing a fruit or vegetable that is grown in a hot house and shipped to you, than grown in the middle of the summer a couple miles from your house. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be eating locally when we are surrounded by farm land,” Tanner said.

Mathea moved to Terre Haute two years ago via Chicago. Her favorite place to buy food, even in the winter, is the Downtown Terre Haute Farmers Market. She recommends that everyone to go to the Farmers Market. Talk to a producer and it will change your mind how you feel about the vegetables you bring home.

“We have local growers that I can go and have dinner with tonight, who I have gotten to know as friends, that would never happen in the city of Chicago. This is a huge advantage. When you can sit down to a meal and know the person who grew the food with their own two hands, is your friend, that takes it to a completely different level that has nothing to do with nourishment,” Tanner said.

When Mathea does head into a grocery store she looks at what is fresh, in season and organic. She does not plan dinner by a recipe, instead she fixes dinner around what she finds most appealing at the grocery store. For example if spaghetti squash is in season, she will focus a meal around the squash. If one is unsure how to create a recipe using spaghetti squash on the fly, she suggests searching the Internet for sources. It is a two second process that will provide thousands of recipes.

The Organic Argument

There is no doubt that organic food can cost double or triple that of its rivaled processed counterpart. One may not be able to taste the difference between organic produce and if there is actually more nutrition, but for Mathea she has two reasons why she heads to the organic aisle first.

1) There is an environmental impact that people may not even think about when it comes to pesticides and how your food is treated.

2) She feels there are some health risks to long term exposure to certain pesticides that she can’t put a price on.

“I feel it is incredibly urgent that people take a close look at what they do with their food every day because it has made a huge difference in my life. In the time I have changed how I eat, I have seen a huge difference in how I think, how I am motivated in every part of my life. I have a clearer head, I am more energetic. I can’t really put a price on that. How much of a price can you put on feeling better?” Tanner said.

Thee Steps to

Becoming a Foodie

1) Forget what you think you know about preparing vegetables. Search for a new way. For example trying roasting Brussels sprouts with olive oil, pepper and salt instead of steaming them.

2) Try a new ingredient or cuisine every week/month.

3) Invest a little in your kitchen equipment. Every kitchen should have a chef’s knife; one cutting board for vegetables and another for meat; a large, heavy-bottomed stainless steel or cast iron skillet; a sheet pan with a rim and a large soup pot.

Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at janesantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.

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