Revelations

Went to a BlogHer Food in San Francisco.
I only took one picture on my cell and it’s not even of food!
(I took a couple other photos on my camera…hope they turned out)

I’m not a religious person. I grew up with a scientific father and a lapsed Catholic for a mom. When I was little I asked her why we didn’t go to church. Her reply was “I’ve had enough religion for the whole family!” I did go to Catholic mass with my grandparents twice a year and observed their curious rituals from a distance, especially after I was not allowed to eat “the cracker” everyone else got (I was just a child and didn’t know there was a higher meaning to what people were doing at the altar).

The closest I ever got to spiritual was when I was out in nature. In high school (painful, hellish new-kid style), I would escape through cross-country skiing or snowshoeing away in thick snow to places only visited by small furry animals. The crunch of the snow under me, the heat of my breath crusting ice on my scarf, the open blue sky…. that’s where I met with the universe and cried soft tears about life. Summers were spent trudging through remote bogs and falling in them up to my chest in peet moss. Me and my blazing fast brandy-colored dog running together, getting wet and muddy… sometimes my sister would join me, but I preferred solitude + dog.

In December when I got the idea to start the school lunch project, it was an accidental whim that came out of solitary brainstorming sessions on my personal goals for 2010. I told my husband and he said forget it because we are busy and tired in our usual lives. I think about that moment when I thought, “He is right, we have so much going on…silly idea.” …but I couldn’t let it go…

I didn’t do the project for me. I did it for my students, but actually the project has changed my life, my relationship with food, and my relationship with the world. But the best part of the project for me is that I have met so many people who take my life to a new place. I keep thinking, “What if I had never done the project?” I transport myself back to that moment because it’s so easy to remember. I scream at myself, “Do it!” I should know I don’t have to send that message back in time. Part of me thinks I’m going to wake up and it will be December 2009 and I’ll get that choice again… I have to keep telling that person, “Go for it!”

The anonymity has made it easy for compartmentalizing my life. That’s why I think that whatever happens as Mrs. Q is a fantasy…because how could it be true for the real me? When Mrs. Q gets speaking invitations it marries all the parts of my life.

I spoke on a panel at BlogHer Food this past weekend and last month I was at Transform 2010 (I never blogged about my experience at Mayo because it was utterly indescribable with words). Both of these ephemeral meetings were soul enriching and just plain lovely. For me they have been the equivalent of church-style revival meetings: passion, issues, laughter, tears and tons and tons of talking and talking… In Rochester at Transform we talked about food = health and in San Francisco at BlogHer Food we talked about food = life. Every single minute added value to my life in a small or a big way. The discussion of food unite us all. Bloggers I chatted with in person at BlogHer Food:

What’s Cooking – A chef working inside schools to get salad bars going and outside to teach kids to cook, now a dear friend.
Lettuce Eat Kale – A scrappy yet zen food journalist of the best sort: friendly, kind, and wearing her shoes out to bring you the freshest news.
Eating Rules – Funny, sweet irreverent journalist dude who has amazing ideas (check out his #unprocessed challenge)
Dianasaur Dishes – (fellow panelist) Teaching low income families to cook with basic ingredients
What’s for dinner mom? – (fellow panelist) She has a micro-farm in Alaska, need I say more?
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook – Hilarious guy who shares some Midwestern similarities with me even though he’s from New Jersey!
Novel Eats – A thinker and vegan home chef.
Eat Local Challenge – Hip to food politics
Educated Palate – Chatted about school lunch reform
Ghost Town Farm – Urban farmer!
Naomi Starkman from Civil Eats – Food activist journalist with a wealth of information regarding food policy issues
Good Food Kristin – Fighting the good fight in food politics
Food Blogga – Sweet, fun and insightful
Midlife Celiac – Great comments during the values track presentations
Gluten Free Girl – Just as she appears: giving, friendly, perfect, I want more time to discuss life’s big issues
Sure Foods Living – Life-changing conversation about going gluten-free (it may be where I’m headed next).
Nourishing Meals – Roughly the same age as me, but with four children (you go!), great insight into food/health/gf issues with kids
Virgo Blue – Huge life similarities and all around darling person
Pioneer Woman – Approachable, caring, witty
Five Second Rule – Knowledgeable food writer
Penny De Los Santos – Perceptive and talented food photographer
Celiac Teen – Extremely smart about food at a young age
Wendolonia – Found my blog on Day 6!
Boxing Octopus – A follower who introduced herself!
Jennifer Perillo – Generous food writer
Michael Ruhlman – Passionate about food politics
Foodie Reflections – Midwestern food blogger
Stephanie O’Dea – Sweet chat about parenthood
and on and on (I’m sure I forgot someone so do please let me know! There were so many amazing people…)

