Business with a Purpose: The Importance of Seasonality
When I started this company, I was going off of my gut. Trusting myself, my interest in food, the restaurant scene in NYC and how much I enjoyed sharing different parts of this great city with others. When I got into this business I was working for another company, and all I knew was that basic thing--the joy. I knew pretty quickly that I would be venturing off on my own, however, just based on the wish to create the full experience from scratch. Of course, as soon as I was faced with the reality of starting my own company I had to truly consider how I was going to set mine apart from all of the other great food tour companies out there. I ran a few private tours on my own, but the first tour that I would be ready to offer to the public was my idea for a holiday tour that would take advantage of the Columbus Circle holiday market and feature some of that great NYC holiday magic that happens in midtown. The only thing about starting with such a tour is that I had to figure out what I would do very quickly after. So, the idea came to me to create a tour company that changes its tour offerings with the seasons. It felt like a perfect idea as I remembered how odd I felt offering hot chocolate in the summer. I considered myself a "moody foodie" and I figured changing my tours to be good business as it reflected a thing that I was interested in. I couldn't have possibly realized what it would truly mean for me and my lifestyle. I knew that my moodiness wasn't unique. I knew that most people felt the same about the food they ate. But, living in New York City, where we have everything available to us all year round, it didn't seem important at first. And then for Christmas I received a book, called Foodist, that reminded me of what that moodiness is really all about. Now, I'm not going to review this book here. All I'll say is that it made clear to me that if I'm running a tour company inspired by the seasons we experience in New York, that I should probably do the same in my own kitchen.
We've come a long way since our early days on this planet and then in this country. We've made a lot of changes to the way we do things. And this is not a cry from me to get back to the Paleo days...FAR from it! I'm a foodie still, and I couldn't go without cheese--unless maybe it killed me. But I knew that I was more dependent on processed food than I'd like to admit, and that, as a city dweller, I probably didn't need to ingest any more chemicals than those I encountered regularly on the subway. When you start digging into the science of it all you realize how much crap we consume every day and how unnecessary that is. And the further I read, the more I realized that I'm running a business promoting a lifestyle* that I don't completely adhere to myself, and I should probably change that. As much as I love me some guacamole, I probably shouldn't be picking up avocados in the dead of winter too frequently--or any time of year really, if I live on the East Coast.
The book spoke a lot about shopping at farmer's markets, but I could only think of one or two, which I knew operated on the weekends and weren't necessarily convenient to where I live. But there was a website provided by the book to help me find all of the options available to me, and it turns out New York City actually offers several farmer's markets, throughout the city every day--some only in the warmer months, but plenty year-round. Another option, I had looked into years ago, was that of a farm share or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, which brings farm fresh fruits and veggies into areas that aren't able to access them as easily. One of those CSA programs, I found delivered to a church just blocks from my apartment, so I signed up, but wouldn't be getting my first delivery until March and I wanted to get a jump on eating locally, so I started a new routine, of trekking out on Fridays to the 97th Street greenmarket, which is right around the corner from a Whole Foods that would give me anything I wasn't able to find at the market.
I felt like such a cliche as I started to enjoy the heck out of my seasonally appropriate food! Not only, was it exciting to learn to cook and play with these new items, but it all tasted so good! And as the seasons continued to change, so did the produce. Fresh berries and peaches and tomatoes and corn! I couldn't believe I had been cheating myself of good produce for so long! And then it became clear that this was more than appropriate for a business owner who thinks that one shouldn't have to deal only with midtown madness during the summer heat, but should chill out in the lovely Carroll Gardens with some light and tasty fare to appease our bodies demands.
I continued to read further, I finally opened the copy of Omnivore's Dilemna, that'd been taking up space on one of my book shelves and began to devour it, which I realized is not what you're supposed to do, so I read it instead. All of the changes I started making were just supported by this text. And now I see it as a personal and professional mission to try to help others realize the importance of keeping with the seasons. I'm not saying that I can't ever eat guacamole and corn syrup-based sodas again--that would be crazy! I'm just saying that we all need to be more cognizant of the things we consume and that the best way that I know how to right some of the wrongs that have been facing our farming industry is to use my dollars by shopping local.
So, I urge you to do the same--shop small and buy local, as often as you can. I don't go to huge chain restaurants that you can find on your own, anywhere in the world, so what should I shop at a big supermarket? If you'd like to try a tour to show you some places that do the same, I'd be happy to! And if you'd like to reach out to find out how best to start your own seasonal eating in NYC--also, feel free to reach out! Eating appropriately is not only important for your own health, but it's also important for our environment and our local economies.
Stay tuned in the months ahead for some changes to come, as well as some fun and exciting partnerships that highlight this philosophy. Don't forget--people are people too, not just corporations.
*The tours I run are seasonally-inspired, however, the stops on the tours aren't necessarily all using farm fresh organic ingredients from local farms, but I have done a couple of tours like that for private clients and would be happy to do so again in other areas of the city.