Did you have a great experience around food this year?
How was it memorable?
Do you know what all of the ingredients were and where they came from?
My name’s Ian Tran, I’m from the Detroit area of Michigan. I’m excited to be part of the team and look forward to sharing our stories! I hope that you’ll share yours too. Here’s one of my own, from my recent travels, food, and thoughts about how I related with new people and places through curiosity:
Travel + a special pie = ingredients for adventure!
As summer turned to autumn, I traveled on a whim to camp in Interlochen, Michigan and visited a friend in Traverse City, Michigan.
In Traverse City, I watched a friend turn a pile of dough, a bucket of huckleberries she picked from a farm by hand, and syrup made of lemon juice and sugar become the best pie I’ve ever had. It had the right amount of sweetness from the berries and sensible use of sugar, with a crispy salted crust and topped with delectable crumbles. Altogether, it was a wonderful counterpoint in texture and taste.
With a smile, she told me the huckleberries came from a farm on Michigan’s upper peninsula. This sparked curiosity in the kitchen between her father and I: Were huckleberries originally a fruit that’s native to Michigan? Are huckleberries closely related to blueberries? (they look similar to each other in color and texture but blueberries tend to be bigger as a fruit)
I didn’t know what huckleberries were until I made the trip to Traverse City and Interlochen. I’ll emphasize again that even my friend’s father wondered about the botanical origins of the fruit.
Finding the answer was a job for CURIOSITY!
One ingredient in a pie generated genuine curiosity that spanned three generations with questions that stumped all ages at the time. You can find answers to those questions on your own (you can read my experience here). The questions were equally interesting to me and my friend’s father, who even asked my friend’s grandfather to find an answer (none of us knew).
Ideally, I would have embarked upon a trip to a blueberry and huckleberry farm to compare and possibly find some farmers and scientists to ask more questions. An informal scientific inquiry if you will! Due to limits in time and travel though, I resorted to searching the internet upon my return.
The greatest pie (photographed in the making) I’ve ever had! I thought huckleberries (seen here as the pie filling covered with a lightly sugared syrup) were a fruit from the Southern reaches of the United States thanks to the book Huckleberry Finn, set in part in the southern U.S., by Samuel Clemens (AKA Mark Twain), and the accent of Huckleberry Hound, a cartoon character who also has an accent from the South U.S.
The greatest pie (photographed in the making) I’ve ever had!
I thought huckleberries (seen here as the pie filling covered with a lightly sugared syrup) were a fruit from the Southern reaches of the United States thanks to the book Huckleberry Finn, set in part in the southern U.S., by Samuel Clemens (AKA Mark Twain), and the accent of Huckleberry Hound, a cartoon character who also has an accent from the South U.S.
The rest of the ingredients
I became more curious and later asked her what and where the rest of the pie’s ingredients were and came from. Here was the reply:
“I love when my food is largely locally sourced but other than the fruit that pie sadly wasn’t. The berries were from the Upper Peninsula [of Michigan]. Flour was organic King Arthur [a brand of flour]. Sugar and butter were from the grocery store as was the lemon juice.”
In the U.S., the state of Michigan ranks second in agricultural diversity only to the state of California . Aside from the lemon (which likely comes from a state with warmer climate like Florida), Michigan has the ability to provide most of what we need for a pie made from rather local ingredients: We grow wheat (varieties suitable for pastries and cakes), beets (used for sugar), and have great dairy farms. While salt wasn’t mentioned, Michigan continues to mine salt—a remnant of ancient oceans that once covered the region—in tunnels beneath the city of Detroit .
All of us who ate the huckleberry pie that evening are passionate about getting good food that supports local communities. Yet even for us, it’s a challenge to know where all the ingredients really came from. It’s even more challenging to witness firsthand how our consumption of local produce enriches the lives of others in the community.
If sound accurately represented taste, I’m pretty sure it would be akin to the joys heard in this song. But what I took from the experience was more than what I ate or the questions I asked. It was knowing the care that went into it, and the comfort found in knowing I shared a sense of curiosity with those around me. Best of all, the meal was enjoyed in good company with a friend and kind family.
