My organic living “Aha!” moment: Learning the benefits of eating well and sustainably

By Liz Hopkins

My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I was hired as the chef at Frontier’s employee cafe.

I didn’t really have a sudden moment of revelation when I fully realized the value of eating organically. Instead, I gradually learned about the benefits of eating well and eating sustainably. I converted over a period of years from a meat-eater to a vegetarian committed to buying organic whenever I can.

But even though there wasn’t a moment of sudden realization in my progression, there was that definite turning point — when I was hired to run the employee café at Frontier. I’d worked in hotel kitchens for many years, but when I started at Frontier Co-op, I found for the first time a sizable group of people who appreciated natural food and preferred to eat organically.


Learning on the job

The new job was definitely a learning experience — natural ingredients replaced the highly processed ones I was used to, and the nutritional value and wholesomeness of the food moved front and center. Efficiency was still important, but it didn’t trump food quality in the Frontier Café.

My outlook — and my skills — changed. I enjoyed the experience of learning to cook with whole grains, dried beans, seasonal produce and the like. It was easy converting familiar recipes to more natural versions, and it was fun to experiment with the almost unlimited seasoning palette of the spices Frontier sells. I felt great about the food I was making at work, and soon I was cooking the same way at home.

Access to information about natural living and people interested in it got me thinking more about my food. I decided to become vegetarian partly because I realized how much I enjoyed vegetarian cooking. (The Café has always offered both a meat dish and a vegetarian option for every lunch.) Since cooking was such a big part of my life, it only made sense to eat the way I liked best to cook. And I had already determined from cooking at Frontier that there were no disadvantages of taste, nutrition or heartiness to vegetarian fare, so it wasn’t any kind of sacrifice for me to stop eating meat.

A more fulfilling relationship with food

By the time I started eating vegetarian, I was already buying a lot of organic ingredients for the Café, mostly items that were readily available organically. I also sought out organic versions of ingredients that were known to most often be high in pesticide residues.

Then, about five years ago, the Frontier Café went completely organic. It was my job to convert all the foods and ingredients we were using to organic. It took some shopping around and relationship building. Cost had to be considered — I’m responsible for the Café operating within budget — but now we are totally organic. In converting the Café, I opened up new possibilities for buying organics for my family as well.
So, while my “Aha!” has been a long, gradual change, I have arrived at a much different way of eating — and a much more fulfilling relationship with food.

What was your organic living “Aha!” moment?

About the author: Liz Hopkins, chef and coordinator of Frontier’s in-house Organic Café, came to Frontier almost 20 years ago because she saw an opportunity to cook creatively here. She’s been using her imagination and skills ever since to provide Frontier Co-op employees with delicious, healthful natural food that’s organic, locally sourced and seasonal.

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