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The knife glides over the cutting board and methodically begins slicing freshly washed carrots. My mother’s quiet hand grabs generous handfuls, and they fall elegantly into the giant steel pot heating on the stove. A cloud of rosemary floats through the house, and I know that autumn is here.

Food is an integral part of my family’s life. Friends make a point of coming over for dinner because they know they will never eat a better bowl of minestrone soup. The pumpkin pancake recipe from our second-grade class, shortbread recipe from my Scottish great-grandmother, and the only “correct” Thanksgiving stuffing recipe are all honored as part of our traditions. I grew up learning that beautiful food is essential to a rich life.

I am thankful for every piece of dark chocolate my mom slips onto the table while I’m struggling over my homework, every childhood birthday cake decorated with pansies from our garden, and every game of trash-basketball played with potato scraps while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. The dinner table sits in the family room, centered between the kitchen and the fireplace. It is not just a place to eat, but where my family connects. Without a freezer containing three cartons of chocolate ice cream and a kitchen cabinet solely devoted to tea, our home would not be our home.

Placer County is my extended home. It is an area that values quality of life over quantity of possessions, maintains open space rather than encouraging urban development, and focuses on nature, health, and food. Competition is friendly but serious between Ikedas Farms and Machados Apple Orchard, leading pie-bakers in the area. Slow Food groups hold dinners to promote local agriculture. After every Saturday soccer game, I buy a samosa with lentils from the Indian vendor at the nearby farmer’s market. Over fifty thousand people visit our annual Mountain Mandarin Festival to share in our small-town charm and beautiful produce. The smell of spices from funnel cakes and apple cider mix with the golden leaves floating in the drizzly autumn sky and remind me of why I love living here. This is a place where buying from Starbucks rather than the local coffee shop is a sin, the first crop of Pink Lady apples is impatiently awaited, and summer means fresh-picked berries and weekends spent making jam.
As I prepare to leave home and begin creating my independent life, I know that I will probably settle in a place far from Placer County. But one thing that will guide the way I will connect with my future community will be the sense of friendship created whenever a group of people sit down over a lovingly-prepared meal. Through life’s turmoil, I have learned to slow down and eat an apple right off the tree every so often and savor simple joys.




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