In Detroit, another friend of mine once remarked that there’s one ingredient that he provides which can’t be had whenever he gets food from a restaurant or delivered: love. He said it with serious resolve. He puts care into making food for others. Appreciating his cooking with other guests was easy for all of us because we can relate to his creative progress. The same was true for sharing the meal with my friend and her family in Traverse City. We know it was made with the best intentions, and tend to be more mindful of what we consume when we’re connected to people and the stories that unfold from how we relate to each other.
What did that story have to do with my work here at ISMOTION’s World by Cycle and Ride to Learn programs?
I believe the story’s a good metaphor for what inspires me about everyone on the team and what we strive to do. Much like the pie, we come from different places —all over the world—to make a team.
We work with the best we can find from around the world, but are keen to bring forth our stories from wherever we come from in a way that makes them matter in the world.
Perhaps getting some good ingredients from far away can be necessary. But even if it’s a necessity, that shouldn’t stop us from learning about and relating to the people and places the ingredients came from. Someday I hope we’ll cultivate and discover enough to know and find ourselves working with the finest locally.
In my case, I didn’t meet Nic, Kristina, and the rest of the World by Cycle team over food. However, the challenges we seek to embrace and solve certainly give food for thought:
How can we help people witness and relate to vivid stories of humanity and sustainability from around the world?
In part, we find answers.
We find answers by asking questions and embracing curiosity.
We find answers by seeking wisdom from within ourselves, everyone we meet, and the world at large.
We find answers by creating memorable experiences of our own through adventure.
We then focus on sharing them with communities to discover good solutions to make and share so that these questions and answers can matter to everyone.
We strive to make big ideas like humane education and sustainability something anyone can relate with and take action on. Curiosity for what everyone creates and consumes is equally important to learning about how it affects the people and the planet we live with.
We cultivate our curiosity and zeal for making good things in the world. We’re committed to enriching ourselves and others by sharing what we do in and with the world through our adventures big and small.
I hope you will too. In fact, I know we’ll encourage you to start your own adventures with us.
Adventure takes people to new places!
Adventure takes you to new places—whether it’s across the land, to new heights of the imagination, or into the heart of yourself and others. When in a new place, it helps to understand, but perhaps more important to relate. Opportunities for adventure exist everywhere, it just takes a bit of curiosity and an open heart to embrace whatever you encounter.
Curiosity and making meaningful impacts in the world fuel our adventures. It could start with wanting to know where our food really comes from, or whether the clothes I wear have a role in helping or harming others. Or perhaps I just want to know someone from another part of the world better.
Every time we explore a new place, idea, or being, we’re privileged to share our experiences with the world and those in our lives. As we explore new communities, we strive to capture and convey the vivid and stories that illustrate shared challenges common and profound alike.
Our actions as citizens, creators, and consumers around the world make an impact on human and ecosystemic communities. Indeed, much of my background in environmental science, sustainability and complex systems research affirms just that. You can read about it and learn from the experience of others too.
But for the best sense of what’s happening in the world and how we can change it for the better, I think we’ll find few substitutes more transformative than discovering for ourselves how we can make a difference in the company of curious, kind, and intelligent people of all backgrounds.
Sometimes, it takes a while to discover where our things come from, and it can be very challenging to trust and relate to something or people that come from so far away. Yet with a bit of curiosity and an open heart, you may find the best we can offer comes from near and far alike.
Not because good things don’t exist around us locally, but because our lives remain linked to what happens around the world, and we won’t know without perspective from adventurous inquiry.
Sometimes, it takes a meal with new acquaintances and friends from another city, or around the world, to explore and celebrate what we share.
At the same time, we also know there’s magic to be found in our immediate communities for those around us. It happens every time there’s a caring community that embraces curiosity and exploration.
Enough about me, where do you come from? What was your favorite experience around food this year? Can you share where the ingredients came from in the comments?
Let’s discover and cultivate a better world as local and global neighbors alike. Onward to adventure!
Photo credit to Sara Cole (thanks Sara)!