About ten years ago I worked with an older petite Italian woman. She wore more rings than I have ever seen on one person, before or since, and talked about ricotta all the time. We hit it off because she was funny. One time I revealed to her that I wasn’t religious and she said neither was she. Then she leaned over and told me, “My religion is loving people.” So is mine.

(More BlogHer Food information to come in subsequent posts…)

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27 Responses to Revelations

  1. Stephanie O'Dea October 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    What a great religion!

    It was absolutely lovely to meet you! I'm glad you're home safe and sound. I look forward to chatting more.

    oxoxox steph

  2. Leigh October 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Mrs. Q, are you sure you're not me? We are kindred spirits. I wanted to tell you that once when you were writing about your love of fall. And now your comments about nature and how that's when you feel closest to God/your spirituality…get out of my head already! 🙂

    I love this blog and I love this project. Keep up the great work!

  3. WendyGK October 12, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    And that 'loving people religion' of yours is what everyone feels when they meet you and listen to you. Your presence took BlogHer Food to a spiritual level and gatherings of foodies always need that component of awareness, gratitude and activism–otherwise it becomes all about the sensory–or just gluttony. Such a pleasure to meet you.

  4. Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Sounds like an amazing experience.

    As for the religion component…every major religion is just different way of teaching you how to be a better person. Helping those that are powerless (your students), and connecting with your community (online as well), and getting better in tune with your body (by seeing the connection between food and health), are all great examples of spirituality that any religion should be proud to use as examples.

  5. Sean October 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    I genuflect at your altar. So sorry we didn't manage to actually cross paths during the conference. Even though it feels like I personally hugged 10,000 people that weekend, there were still so many wonderful bloggers I managed to miss. Next time I hope?

  6. Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Mrs. Q, Did you see Rachel Ray on Letterman? Letterman talks about the cupcake and cake decorating shows, and obesity/hunger etc. Rachel Ray had a few good points when Letterman let her speak.

  7. Betsy October 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    By becoming a believer, you may relieve yourself of some of the stress of all this. Knowing what you are fighting for and putting it in God's hands may come as a relief to you.

  8. Samantha October 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Such a lovely post – I did grow up religious, and I am unlearning everything to come to a similar place of just loving people and life (and food – of course!). Thank you for the mention – I appreciated meeting so many fellow thinkers this weekend. We're all going to change the world for the better together!

  9. Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    Yeah, sorry. Lost a reader with this one.

  10. HenrysMom A2MI October 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks for all those great links! Can't wait to check some of them out. I read a few already, including Ruhlman, who I've got a little crush on.

    Mrs. Q, I know McDonald's brings up lots of emotions here, but I thought of you when I saw this today. Once in a while I buy my 8 year old a Happy Meal. I like reading stuff like this as it reminds me of why I should never feed him that stuff. I wonder what would happen to one of your school lunches if you just left it out on a plate for a while?

