My name is Meaghin Kennedy. I’m a food writer and food culture photographer living in Portland, Oregon.
In 2009, I left a career as an elementary school counselor to pursue a career in food, not knowing exactly where this pursuit would take me. As a school counselor, my exposure to school food left me conflicted: I was glad that children had access to lunch, but woefully aware that the processed, tasteless food the school served was filling my trashcan after each lunch group, while the kids ate sweets or started wistfully at packed lunches, including my own. My growing awareness of the problems with school food and children’s health and nutrition coincided with my own personal exposure to seasonal eating and cooking.
One of the most pivotal weekends of my adult life occurred simultaneously with my decision to leave my job. That weekend, my then-fiancee and I went to see the documentary Food, Inc. At this point I’m very aware of our country’s food system and the difficulties that the documentary highlighted, but in 2009 I was more or less unfamiliar with the state of our nation’s food supply. I left the theater uncomfortably confused by what I had just watched. I had to accept the fact that I had been eating food, both at home and at restaurants, without knowing where that food came from or understanding the complex issues surrounding its production.
The next day, I traveled to Purcellville, Virginia, home of Moutoux Orchards, to attend a dinner on the farm.
What I hoped would be a memorable evening became something more. At the dinner, we dined side-by-side with the farmers, ate “day-of” eggs, watched the sunset, and soaked up the convivial atmosphere. Much of the conversation vacillated between topics I had partially absorbed from Food, Inc. (ranging from bio-engineering to seed-saving to free-range chickens). I felt both lost and right at home. It may seem like I’m directing this narrative to obtain a certain outcome, but when I returned to my apartment that night, I couldn’t sleep. My mind rapid-cycled between the smells of the farm, the tastes from the dinner, and the topics I knew so little about.
That June, I set out to learn as much as I could about our food system, culture, and the stories behind the food. I devoured — and continue to devour — as many food books as I could, pausing to take notes for easy reference.
In the three years since that pivotal weekend, I’ve worked with the DC Farm to School movement, City Harvest, The Sylvia Center, and several farmers’ market focused organizations. I’ve interviewed farmers and artisans, shared recipes, and gained a greater understanding of school food, sustainable agriculture, and local food systems. Today, as a photographer and writer, I aim to shed light on our current food system, to highlight work being done by individuals, restaurants, and community organizations, and to showcase seasonal eating and preservation.
About These Salty Oats
These Salty Oats was created to promote and celebrate local eating, food issues, and artisans through images and written word. The title “These Salty Oats” sprung from the need for a quirky name with deeper resonance that would align with the site’s multi-layered approach. Besides the simple idea that anything edible is improved with a liberal dose of salt, the words ‘oat’ and ‘salt’ have deeper meanings related to food. Oats are whole grains and a building block in recipes and food cultures. Salt is both a preservative and flavor enhancer — and of course, the term ‘salty’ is used to describe an opinionated person. Alyson Thomas of Drywell Art perfectly captured the spirit of the title in the logo and illustrations on the site.
When you visit These Salty Oats, I invite you to navigate between recipes, product information, essays on local farmers and artisans, and longer form articles on local and global food issues.
These Salty Oats explores food from basic to complicated, with the hope that this space on the internet can encourage us to be aware of food issues on a personal, community, and global level.