commentary of everyday women about food and fashion

Jametta Raspberry: Gristle

courtesy photo

In my house, nothing went to waste. Everyone was expected to eat every morsel on their plate. “Waste not, want not,” my father frequently said as he sifted through discarded bits and pieces of what started out as Sunday dinner. These dinners were the heartbeat of my upbringing. My parents, four siblings, and sometimes others who we picked up after church, made it a full house. I remember having fried chicken the most. After a quick prayer, if you did not grab your chicken immediately, you might have to wait for a second batch to finish frying. We laughed and told jokes, then everyone sighed as they released themselves from the table.

I stayed at the table with my dad. We scoured each plate and platter for leftover pieces of bone and fat. This was the best part of dinnertime. We spent more time together and laughed longer. We drew out the most delicious flavors, sucking and crunching the gristle. I thought it was amazing. Who would not want to taste the treasures of marrow trapped inside?

The state of euphoria that comes with eating is something I long to replicate. Gristle is what binds the bones together. Gristle is what keeps us at the table longer, together. This feeling of connection is what inspired me to found my business. We curate dining experiences and host pop-ups, private dinners, and events throughout the Twin Cities.

The House of Gristle builds community across many cultures by connecting us through food, laughter, and love.

Details: @chefraspberry and @houseofgristle

Alma Silver: Food Access For Students

Alma Silver (seated) with other food shelf volunteers; courtesy photo

“Needing help with getting food does not mean that you are any less of a person.”

A student shared this in conversation as I helped direct the flow within the St. Catherine University food shelf. It made me profoundly aware that food access is a universal human right. Before immersing myself in the vibrant community   of food justice advocates on my campus, I had remained comfortably oblivious to the experiences of hunger among my fellow students. I recognized food insecurity as a remote issue, never fully considering that something as basic as a meal could transform a student’s college experience — from their ability to focus in the classroom to the amount of energy they have leftover for extracurriculars.

As I worked to increase visibility around resources related to food access, I engaged in conversations that challenged my perspective in uncomfortable, necessary, and transformative ways.

At  St. Kate’s,  working towards food access for all has  led to the formation of an important community. Our  garden harvests yield donations of fresh produce and our collaborative gatherings brainstorm long-term solutions to food insecurity. Each time the campus food shelf opens, it forges connections between students and broader community members. Together, we will continue to remove barriers to basic needs within our community while sustaining a spirit of kinship, mutual care, and understanding.

Jolene Turner: Image Confidence

photo by Erin Smith

For the past two years, I have been helping women find clothing for job interviews and employment as an image coach for Dress for Success Twin Cities. It is an incredibly rewarding way for me to give back, as it marries two passions of mine: fashion and empowering women.

The clothing aspect of landing a job can often be a stressor; not having appropriate attire can even lead some to not apply for a job in the first place. As an image coach, I have one- on-one consultations with clients to learn about them before I suggest clothing. So much magic happens during this process. I love learning about where they have come from and where they are headed. Listening is so important and can help to build self-esteem, as I meet with many women who feel insecure and defeated.

My favorite moment is when a woman is in an outfit she never thought she could wear and I can see in her face how wonderful she feels. She lights up, she gets excited, and she sees that she is beautiful.

Maya Haji: Modest Swimwear

photos by David Kenyon Photography

I started off in the fashion  industry modeling during high  school  and  fell  in love with clothes. During those days, it was hard for me to find a designer who understood my cultural background and why I did not wear certain things. There were not a lot of options, so I decided to create something that could  serve my community. I founded  my  label, Luuli, because I want women to feel confident and comfortable. This is my first swimwear collection. I  used  tie-dye  fabric  because  I love playing with color. Our collections are  both modest and eco-friendly. I want the pieces I design to last a long time.

Kathryn Sterner: Good Design

photo by Lauren Kristi

I was interested in design from an early age. I grew up with an artist and a scientist for parents, and I like to think that design exists at the intersection of those two fields. My childhood instilled in me an appreciation for art and aesthetic, with a drive to find purpose and meaning.

I am obsessed with “good design.” I get unreasonably upset when something that is designed to be useful and visible is terrible to look at, or when something aesthetically pleasing is poor at its job. I often find myself interacting with an object and yelling: “Do what you are designed to do!”

Sustainability is such an integral part of good design. Products should last, and products that are designed well and enjoyed will likely be used more and be better taken care of. What makes me most excited is when an item of clothing or a household good has multiple uses, allowing me to own less.

These are the values I bring to my design work at Winsome Goods, a line of modern clothing and housewares. I strive to design intentional items that are easy to own and take care of.

Dry-cleaning? What a drag. I never want to create clothing that is too precious to be worn frequently. Our clothing is designed, sampled, and produced under one roof in order  to cut down on material and resource waste. Fabrics are natural or recycled, and many of our designs have multiple uses, such as dresses that transition to tops, and jackets that are reversible.

Equally important is providing those who produce clothing a healthy work environment and fair wages. Creating balance in the lives  of  those who make garments is just as important as sustainability in products.

Nancy L. Johnson: Winter Style

Let’s start with the basics. My activity on any given day is a walk, snowshoeing, tobogganing, or shoveling the deck (again!).

  1. I put on my silk long underwear set with long sleeves and leggings. It hugs my body and retains heat.
  2. Next, I put on one or two long-sleeved tops and a pair of leggings plus ski pants or snow pants for more defense against the cold.
  3. Then, I don thick socks for my winter boots (to keep my toes “unfroze”) and my down-filled winter coat (to protect the rest of me).
  4. Use the bathroom. This should have been number one. Now I have to redo the pants part.
  5. I secure my knit hat and wrap a long knit scarf around my neck.
  6. Finally, I put on lightweight gloves under thick mittens made from recycled sweater material.

I allow about 15 minutes  to do this, unless I need to repeat number 4. Then out the door I go. My winter fashion style is warm, but I won’t be modeling it on the runway. If  I slip on the icy  road  during my walk, I will probably bounce due to the layers. Once I return home (or finish the shoveling) my reward is to plop down on the snow and make a few snow angels. Who says you can’t have stylish fun in winter?

Leah Porter: Watering Food Deserts

photo by Wilder Foundation

Growing up in rural Iowa,  my  family  and  I went to the grocery store once a month when we received our food stamps. What we bought during that trip had to last the entire month for our  family  of six. As a result, we did not buy fresh fruits and vegetables because they did not last very long, and were more expensive than the cheaper, processed foods.

This seemed like a normal part of rural life. What I did not learn until years later is that a similar scenario plays out for families in the Twin Cities, despite the fact that the metro area is one of the most food-rich areas in the U.S.

There are several neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, especially in low-income areas, where no grocery stores exist. These are often called “food deserts.” What I’ve learned is that these “deserts” did not occur naturally; they are the result of chronic disinvestment in neighborhoods consisting largely of people of color. The bottom line? A lack of access to healthy, affordable food is just another form of systemic racism.

I created the Twin Cities Mobile Market, a grocery store on wheels. Operating out of a converted transit bus, we sell fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy items, meat, and basic dry goods at below-market prices in areas where there is a lack of access. We currently serve 24 stops each week across St. Paul and Minneapolis.

I hope to inspire conversations about why we lack healthy food access in the first place, increase the affordability of healthy food, and better invest in all of our neighborhoods.

Details: twincitiesmobilemarket.org

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