February 2020 Newsletter

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Finding My Path

Six years ago next month, my first newspaper feature in more than a decade was printed in The Roanoke Times. That story marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one where I would attempt to add a career in writing to the swirl of raising three kids and eating local food and volunteering in my community.

I’d be lying if I claimed there were no tears or mess or crippling insecurities.I’d be deluding us all if I didn’t confess to burned dinners and forgotten children and missed deadlines and days of despair.

It’s been hard. Finding time to work. Finding the space to work. Elbowing out the distractions (looking at you laundry and social media). Freeing myself from the fears that someone might need me and I wouldn’t be there. And from the fears that I didn’t have what it took to succeed.

But the hardest part has been picking a path and staying on it.

In just the last six years, I have worked as a newspaper food writer, magazine features writer, blogger, cooking instructor, and as a marketer. I’ve dabbled in restaurant reviews and book reviews and press release writing. I’ve begun a nonfiction book for 8-12 year old readers.

I have also realized that I can’t succeed on all these fronts. And that I needed to make some choices.

But I’m not good at making choices. I’m much better at procrastinating.

I am realizing this is why there are such things as vision boards and life coaches, self-help books and personal retreats.

Me? I’ve mostly jumped in and then asked myself: Is this the best use of my skills? Is there room to stretch and grow in this space? Can I hope to make a living doing this?

All the trial-and-error has been exhausting. Certainly not efficient. But also, maybe, exactly what I needed.

Because, it helped me see more clearly the paths I did not want. It helped make me brave enough to hold tight to what was true.

I am choosing to write. Not cook. Or teach. Or move into marketing or grant writing. I am not pivoting to something more practical. Or easier. Or with more regular hours or higher pay.

For quite possibly the first time in my life, I am not factoring in the expectations of my parents or professors or bosses or peers or cultural norms. I am picking this path because the work brings me joy, because it uses my talents, because I feel I can do good while pursuing it. 

I understand that all this — the questioning, the experimenting, this very choice itself — is a luxury. Not everyone can take the time to build a creative career without the pressure of supporting a household.

But at this moment, I have been given a gift: I can turn my passion into my profession. What’s crazy is how difficult it has been for me to gratefully receive it.

Yet this is what I come back to again and again: Writing is what I’m meant to do. I may as well do it as best I can.

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I’m loving this mother/daughter team based on a homestead in Maryland. They’ve got a new podcast and a book coming soon, both guides to choosing sustainable food and clothing and building a simpler life.

At the Virginia Association for Biological Farming conference in January, I met a couple with an intriguing consulting business. Using online courses and in-person meet-ups, they walk you through the process of growing a small-footprint, organic garden wherever you live.

Last month, I led a presentation at my church about why and how to eat more local food. Here’s a list of resources I made to help folks in the Roanoke area. If you’re further afield, use this guide as a jumping-off point for how to seek local where you are.

Growing community gardens, supporting farmers markets, finding ways to bring nutritious food to those who can’t readily find it — all these are passions of mine. Where I live, there’s an organization that is every day moving the needle on the challenges of creating a sustainable food system. Just now they’re in the midst of a 10-day, $10,000 fundraiser. If you’re in Southwest Virginia, consider making contribution to LEAP. If you’re not, is there a local organization in your ‘hood that you could support?

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NYT food editor Sam Sifton writes about the beauty of gathering for a meal in advance of his new cookbook, See You on Sunday.

A New York City locavore dishes about how glorious it can be to (sometimes, guiltily) buy his produce from a big box grocery store.

For all you meal kit subscribers, here’s an interesting look at how your Blue Apron may not be as bad for the environment as you feared.

A great read on the healing power of growing your own food.

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Welcome to my newly re-focused newsletter. The recipes are still here, as are the practical how-tos for eating more healthfully, locally, environmentally. But there’s also more: bigger thoughts, a place for me to share the insights that flow through my connections each month, tips for not just eating — but also living — simply and sustainably. I’ve also tried to widen the lens, so that what you’re reading is applicable to communities everywhere. I’m hoping you enjoy these upgrades and that if someone you know might also enjoy Nourishing Stories that you’ll recommend it. As always, I cherish your thoughts and ideas and feedback. 

Published by christinanifong

A writer of stories. About kale and turnips. Seeds and dirt. And, you know, life. Find essays, recipes and writing samples at christinanifong.com