    "McDonalds Hamburgers: Almost Entirely Indestructible"

    http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2010/08/mcdonalds_hamburgers_almost_en.html?e=agenda–20100827

  11. C.G. the Foodie October 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    I loved your panel discussion on Friday. I was so sad that I had to leave Saturday morning but I bet the rest of the conference was just as transformative as the first day. Thank you for helping carry pears on Friday night :o)

  12. Michelle (What's Cooking) October 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Seeing this post instantly brought back all of the wonderful time that we spent together this weekend. Out of everyone, you were the hardest to leave at the end of the night. As I should have expected, we share the same religion – and it was an honor to worship with you at the alter of the ferry plaza farmer's market. xoxo

  13. omgyummy October 12, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Hi Mrs. Q. Sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you at BlogHerFood but I am glad I have heard about your Fed Up With Lunch campaign. And, I can't believe you have the guts to eat that food every day. Both of my kids were in public school for elementary and one is now in public middle school. Neither one ever ate a school lunch and in fact, my daughter frequently didn't eat her homemade lunch because the school lunch smell made her sick. And in kindergarten, when they got milk with their snack, we always had to check the date – they were frequently old. Now my son is in a private high school that has a chef that makes them fresh food every day. It is expensive, but when we take advantage, we know he is eating healthy fresh food. Thanks for finding time to take on a problem of epidemic proportions in our school system.

  14. Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    I understand your non-religious/spiritual side. I too find great peace with God in solitude and nature. I try to center my life on loving each and everyone of my students and by being grateful and content with all that I've been given.

    However, I also am a devout Catholic and practice the rituals and Traditions. That "cracker" that you referred is my ultimate food. It is what nourishes every part of my soul, my heart and my body. I would ask you to be cautious in how you refer to it. "Cracker" is a derogatory term and ultimately shows a lack of respect/knowledge/tolerance for the central tenets of the Catholic faith.

    Thanks.

  15. Mrs. Q October 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    Anonymous — I was a child and so to me it was just a "cracker" — I'm sorry that it wasn't clear that I was writing from a child's point of view. I certainly know that holy communion is holy and sacred — half my family is Catholic and respect and value them and their religious point of view. I'm sorry you were offended. I didn't mean it intentionally. I love my grandparents are they are devout Catholics. It was just painful to see everyone go up for communion and sit as a heathen in my seat as everyone went back to the pews and stared at me.

  16. Ellen October 12, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    This is my favorite post of yours yet!

    Have you seen the 6 month old McDonald's hambuger? It will scare any rational person off of that junk! http://www.flickr.com/photos/sallydavies/sets/72157624739645253/

  17. Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    I'm sure many will dismiss this comment as drivel, but I have do it anyway. I've followed and enjoyed this blog for a long time, and I believe it was no accident. God is real and has a plan for every life–it's when we accept Him and His will that it comes together. It's not about religion (manmade rules), it's about a relationship. Check out the song "More Like Falling in Love" by Jason Gray, who explains it more eloquently than I ever could. I admire your work and am praying for you!

  18. Anonymous October 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    Mrs. Q–

    Thanks for your response to my previous comment. I now understand that you were relaying your childhood experience. I do appreciate your clarification.

  19. Anonymous October 13, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    I guess I'm curious about the number of people who are wanting school lunches reformed, but there is surprisingly little happening. Is it all just lip service?

  20. Anonymous October 13, 2010 at 5:50 am #

    I don't know what I'm sorrier about – that people are using this post as an opportunity to proselytize (even with the best of intentions), or that at least one person feels they can't read your blog anymore because you aren't religious.

  21. Shauna October 13, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    The last line left me in tears.

    yes. that's mine too.

    Meeting you and having that conversation was like the still point in a very interesting, swirling storm. Thank you.

  22. rebekah October 14, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    anonymous 12:50 – i completely and totally agree with you.

    Mrs Q, you are doing a fabulous job with this entire project and I admire you and the work you do very much. I check in here almost every day and will continue to.

  23. Alison October 14, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    Mrs Q.,
    All I can say is… you rock! So happy I met you.

  24. Marisa October 18, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    It was so, so good to meet you at BlogHer. I just wish we'd had more than a few minutes to talk. Also, as far as love as a religion, I'm right there with you.

  25. Jackie October 19, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    It was wonderful meeting you at BlogHer Food. I so admire your passion for this project!

  26. sarah henry October 19, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Hello from said scrappy reporter currently wearing out her shoes at a food justice conference in New Orleans. You gotta come see what's going on in school food here post Katrina.

  27. Srivalli October 23, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    Sorry we didn't meet at the BHF Mrs.Q. I wish we did. Your project rocks!

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