The Old Normal
When I was in middle school in the early ‘90s, my cafeteria sold pizza from a regional chain every day. Over the course of 2 years I ate that pizza, with an Hawaiian Punch. After school, I would often go into the local bodega and get a hotdog, or chips or some candy. Meanwhile, my physiology changed rapidly, and all of a sudden school was difficult for the first time in my life. I was deemed obese by my doctor and found myself incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin. In that epoch in the United States, eating like this was normal. These experiences were trying times for me, but they set the stage for a life dedicated to helping others thrive through food.
Part of the new normal that we, at Plates, dream about, is to build health from the ground up on a neighborhood level. Since I’m looking at the new normal through different perspectives, I’d like to look at my vision of Plates through the lens of an overweight, struggling kid with a different set of circumstances and environment around him. For this story, I am going to switch to his voice and invite you to imagine a different scenario had Plates existed then.
Re-envisioning my Past
It’s Sunday afternoon. My mom loves to do some of her Plates pickups on Sundays to get a head start on the kitchen prep for the week. She has 4 or 5 go-to’s people for certain items. I know because I love to go with her on her pickup runs. We usually take a quick drive to the town over to pick up our items from two different farms at the Sunday Market. She orders in advance and picks up her produce and meat. She flashes her phone and they have her order ready. It’s super quick. We stop by, Chef Erin’s house on the way back to pick up our bread order Where her home kitchen is certified to bake out of. She mills the grains in house and makes the most amazing sourdough. My mom and I usually snack on the warm bread on the way home. When we get home, we unload our food and it’s then my dad comes in and helps put things away and we get prepping. Out of all my siblings, I for some reason, am the one who is drawn to the kitchen so I love to help. We wash herbs and lettuce, cut carrots and cucumbers and sometimes marinate meat. We cut some bread for the night, then slice and freeze the rest for the week. It doesn’t take long, but I learned early on that it makes the rest of the week’s cooking much easier.
Sometimes I take a late bus home after basketball practice during the week, and I’m super hungry. I take out the Plates Diner’s app and see what smoothies and snacks the local bodega is offering through the platform. The owners are super passionate about offering healthy after school options for all the kids getting off the bus, and my parents are cool with me ordering from there. On Thursday’s we always eat super early since my Dad hosts cooking classes in our home that night. We all eat and help him clean and head up stairs so he can teach. He posts the classes in advance through Plates, and he’s really built an amazing community of people that love to come and learn new skills.
Once a week, often on Friday we indulge in delivery or pickup. The hardest part is deciding between our favorite Thai Chef Patty, Sammy from Morocco, or this insane ramen from this guy Chris who we’re obsessed with. He’s always giving us tastes of new things he’s fermenting. Admittedly sometimes we hit up multiple people. They all know us by now and it’s awesome to be able to see the person that actually made your food with love. The food just tastes better, and I know we all have a different level of trust knowing who made it. My siblings like to give awesome reviews to support our favorites chefs.. This is what an average week looks like for us. Sometimes we’ll venture out on Saturday’s and support a local pop up through Plates. A lot of the cooks do them in the area. I can’t help but think of how much better I know my neighbors and my community since Plates started taking off in my town. I love how it’s created a network in our local food system and economy. It really seems like everyone is so supportive of each other, so it makes me feel proud to support the people I know are making and growing amazing food.
Lastly, my family is planning a trip to Italy this summer. We’ve already started following some amazing chefs in the places we’re visiting. We can’t wait to be able to get an insider’s experience of how Italians really cook and eat in their homes. And get this, my Dad even reached out to a chef that uses the app to teach cooking classes in Solerno, and they’re going to collaborate on a class together! Our experience with food will truly be global.
Joining the movement
I struggled as a kid largely because the normal as we know it wasn’t working so well for me. The vision that I described above would have served my family and my community well back then, and that vision is even more relevant now. I think we can all agree that the current status of eating across the world is in dire need of a shake up. I see Plates shaking things up for the better. When you change a person’s environment, you change their health. When you change the environment of communities and create a new normal, then you’ve got a movement.