Green Belly, Happy Belly: Home cook teaches the “language” of local food
I was born in the city of León in Guanajuato, Mexico. The people from that region are known as Panzas Verdes—Green Bellies—because the main crops are lettuce and other greens. It’s said that the streets of León were lined with food vendors who would sell greens prepared with lime and dried chiles. As the day went on, the vendors would wipe their hands on their aprons and turn their bellies green.
My love of greens certainly suits my roots: I find that my aprons all fit this description!
I grew up in a Southern California kitchen surrounded by my grandmother, mother and aunts. One of my earliest memories is of reaching high up on a shelf, pulling down a bag of flour and having it completely cover me, head to toe.
When I left home to go to college in Arcata, California (in the far northern part of the state), I had no idea what I was in for in terms of my culinary growth. There, I started to hear words like “organic,” “vegan” and “locally grown” for the first time. Later, I moved to Alaska, where I truly learned to appreciate fish and local heritage. After that, I lived in Bellingham, Washington, where local food and wild food was almost a religion.
Each place I have lived, I gleaned information from the local people about what to eat and how to cook. I am not formally trained as a cook, but the way I relate to food has been described by my husband as another language that I speak.
Here in Michiana, I work for Molter Family Orchards in Benton Harbor, Michigan, as part of their community-supported agriculture (CSA) team. The Molters grow organic vegetables, fruits and herbs and have high ethical standards for how they treat their farm workers, both of which are important to me. I prepare the foods distributed in the farm’s CSA boxes and post photos and recipes to the farm’s Facebook page. This helps CSA members see their food prepared by someone who is not a chef, just a person who has a love for fresh local food, like they have.
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