My Cheap Dad Would Be a Locavore Foodie Today

When I see the big efforts to change schools and teach kids how to eat right, I think back to my childhood and realize that my quirky and thrifty dad unintentionally taught me the joys of fresh, good eating. I thank and adore him, and share his little tricks and ways for parents today:

My dad would drive to the produce market downtown and buy flats of strawberries, cantaloupes, grapes and other fruit all summer to feed me and my sisters. We'd sit in the sweltering car in downtown LA waiting for him to clinch the deals. It was fresher and cheaper than the store, back before there were farmers all in fact. Now grapes and cantaloupe with cottage cheese rank among my favorite meals. And that's not even when I'm on a diet.

He'd intercept the Oroweat bread driver like a gold rush-era bandit to buy bread directly from the truck. "Straight from the bakery," he'd say. We knew the driver gave him a discount too, glancing around with embarrassment hoping our friends wouldn't see.

Without orange groves in our hood, for some inexplicable reason we would drive to orange juice factories where he knew an inspector. He'd send us kids up the ladder to the orange bins and we'd fill cartons full of oranges. A retro form of today's "foraging," "gleaning," or "stealing." Although his friend said it was ok. Along with picking our neighbor's lemons, this surely contributed to my passion for fruit gleaning and projects like Fallen Fruit and Village Harvest.

On the rare occasions we'd go to McDonald's, he'd order a Big Mac without a center slice of bread. This not only took out a few calories but required a special order as he didn't want us eating the hamburgers that had been lying around.

Maybe it was his ethnic background that taught him the joys of fresh food, going straight to the source, coupled with the cost savings of eliminating the middle people.

Back then it was mildly embarrassing. Now it's cute and I realize those eccentric eating and shopping habits made me the locavore and compulsive farmers market shopper I am today. For Father's Day I'm taking my dad to the farmers market, where he will be thrilled to sample the goods and meet the producers. Then Costco, where he will be thrilled to sample the goods and eat the locally produced pizza for $1.99.

Happy Father's Day to all the caring and loving foodie dads in the world!




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