In addition to being known for her active involvement in the Main Line area’s low-waste community, Marilyn Moser-Waxman prepares fresh, organic food through her personal chef company, The Nourishing Well. Her business puts sustainability at the forefront while catering to a range of dietary restrictions.
In the early 70’s I was part of a small group of people who started the organic food movement in the Philadelphia area. I’ve been involved in studying and teaching about health, wellness, and living sustainably since then.
I took a break from teaching for a bit while I was busy raising my kids as a single parent; but once they were grown, my desire to teach and help people returned, so I created The Nourishing Well.
The Nourishing Well has gone through several transformations. For a number of years I taught cooking classes and provided health coaching, along with having a meal delivery service. I no longer provide those services, but rather work as a personal chef. To satisfy my desire to teach, I offer a mentorship program that allows qualified individuals to come and study cooking with me while I cook for my clients.
As much as possible I purchase my fresh ingredients from local farmers markets. My second choice is MOM’s. The tough part for buying locally are staples, such as dried herbs, spices, condiments, and the like—I’m not able to purchase these from local small manufacturers. For those items I have sources for Fair Trade, organic ingredients.
There are so many benefits to eating locally. How much space do I have here? The first that comes to mind is supporting local farmers, who generally use more sustainable growing techniques. Many people don’t realize the large, commercial, organic farms are still monoculture and don’t necessarily use the best practices.
Since quite a lot of produce doesn’t keep and ship well, commercial growers produce only varieties that will store and ship well. This practice has limited the variety of veggies we are even aware of, varieties of vegetables that were commonly grown in past generations. Our local farmers are able to grow more of these older, more delicate varieties of veggies, and I see more of them every year at the markets. The fresher the produce, the more nutrition and life it has in it. It’s more vital—and much, much more flavorful.
Shopping locally (for anything) creates community and friends and helps the local economy.
And then there’s the cost to the environment of having to ship food all over the world.
Regarding eating locally:
Developing local food sources is crucial; however, we are very lucky to be living in a time of great abundance—too much abundance in fact. We throw out an incredible amount of food that never sees it to market. But that’s another topic in itself.
When we have years of drought or flooding or other natural disasters—which unfortunately happens with more and more regularity—it’s also crucial that we maintain a system of national transport so food and supplies can come from other areas of the country, and even the world. We can’t try to become completely self-sustaining, but need to find the balance between local and national. How to do that is for much smarter people than me.
When we started in the early 70’s there was one, maybe two health food stores. We owned the first. There was no organic produce to be found. There was barely any produce in any grocery store. With farmers’ markets, Whole Foods, and other organic grocery stores within a short walk or drive for most people in urban and suburban areas, we have come a long way. My main concern is that large scale, organic farming is not as sustainable as many people think it is. The dependency on monoculture of those big farms is a problem. We need more small and mid-size farms that use crop rotation and traditional methods along with recent innovations in small-scale farming to revitalize the soil and surroundings.
The question is: Can we have enough small and mid-scale farms produce the amount of food needed for society, or do we still need large-scale farms to feed our population? And if we do, how can we make them a healthier, more sustainable system?
People have different needs. A plant-based diet works well for pretty much anyone, but some people might need a bit of animal food in their diets. My clients who have chronic conditions like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis do not do well on a diet that includes whole grains and beans. The protein they do best with is animal protein. Also, people with high potassium can’t have a lot of vegan options for protein.
For myself, after being vegan and having 5 children in 10 years and having a very busy, active life, I wasn’t doing well. I tried everything I could think of. I wasn’t nutritionally deficient, but there was just something lacking. I was so depleted. I started including some fish and chicken, and my vitality returned. It was very hard for me to make the change though.
As for whether animal protein is safe for children, I’m not sure what to say. I raised my kids very close to vegan—no dairy, but we had fish once a week. One of my children really didn’t do well with it, and he needed more animal food in his diet. I was rather rigid in my thinking at the time and wouldn’t permit it, which I later came to regret. He, however, made sure he got what he needed whenever he was out. Good for him!
If you’re following a vegan diet, providing children with (and making sure they eat) a broad variety of foods is crucial to make sure they are getting a nutritionally dense diet. I’m a big proponent of sea veggies for concentrated nutrition.
We are lucky to have some wonderful local farmers who humanely raise their animals, so if someone does need or choose to include animal foods in their diets, I suggest getting poultry and meats from them.
We have lost all understanding of how to cook, along with the fact that very few people have interest in cooking for themselves. I really don’t think it’s a lack of time for most people, although it definitely is for some. It’s more that cooking is seen as stressful. I get it. As I mentioned, The Nourishing Well offers a mentoring program; when people come in the kitchen I see how they struggle to cut veggies, how slow they can be, and have no understanding of basic cooking techniques, or how to make food flavorful so I definitely get it! People can spend hours cooking, and the food doesn’t taste good. Why do it when takeout is so much easier?
The services that deliver prepped ingredients help many people cook at home, but the drawback is the amount of waste that comes with all that packaging. I know of at least one of those services that delivers the ingredients in “compostable” packaging, but there’s a question about how compostable that packaging really is. It’s a quandary.
Above all, it’s my amazing staff and the people I mentor. We have become good friends and have created a wonderful, supportive community of people from many walks of life, spanning in age from young 20’s to mid 60’s (that would be me in the mid 60’s).