Welcome to The Sun and The Spoon—I knew you’d turnip!
Aren’t you glad I got that food pun out of the way?
My name is Shelby (yes–like the car and the main character in Steel Magnolias) and I love Tucson, dogs, and food. I really love food. As in, I think about what I’m going to have for breakfast before I even go to bed, spend my free time volunteering for my local CSA, and can’t remember the last time I read a non-food-related book. I’ve always liked food, but the way that I think about it has changed a lot in the 26 years that I’ve been alive.
As a child, my mom and grandmother (“Nanny”) welcomed me into the kitchen with open arms—literally. Before I had my own kitchen stool to stand on, my mom precariously balanced me on her hip as she cooked every night. Together, we inhaled the sweet marinara sauce bubbling on the stove, snuck bits of cookie dough from the bowl, and provided sustenance for ourselves and our loved ones. Years later, Nanny relocated a chair from the kitchen table to the counter and inspired my curiosity and creativity. She encouraged me to try a spoonful of the bitter vanilla extract that tempted me with its sweet smell; paid no care to the eggshells I cracked into the cake batter; and looked the other way when I munched on a stick of butter (gross). Soon I earned my own space in the kitchen, where I made peanut butter cookies and, more often, unappetizing creations that my mom bravely tasted (thanks, ma). With time, I learned how to sauté, roast, bake, and grill food to make it taste good. Then came the hard part.
In middle school, I developed anorexia and became obsessed with food. I spent hours on the Internet looking at pictures of food, memorizing calorie and fat counts, watching countless Food Network shows, and cooking elaborate dinners for my extended family—but I subsisted on close to nothing. My obsession with food helped masked my fear of it, but I quickly became weak and emaciated. I tired quickly in P.E. class and my ribcage jutted out from the thin fabric of my t-shirt. The little food I did eat was diet food—sugar free this, fat free that—processed foods that tasted horrible and did nothing to help my nutrient-deprived body. Long story short, I began eating again because, as afraid as I was of food, I was even more afraid of dying. I began to recover from anorexia, but my obsession with food remained. I continued to cook healthy food—but this time, I used it to strengthen and sustain my mind and body.
After a rather indulgent and unhealthy freshman year of college (and an insane amount of peanut butter), I got back to eating whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, salads, and (mostly) reasonable desserts. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, the way in which I thought about food changed again. Thanks to a profound environmental ethics course, I learned about the indisputable ethical and environmental impact of factory farming, went vegan for a week, went vegan for another week, went vegan for a year, ate more peanut butter, and started this blog in 2014. No biggie.
After a year of creating (mostly) healthy plant-based recipes and practicing my food photography, I began writing a weekly recipe column for Edible Baja Arizona, a local food magazine in Tucson, Arizona. Cue, another food revelation.
My column in Edible Baja Arizona required that I become a member of my local CSA (community supported agriculture), which provided me with a bountiful share of locally grown produce every week. I began cooking with the seasons–eating tomatoes in the summer, kale in the winter, and carrots in the spring. I ate a lot of weird-looking-but-wonderful vegetables that I had never heard of before (hello, kohlrabi, tendergreens, and nopales) along with more common vegetables like cauliflower and eggplant. I started sourcing almost all of my produce locally (unfortunately, we can’t grow avocados in the desert). I shook the hands of the farmers who grew my food and asked how their grandchildren were doing as I bought the food they had carefully grown and harvested. I found a family that raises goats with love and compassion and regained my confidence in eating select dairy again. I visited a chicken farm where happy hens are raised on pasture and began eating their eggs. I realized that there is another way: the local way.
Today, my meals are centered around my local community—the food that is grown here, the economy that supports my neighbors and myself, and the people I want to invest in. I want to support small farms, dairies, and artisans—and I want to inspire you to invest in your local community, too. Although you might not live in Tucson, I can guarantee that there are family-owned businesses in your city that need and deserve your support. Don’t put your money into the pockets of a far-off corporation—hand it directly to the woman thirty miles away who will use it to pay for healthcare, put food on the table, and invest in the economy you both live in and care about.
The Sun and The Spoon is a place for me to share my love for seasonal and sustainable food. You’ll find vegetarian recipes that help you eat with the seasons—tomato tarts in July, butternut squash soups in November, creamy kale salads in February, and asparagus frittatas in April. I’ll talk about the difference between pasture-raised eggs and conventional eggs (p.s. it’s not just the color of their shells); how to find a dairy that isn’t depleting the planet’s finite resources or its animals; and the best way to approach your incredible collection of cookbooks that has no regard for what’s in season right now. Together, we’ll cook healthy, simple, and plant-based meals that change week to week, month to month, and season to season.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at thesunandthespoon[at]gmail[dot]com.