Playing stump the chef with my kitchen maestro Paul Zlatos. What will you make with a baboon-butt radish, Chef Paul?!
It's been 21 years since I first met Bob Greene at a gym in Telluride, Colorado. I weighed 237 pounds at the time, my highest ever. I was at the end of my rope and the end of hope—so ashamed of my body and my eating habits, I could barely look Bob in the eye. I desperately wanted a solution that worked.
Bob put me through my workout paces and encouraged a lifestyle built around eating whole foods (long before I'd ever heard of the store that shares that name and mission).
I resisted. But even as different diets came and went, his advice remained consistent and wise: Eat foods that make you thrive.
A few years ago, I finally got the big aha and started growing my own vegetables. And what began with a few rows of lettuce, some tomatoes, and basil (my favorite herb) in my backyard in Santa Barbara has now become a genuine farm in Maui. My gardening interest grew into a passion.
I get ridiculously happy at the sight of the purple radicchio we've grown, the elephant kale that reaches my knees, the radishes so big I call them baboon butts—because for me it all represents a full-circle moment.
In rural Mississippi, where I was born, a garden meant survival. In Nashville, where I later lived, my father always cleared a "patch" by the side of our house, where he would grow collard greens, tomatoes, crowder peas, and butter beans.
Today that's my favorite meal; add some cornbread and I'm clicking my heels. But when I was a girl, I saw no value in eating freshly grown foods. "Why can't we have store-bought food like other people?" I'd complain. I wanted my vegetables to come from the "valley of the jolly—ho, ho, ho—Green Giant"! Having to eat from the garden made me feel poor.
I now know for sure how blessed I was to have access to fresh food. I understand what a luxury that is, especially for low-income families like we were.
Thank you, Lord, for growth.
I've worked hard to sow the seeds for a life in which I get to keep expanding my dreams. One of those dreams is for everyone to be able to eat fresh food that goes from farm to table—because better food is the foundation for a better life. Yes, Bob, I'm putting it in print: You were right all along!