Researching cashew-apple curry at a roadside stall in Krabi, Thailand.
I blame my husband, Jerry. It was back in our dating days when we both worked for a small-town paper on Wyoming’s wicked plains, that he urged me to eat garlic, onions and chiles—lots of them, most every night. This was new to me. I was born a Wisconsin girl to a father who hates garlic. I grew up eating cheese and brats, and a lot of low-fat healthy food (my father is also diabetic). It wasn’t a bad diet at all, but I eventually discovered a much wider, livelier culinary world—thanks, in large part, to a man whose grandmother insisted he find a good girl who loves onions and red wine.
I passed the test.
And then I had an epiphany in 1996, when I spent a grad school semester in Hanoi. My food world exploded before my eyes. I’ve been trying to untangle the mysteries of food—its science, its myths, the way flavors mingle and meld—ever since.
In the intervening years, Jerry and I have lived in Cambodia (twice), traveled the region, and kept a home base in Chiang Mai for nearly four years. But we realized we could not live in Thailand forever, for reasons mental, physical and legal. So we bought a little fixer-upper house on a large lot in New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley, where we are blessed with ample water (for now). It’s an endless work in progress, but we’ve managed to cultivate fine crops of peaches, pomegranates, onions, herbs, and grapes originally planted by the old winemaker who lived here years ago (did you know New Mexico’s Rio Grande is the birthplace of the earliest North American wines?). Someday, we’ll have nectarines and apricots, too. Just a little more work and a lot of patience.
That’s half the year. The other half, we continue to work overseas, covering stories on food, yes; but environment, health, wildlife and social issues, too. Somehow, food always enters the scene.
Why this blog? The answer to that question has evolved a lot since I started it in 2006. Back then, I wrote in this space that I hoped to draw on my experiences to provide useful information on cooking, eating and traveling. And I hoped this blog would show the pivotal roles food plays in our lives—shaping our societies (and waistlines!), hinging on the health of our environment, and determining much of the world’s future.
All of that remains true. But there’s more. Over time, this blog has become as much about history and politics as it is directly about food. I have written about efforts to clear American bombs from Lao farm fields; about the insurgency in southern Thailand (where food reflects a mixed Malay/Thai heritage); about Cambodian children who work for dinner. Most recently, I have begun to examine the big questions about how to feed a planet of 9 billion people—which is where we are most likely headed.
I’ve spent the 2010-2011 academic year at the University of Colorado on a Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism exploring the complex intersections of journalism, science, climate, agriculture, politics, economy, poverty, health and countless other avenues that affect tomorrow’s dinner. There are no easy answers. But few topics in this world are more important because, eventually, most everything comes back to food.
Food is life—and death. It is history and culture, war and peace. It is our past and it is our future. Food is who and what we are.