Throughout my adult life I have been interested in whole food cooking—by which I mean cooking with foods that retain all naturally occurring parts as opposed to cooking with foods that have been commercially refined or otherwise altered from natural form—as a means for maintaining my own and my family’s health. For many years I was an avid reader of Prevention magazine and particularly of its whole grain writers, who sparked my interest in experimenting with and developing 100% whole grain breads. My whole grain cookies and muffins that I am marketing in my Burke Area Farmers Market stand date from this early period of experimentation. My cookies are standard recipes adapted to use bran-rich whole wheat flour, but my muffin recipes, which rely on fruit or vegetable flavoring and have very little sugar or fat content, are distinctively my own.
During this early period of my adult life, I also became aware of and was enormously inspired by the nutritionist Adelle Davis who wrote the book Let’s Cook It Right. Focused on retaining the nutritional value of foods in general, she expanded my primary cooking interests to include vegetables and fruits. And in the 1980s, while my three sons were growing up, I became interested in writing my own “how to successfully use whole foods” cookbook. I wanted to show people how to prepare whole foods that are attractive so that family members accept them and that are nutritious so that they genuinely support family health. This is an idea to which I have been passionately committed throughout my life.
This cookbook project evolved considerably over the years, especially with respect to the passionate attention given to vegetables and fruits and to the importance of not eating commercially prepared processed foods, which in addition to being nutritionally stripped dead foods, are loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and chemicals. Because of the crucial nutritional components they provide humans and because of how they easily and successfully substitute for fat-, sugar-, and salt-laden commercially prepared flavoring in everyday dishes, vegetables became my “top dog” dish ingredients. With my cookbook centered around cooking vegetables and fruits “right,” the title of my cookbook moved from being simply “Cooking the Whole Foods Way” to Cooked Alive! Life Savoring Whole Food Recipes to Overcome Processed Food Dependence, which will be published in fall 2017. A final step in the evolution of my cookbook was to expand the meaning of “whole” food to mean food that is both naturally intact and chemical free.
An important event in the evolution of my cookbook occurred in 2000 when I returned to Gregory, South Dakota, where I had grown up. This is the year that my husband Robert retired from the University of South Carolina, where he had been a professor of international affairs, and took a professorial job in Hawaii. I then divided my time between Hawaii and the farm outside of Gregory that we inherited from my parents (George and Corrine Johnson). On our farm, I was able to start a vegetable garden, which expanded my knowledge of and affection for vegetables immeasurably. In line with my long standing keen interest in helping others use whole and chemically free vegetables to take control of their health, I was thrilled with the opening of the Burke Area Farmers Market. I immediately joined as a vendor and after five years continue to be an enthusiastic and loyal supporter. I would add that as my cookbook is near completion, I am now as equally interested in providing “cooking vegetables right” demonstrations as I am in selling whole and chemical-free vegetables to interested customers.