In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he writes of the 10,000-hour rule: If you dedicate 10,000 hours of practice to something, you will master it. After reading it, I concluded that one of the only practices to which I have dedicated 10,000 hours is eating. I calculated that after spending roughly two hours eating every day for the past 20 years, I have spent approximately 14,600 hours eating in my lifetime. So according to this aforementioned rule, I have mastered the art of eating. We all probably have.
After taking a class entitled “The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food” with Professor Kelly Brownell my freshman year, my approach to food changed. Previously, I had never considered the benefits of eating locally and often scoffed at the organic labels I would find at the grocery store. In this class, I learned about pesticides and the harmful chemicals used to preserve our food. I learned about the local farmers that are being put out of business and the negative environmental effects of transporting food across the country. My attitude was changed and I gained an affinity for farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants. But for the past two years, I’ve been on the meal plan and I haven’t had to put any thought into what I was eating, where the ingredients came from or how it was made.
It was this summer, working and living on a farm, that I learned what it means to eat locally, sustainably and organically. I saw how my approach to eating has been backwards all along.
Ideally, we should all be looking to see what’s ripe and in season before we decide what to cook — but instead, we typically decide what to make and then buy the ingredients. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten excited about a given recipe and bought the ingredients with no regard for what season it was or where the produce came from. I never thought twice about it until this summer when I ate zucchini every day (in any and every conceivable form) for three weeks because that was what was ripe and plentiful on the farm. When the cucumbers were ready, we decided to make tzatziki. When the chickens laid a lot of eggs, we made frittata. When I accidentally dug up a potato while hoeing, we decided to make french fries and when the tomatoes came, we began making sauce and canning it. We actually finished the last jar of last year’s tomato sauce only a few days before harvesting this summer’s tomatoes.
I have never eaten better than I did this summer and that was mainly thanks to the fresh ingredients. My hosts very rarely had to go grocery shopping and the prices for vegetable seeds are incredibly low, making this a very sustainable lifestyle for them.
I know that this lifestyle isn’t suitable for all Yalies — living in an urban space, we don’t always have access or time to source our food sustainably. We do, however, live in walking distance from farmer’s markets and even the Yale Farm. Living off campus, and on a budget, I am finding it challenging to continue eating the way that I learned this summer, but at the very least I am keeping this approach in mind. And that is what I urge you to do as well.
Educate yourself on what is in season each month and try to stick to that produce. Do not eat strawberries in the winter or imported apples in the fall. These choices will be good for our bodies, they will boost our local economy and they will mitigate harm to the environment. The art of eating doesn’t require 10,000 hours — it just requires adding a bit more thoughtfulness to our approach.
Ally Daniels is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact her at email@example.com.