One of the first things I ever planted in the earth was lemongrass. I was sixteen. This might sound a little strange, but bear with me for a moment. A few weeks after my 16th birthday, with a freshly printed license burning a hole in my pocket, I convinced my parents that it would be a great idea if my best friend and I were allowed to drive three hours south to Sacramento to visit our respective siblings for the weekend. One speeding ticket later, we made it to the city, and my brother took me out for a life altering experience.
Thai food. I’d never had it before. The extreme northern reaches of California didn’t have anything beyond one Chinese restaurant in the early 90’s, and certainly nothing resembling a Thai restaurant. I was game, and tried everything my brother ordered, but especially fell in love with the satay beef with peanut sauce, and a soup that was flavored with lemon grass.
My obsession with Thai cuisine grew beyond that weekend, and I was eventually presented with a cookbook. Oh the delight of the pictures alone! But where on earth was I going to find these ingredients in a small town? It took weeks, but I finally located a place that happened to have some old lemon grass in a bucket of water. I took it home, used a little, and noticed some roots on the bottom of the plant.
If I could grow that in my back yard, I wouldn’t have to pester the lady at the store to order me a batch every time I wanted to make soup. A local source was always better.
Things haven’t changed much. This past week I listened to a presentation given to the Maui Chamber of Commerce by two distinguished Registered Dietitians from the mainland. Marsha Diamond, MA, RD gave an interesting breakfast talk about trends in the food industry. A few key points from her presentation:
– Smaller Plates – Restaurants are trending to smaller portions and plates. Have you ever wished you could order off the children’s menu just because it was the right size for your appetite? Restaurants are finally catching on and offering smaller options for adults. Those children’s meals? They are becoming more complex as well, as the next generation is increasingly interested in ordering things besides chicken nuggets and grilled cheese. A win for the future! Smaller plates at a buffet also help us to not eat as much. Small plates are the next big thing.
– Local over Organic – As far as food trends go, customers will usually choose local over organic when ordering. The convenience and freshness offered by a locally grown food is better for the chef and the customer, not to mention the farmer that put so much work into growing your food. Much like my local supply of lemon grass, having an ingredient close at hand was far better than needing to special order it from some far away location. I didn’t care a bit HOW it was grown, just that it was fresh and accessible. Apparently today’s restaurant customers feel the same way.
After leaving the breakfast, I met up with my husband (David) and Mary Lee Chin, MS, RD, at the local TV station where we were all about to be interviewed for a new show called Kokua Ag: Growing Our Future Together. Now, this is the type of thing that would normally make me very nervous, but for some reason, the whole experience just turned out to be FUN. The topic of the day? You better believe it centered around food. Stay tuned to see the finished product of the taping, coming soon to an Akaku channel near you!