Growing up in Michigan, this blogger and business owner traded in a childhood of comfort food classics to build a business and lifestyle brand based on light, healthy, organic fare for the whole family.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
I provide cooking classes for parents and children. I’m a jack of all trades really. I do the classes, and I offer a personal baby chef service as well.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A BABY CHEF SERVICE?
If you are a parent who wants to feed your baby the best homemade food possible but might not have the time to do it yourself, you can hire me and I do it for you. Everything made is organic, in season, and prepared just for that particular client.
AND WHAT IS THE NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS?
CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ORGANIC FOOD?
I’ve been into healthy food and healthy eating since I was about 18. I started out just not eating red meat. Then we moved from Michigan to South Florida. Living in Michigan we didn’t have the means, or just didn’t really know about eating healthier. We never really had a meal that didn’t have some kind of meat protein. But then when I moved, I wound up living with a girl who was vegetarian, and she showed me different recipes and ways to eat better, and I stopped eating meat altogether when I was 25. I always liked knowing where my food came from. I liked reading books about food and where it came from, and about our food system, and the treatment of animals and things like that.
SO AS A KID GROWING UP IN MICHIGAN WHAT WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD LIKE? WHAT MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE OF FOOD AS A KID?
I grew up in a house where my mom cooked basically every meal during the week. We would have themes. A pasta night, a casserole night, taco night, you know, nothing fancy. We never had anything out of the ordinary really, always a meat, a starch, a vegetable, that type of meal. My dad’s mom, my grandmom, was Polish and we would go to her house and she would always have like a 7 course meal waiting for you every time you went over. We laugh about it now, but we used to say, if you weren’t stuffed and drunk by the time you left there, there was a problem. She’d stuff us with food, and you’d leave with food. My dad learned from his mother and he’d make us some of our more interesting meals on the weekends. He’d experiment and play around with food a little more. I think that’s where I learned how to cook. I think that’s where my love of food began, helping my grandmom, being in the kitchen making stuff like peirogies, and then helping my dad in the kitchen.
SO WAS THERE SOMETHING IN PARTICULAR THAT HAPPENED FOR YOU TO MAKE THAT SWITCH FROM THOSE RICH COMFORT FOODS, THOSE POLISH STAPLES, TO THE LIGHTER, MORE NATURAL ORGANIC FARE THAT YOU COOK WITH TODAY?
In high school there was movie that we watched, a documentary, it was about the food system, about how animals were treated. Something about it just spoke to me and I thought, “how could this be happening?” And I found myself thinking that I couldn’t be a part of that. And I started reading more about those things. Then after high school I really started to educate myself and that’s really where my journey began- into eating healthier and learning where my food comes from.
YOU’RE MARRIED WITH 2 CHILDREN, CORRECT?
Yes. Two children. Two boys. Ages 9 and 7. They were both born on the same day, that’s a little fun fact.
SO I GUESS THE KIDS ARE ACCUSTOMED TO EATING THIS WAY. I ASSUME THEY WERE BROUGHT UP WITH A HEALTHY ORGANIC COOKING AND EATING LIFESTYLE?
They have. It was nice because when I met my husband, he was eating poultry, but he was already not eating red meat and he was into eating healthier food and was experimenting with a different type of eating lifestyle. So he was very supportive when I’d make something like lentil loaf instead of meat loaf. And so it was just a kind of natural progression for me. Obviously I feel like if I am eating healthy as an adult, then we want our kids to be eating healthy too. From the beginning I knew I wanted my babies to have good organic food. Someone had given me a care package and it had organic baby food in it. Back then the only organic baby food was the jars of Earth’s Best. So we gave it a try. When he started eating it, of course I wanted to taste it, to try what he was eating. So, I think it was bananas he had, and I tried it and it didn’t even really taste like a banana. It didn’t look like what a nice ripe banana would look like if it was mashed. I tried something else, peas I think, and it just didn’t taste like fresh food. So I decided I was just going to make my own food. I went to the bookstore and did a bunch of research on it. I found this amazing book called ‘The Super Baby Food Book’, and it really became my bible. I loved it. I was teaching full-time then, so on a Saturday or Sunday I would spend a couple of hours getting organic food and making it. I’d go the farmer’s market or Whole Foods. Back then most conventional markets didn’t really have organics, so you really needed to go to a specialty store or farmers market to get your fruits and vegetables. But I’d go and get it and spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, I’d make it and freeze it little cubes, and it was really perfect.
SO HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO TURN THAT INTO A BUSINESS?
Well, after moving to the Philadelphia area, I stopped teaching and I was a stay at home mom with my two boys. For about a year and a half, I was just raising them. I wasn’t really doing anything else outside the home. A friend of mine was working for an organic food company in New York City, doing grassroots marketing in the Philly area. She didn’t want to do it anymore and she thought I’d be perfect for it. So, I started working for them. I was doing basic promotions and sales, and as that job progressed I started doing cooking classes for them, developing recipes and eventually online marketing for that company. Throughout that time my skill set became more of a marketer than a teacher. But I still had that teaching background, that background in education. My husband and a friend of ours kind of pushed me into it. They told me I was doing all these great things for this one company and maybe I should really start doing it for myself. So that’s where the idea of going into business for myself came from, and the idea for O’Boy Organic.
WHAT TYPE OF SERVICES DOES O’ BOY ORGANIC PROVIDE AND IF SOMEONE WERE INTERESTED IN YOUR SERVICES WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST WAY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU FOR THAT?
