If we don't tell our food story, who will?
We sit at kitchen tables, on blankets in the park, around picnic tables at street fairs and on tailgates after a long morning in the field. We crack eggs in our pancake mix while we tell our kids about the time their grandmother baked coffee filters in an early morning batch, her attempt at a legendary April Fool's joke.
We flip our burgers on shady decks while our friends talk about the time they got lost in Mexico City. We scoop up spoonfuls of peas and choreograph a song-and-dance routine, complete with a jazz-hand landing to convince our toddler to open her mouth.
We grab a handful of dad's caramel corn and remember the time spent with him in the kitchen. We're grateful we paid attention to the recipe so he can live on in the sweet, sticky reminiscence.
No matter where you eat it, food connects us, it reminds us and it's part of our story. But when was the last time you've thought about the story of your food?
It was a muggy summer evening in western North Dakota and I stood next to my dad under the shade of a grove of tall cottonwood trees along the edge of a beautiful wheat field. We were strumming our guitars and singing about eating watermelon after a summer ballgame as a slow and steady line of community trickled into this farmyard from a makeshift parking lot behind the family shop.
They shook hands, made introductions and wondered what to expect as they walked past beautifully set tables next to grain bins and farm machinery, ready and waiting to celebrate food in a unique way — right where it all starts.
We hear the phrase "farm-to-table" thrown around these days as a way to make us feel more connected to the food on our plate. On that evening, the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce took it a step further by inviting the community to meet directly with a local family who dedicates their life's work to growing and caring for the land and the food we eat at its Banquet in a Field event.
Over bites of mini cornbread muffins, lentil dip, sunflower toastettes, oven-roasted potatoes, beef picanha and honey apple cake served by kids from the local FFA chapter, a conversation, centered on North Dakota's agriculture producers, began.
And so did the celebration. Because our agriculture story is sometimes harder for us to tell than the story behind our grandmother's recipe for award-winning chili. The fact that North Dakota is the lead producer of the navy and pinto beans it contains? Well, that's something I know the Kessel family hosting us that evening was proud of.
And we should be, too. Because if we don't spread the message and help the world understand that a tomato makes ketchup and that big, beautiful wheat field rolling in the breeze that evening is just a step on a long journey to appearing in the pasta you'll be serving for your best friends as they reminisce about the time you all ran into the ocean naked, who will?