It may or may not surprise you to know that I grew up in a children’s home in Glendale, Kentucky. I was surrounded by Amish families and had the privilege of growing up in the largest 4H program in the state during the 1980’s. Needless to say, I learned the importance of the farm and the responsibilities that go with it at a very early age!
Surprising to most who know me now, I grew up showing angus cattle, raising pigs, horses, goats, dogs, chickens…and even quail, which didn’t live long for some reason now that I think about it. I grew up cutting cabbage, hanging tobacco, and plowing fields for planting. There were 72 of us kids total…36 boys, 36 girls. There were six cottages where we lived. Each one had 12 kids. We were each other’s family. Each other’s brothers, sisters, best friends, and yes, in a lot of cases, first loves. My foodie memories start here. With my 71 brothers and sisters “by choice” and my one “real” sister, Joni. And yes…my first love, Brian.
We went to public school but every morning started with chores and a homemade breakfast with all 12 of us sitting around a long, rectangular table. Our chores alternated each week so when it was my time to cook for the 12 of us, I had to come up with six breakfasts for the week and two dinners – Saturday & Sunday evenings. We had a campus cafeteria or dining hall – where all 72 of us gathered at 5:30 during the week for dinner, brunch on Saturday, and lunch after church on Sunday. Boy…the memories of coming home from school at 3:45 and spending the next hour and a half getting ready to go to the dining hall for dinner…our version of a social event! I was excited to see what our “chefs” had conjured up from the church-donated foods and government commodities they had to work with.
When I would work in the dining hall, I would love to visit the food closet in the back of the kitchen where it would be stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of name-brand cereal and foods that I couldn’t pronounce. It was a museum for me! I feel like that when I go into Whole Foods today, truth be known.
I remember one time when I was about 12, a seafood restaurant in Elizabethtown burned down and they brought us “home kids” all the seafood they could save. Talk about amazed! I saw fresh scallops and shrimp for the first time in the my life as they carried it into our walk-in freezers. I remember picking corn from the field and running it through that commercial dishwasher to sterilize it before we cooked it up for dinner the next day with those scallops and shrimp. Shew, the memories attached to that food!
My travels across Kentucky started when I was young in that same Children’s Home. We would travel to Southern Baptist Churches across Kentucky to sing in our “home kid” group called, “The Homeland Singers”, for those who supported us, donated to us, and loved us. Those churches were our extended families and my introduction to regional, home-cooked Kentucky foods! Foods that were made with love by folks who carried on traditions passed on to them from their families. My memories of these church meals gave me a tie to a family…and their memories. Some of my favorite recipes today are from those days in the tiny basements of small, rural churches where the dishes were labeled with the name of the woman who made it, neatly written on masking tape. My passionate love of carrot salad with raisins and pineapple comes from these particular memories. I hate to say it, but every now and then when my life gets overwhelming with routine, I find a Chick Fil A drive-thru so I can get my carrot salad and eat it from my car. It takes me back to simpler times almost immediately. That’s the power of food memories.
My unique childhood taught me a lot of things. But I find that the ones I carry closest to my heart are the ones that are attached to food. All aspects of food. Today I love cooking, I love growing produce, I love presenting pretty food to people I love, I love to rework recipes for folks with limits so they can still enjoy their favorite foods, I order foods I’ve never tried in restaurants, and I love to experiment with recipes using ingredients I can’t pronounce. I know those warm and fuzzy feelings come from that food closet in the kitchen at Glendale Children’s Home and the “chefs” who prepared it for me.
Now, as an adult, I know there really is no place like home! Kentucky has some of the freshest food raised locally and the most diverse food culture in the world! Not only do we know how to cook, we know how to grow it, and how to preserve those food memories. There’s a valid reason we have “Kentucky Proud” products.
There’s a reason my county, called “Oldham Country”, is the wealthiest county in Kentucky AND is the Farm Tour Capital of Kentucky. Yes, both in the same place! We raise grass-fed beef, bison, alpaca, dairy cows, trout (yes, farm-raised trout), and of course…horses, horses of every breed!
There’s a good reason Kentucky is the horse capital of the world but not all horse farms are in Lexington. I know it might be hard for some to believe. Folks are shocked to learn they can actually stay overnight on a horse farm in the “best bed & breakfast for amenities” in Kentucky, have coffee the next morning while they watch race horses work out on a farm, then tour one or ride one in the afternoon. I help people create memories in my own backyard…in Oldham Country…that’s what I do for a living!
We tout biodynamic farming, we turn used vegetable oil from restaurants into fuel, we raise vegetables for top-rated hotels in the country, we really care about farm conservation practices, and we spin alpaca wool into wearables. We have rich food memories tied to being one of three towns in the country where the train runs right down the center of Main Street…yep, you heard me right! Come eat just feet away from a passing train on Main Street in La Grange…up to 33 times a day. We are also known for having the #1 schools in Kentucky, and now known for being the healthiest county in Kentucky!
So, where’s my backyard? Oldham Country is a bedroom community to Louisville which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away – meaning just 20 minutes from downtown – on I-71. We are just 90 minutes from Cincinnati, OH – as the crow flies!
For years I have posted my foodie pictures on Facebook. Food from my travels. Food from the hot spots and food from the “holes in the wall”. And food that I have just whipped up in my own 6′ x 2′ kitchen. So come sit with me. Let’s taste the memories…delish!