Hello fellow food enthusiasts!
My name is Ingrid Eck – Tucson native, mesquite tree hugger, prickly pear green tea addict, and Edible Baja Arizona’s newest intern. I will soon be entering my junior year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where I am triple-majoring in Government, Environmental Studies, and French Studies. This summer, I am also interning for Bean Tree Farm in Marana, a native food permaculture site and foodscape learning center.
To state the obvious, I’m a foodie. The important question is: What kind of foodie am I? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to begin by telling you a bit about my parents, as the apple does not fall far from the tree(s). My mom is the most compassionate person I have ever known and has been a vegetarian since age 15. Despite her petite figure, she’ll happily eat any vegetarian dish you put in front of her. My late father would say she “inhaled” her food. Luckily for my dad, King of the Kitchen, my mom never wanted to be Queen of that domain. My dad’s ampler figure was doubtless the result of all his taste testing. Although my dad loved to eat, his real enthusiasm for food involved meticulous preparation, presentation, and serving. We never had a family dinner without him excitedly asking, “Well, how is it?”
My mom’s compassion and my dad’s exacting and social nature have produced me: A Type A, social butterfly, vegan! This identity is exemplified in a story of 4th grade Ingrid, an aspiring vegetarian and future catering company owner. Young me was yearning to experiment in the kitchen, but with the limited tools of butter knives and the toaster, I settled on tuna fish over crackers – a scrumptious treat I had watched my dad make many times before. This hors d’oeuvre was not as uninspiring as it might sound; it was decked out with celery, carrots, parsley, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and a few “secret ingredients.” One day, I brought some with me to school for snack time and thought it might be nice to share with my fellow classmates. It was devoured within a few short minutes! From then on, “Ingrid’s tuna fish” became a weekly treat for all. The more time I spent in the kitchen, the more time I thought about the ingredients I was using. Some of these thoughts were concerning. I soon adopted a vegetarian diet (which would last for the next 9 years, until I became vegan my freshman year of college). The excitement of managing my new “catering” enterprise while enjoying its social benefits came into direct conflict with my compassion for animals. After some thought, I decided to continue making the popular tuna fish dish for my classmates while I happily packed my own carrot sticks and hummus. I hoped that if I did judge not their food choices, they would not judge mine. I was surprised that some were even curious to learn about my new meat-free diet!
Over a decade later, I’m still the same gregarious person, enthusiastic enterpriser, and animal rights advocate. However, today I offer some of my favorite vegan dishes to my meat-eating friends, like spicy peanut tofu or cashew lasagna. I continue to embrace a non-judgmental attitude through my work with Veg Out, a student organization I co-founded my freshman year at Wesleyan. This environmental justice group rejects mainstream vegan rhetoric (aimed largely at white and wealthy consumers) and portrays a change in diet as an opportunity for new food experiences rather than as something limiting or oppressive. In the spirit of inclusivity, we welcome non-vegans to serve on our student leadership board and advocate for meat consumption reduction rather than elimination. My vision for food activism is to create a comfortable space for people to step outside their comfort zones.
I look forward to spending this summer learning and writing about veganism and food justice in Tucson and its borderlands!