Well I have a website, http://www.oboyorganic.com, and all of my contact information is there. I’m on social media. All of my social media is on there. Basically, if you are on our website you can click through and see what we do. It’s really easy, very self-explanatory. It gives a description of each of the services that I provide. From kid’s cooking classes, parties for kids, parent classes, personal baby chef services, they can get in touch with me by phone or email with any questions and I can further explain the services, and we can find out how I can help them.
WHERE ARE YOU BASED OUT OF?
Drexel Hill, PA. Which is right outside of Philadelphia.
YOUR KIDS ARE 7 AND 9. IS THERE A ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY ON JUNK FOOD IN YOUR HOUSE?
No, there isn’t. I mean it’s very rare. If we’re going to have junk food (except now because my husband just bought 5 boxes of Girl Scout cookies) it doesn’t happen very often, and it’s always in moderation. If they want cookies or they’re looking for something sweet, I’ll make it myself for the most part.
SO DO YOUR KIDS EVER COME HOME AND SAY STUFF LIKE, “JOHNNY HAD DORITOS TODAY, WHY CANT I HAVE DORITOS?”
Absolutely. They say that a lot. It happens. Usually it’s with my oldest, who has said something just like that (with Doritos) actually. I said to him, “look I have something that is a better alternative and it tastes juts like Doritos, so we’ll buy it and you can try it.” He tried it and said, “you know you’re right Mom, this does taste like Doritos.” So, I just let him know that it can taste good but it does’t have all of the junk in it. My oldest now asks a lot of questions and he’ll ask me, “well, what is the junk that you don’t want me to have?” And I’ll go over it with him, over the artificial colors, and the preservatives, and what’s in it and I’ll explain to him why I don’t want them to have it. I’ll take him with me to the grocery store and let him make choices, I’ll let him pick things that he wants, but things that I approve of. We read labels, he knows what to look for. Cereal for example, I’ll tell them they can pick out their own cereal, but it can only have so many grams of sugar. So they’ll look at the boxes and see what they have to choose from and come up with something. They’re really good with it. But they’ve grown up with it. It’s not like something I am suddenly changing on them. They’ve had it like this since day one. But, they do get treats. On Sunday, my older son was my assistant for a cooking class and we were driving past a Rita’s (Water Ice) and he asked if we could get one. So, I told him if it was still open when we were done, we’d go and get one as a treat for him being my assistant. And we did, and it was open. We both got a Rita’s and it was a nice little date for us. It was special. I mean he doesn’t get that all the time, but I’m not one to say no all the time either.
DO YOU THINK THERE’S A BACKLASH TO THAT? DO YOU THINK WHEN THEY ARE OLD ENOUGH TO REALLY MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES THEY’RE JUST GONNA GO JUNK FOOD CRAZY? OR DO YOU THINK THAT YOU’VE IMPARTED ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE TO THEM THAT THEY WILL MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE TAUGHT THEM ABOUT FOOD?
I hope so. I think when they’re not with mom and dad, they’re always going to try to do stuff that they know mom and dad might not approve of. They just had a Valentine’s Day party at school and my one son ate a lot of junk food. He came home and said, “my stomach hurts.” He felt really sick for a long time. Suddenly he was very aware of why he was feeling like that. I told him it was okay once in a while, but understand that if you eat too much of it, this is what it is going to do to your body. I think too as they get older and the more they learn and understand, they will be more likely to be healthy eaters and want those healthier foods.
I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO ASK YOU, GIVEN WHAT YOU DO AND ALL OF THIS TALK ABOUT HEALTHY FOOD, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GMO’S AND THE LABELING OF GMO’S? (GMO stands for genetically modified organism. It is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.)
I KNOW IT IS A VERY CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE RIGHT NOW.
I feel like we have a right to know what’s in our food. I feel like it’s my job, if someone doesn’t know, to educate them about it. That’s one reason I started the O’Boy Organic blog. I feel like if I can have a voice, and share information than I can educate others about it. Education is so important. If you don’t know about it, about what it does, and what’s in our food system, you can’t do anything about it. It’s astonishing what we put into our bodies. Some companies, General Mills for example, will make different foods for different companies and they’ll leave out certain ingredients. But they don’t do that for the United States. In other countries it’s labeled when it has GMO ingredients, but in this country we don’t do that (label). I think it’s a power issue, a political issue, a money issue. A lot of people make a lot of money from those things. Thanks to this grassroots movement over the last few years, we’re just starting to hear more about it and you’re seeing more about it. Then also people are buying more organic foods now. They’re not going to McDonald’s, and to other fast food places as much. Profits are being lost by those places because people want to know what’s in their food and they want what is best for their family.
SO WHAT DO YOU SAY TO ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY’D LIKE TO MAKE THESE CHANGES BUT FEEL THEY CAN’T BECAUSE IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE?
I tell them that if they do certain things, they can definitely afford it. We’re a family of 4 and I’d say 95% of our food is organic and our weekly budget is $150.00. We pretty much stay within that budget. It’s mainly because of menu planning. So I give people suggestions like that. We use real food. We avoid pre-packaged food. It’s more expensive because you’re paying for the convenience. I tell them to use what you have first. Use what is in your house to plan your menus and you’ll save money that way. Now, most conventional grocery stores (mine is Giant), all have their own brand of organics and it’s cheaper. You can go to places like Costco to get your meats in bulk. You need to look at what you’re buying and how you’re feeding your family on a weekly basis. It can be done.
DO YOU HAVE A RECIPE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? MAYBE SOMETHING TRADITIONAL THAT YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO PUT A HEALTHY SPIN ON?
Here’s a link to an easy printable recipe for a healthy rice krispie treat makeover: Rice Krispie Treats You can see more about what Trina does and the services her company offers at www.oboyorganic.com