A New Beginning

By / Photography By Forrest Clonts | April 07, 2017
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Top Left to Right: Lance, Ron Jr., Stephanie, Ron Sr. Bottom: Elizabeth, Jacquelyn with Avery and Ashton, Janice McHugh.

As I stand in my kitchen (where I spend most of my time), I am reminded of how I arrived at the place I am now—owning Edible Charleston and sharing our story with you. I stare at the sticker on my fridge that reads “Love people—Cook them tasty food” (a sticker I acquired from my many shipments from Penzey’s Spices). I have always felt that food is love and that food brings people together. It’s what nourishes our body and soul, and what strengthens family and community bonds. Food creates health and local food grows the local economy—all sentiments I long ago realized Edible shared with me. I have loved the Edible brand since I read my first issue almost 10 years ago, but little did I know I would one day publish it.

My passion for food began decades ago when I was a child. From Greek descent, I enjoyed the food, family, music and celebrations that were an integral part of my upbringing. It was during those years that I developed a deep appreciation for the power of wholesome, local (our garden), fresh food, building strong bonds and creating good health. In our home, food was love and food was medicine. There wasn’t anything homemade Avgolemono couldn’t cure. It was always comforting to have a pot of soup made, and lovingly served, when not feeling well. That warmth and comfort have since remained with me. When I was a child, my family had a large vegetable garden and various fruit trees growing in our backyard. I learned to prepare and take care of the soil to assure that each year our garden vegetables and fruit trees would flourish and produce a wonderful bounty. I also learned the signs of pests, immanent disease or malnourished plants. I learned to mulch, water and harvest, then turn the soil and prepare for winter and the next year’s crops. We didn’t keep animals (although my father did during his youth), so, what we didn’t grow, we obtained from local purveyors. During those years, home food delivery was common (it’s funny to see prepared fresh foods now trending for home delivery). We received a weekly delivery of fresh foods; chickens and eggs came from Jimmy “the egg man”, milk from the milkman and our meat from a local butcher; in addition, my father was an avid fisherman, so we frequently enjoyed fresh fish.

It is a dream come true—having my entire family work together in a venture we have passion for, has meaning and relevance in our community, and supports so many businesses working hard to do the right thing. And, most importantly, is just plain fun.

I learned to cook at an early age. My father owned a restaurant when I was young, thereby offering me the opportunity to immerse myself in the restaurant experience. He learned to cook from both his parents; his father worked in restaurants most of his life, and his mother was an extraordinary cook—the best food I’ve ever eaten. I spent a great deal of time with my Yiayia who taught me how to cook “Greek style” as she so proudly proclaimed. I spent countless hours with her learning the “feel” of doughs, and not relying on measurements, but rather understanding the elements of the ingredients in creating delicious food. All our meals were made from scratch, and although it was simple food, it nourished our body and soul the way good food does. From those early days on, food was at the center of everything I did, and I loved everything food—reading about it,growing it, cooking it and talking about it. I loved the gadgets and tools, and I worked on perfecting a new cooking technique regularly. But mostly, I loved seeing people enjoyed the food I cooked. As a child, I often made the family desserts and delighted as I watched my family devour them. That passion has lasted a lifetime. To this day, it’s still my favorite part of cooking a meal.

The McHugh Ladies

Fast forward several years. I had my own family and raised my four children with the same values about food that I grew up with. Although I had a very busy life working full time, going to school and raising a family, fresh, wholesome food remained the cornerstone of being healthy. Making sure my family had nutritious, home-cooked meals, eaten together daily at the family table, was a priority.

Despite my passion for food, (or maybe because of it), my path took me into the health-care field, where I spent over 35 years. Starting my career as a registered nurse in a hospital setting, I saw first hand the impact of nutrition and lifestyle on personal health and wellness. After leaving the hospital setting, I continued my education and worked in a variety of non-hospital venues for a few years before finding what I wanted to devote my professional life to—a career in occupational health and wellness. I culminated my education by earning a doctorate in business with a healthcare specialization and worked in a variety of occupational health settings, both public and private, spending the last 15 years of my career in a Fortune 50 company, developing programs and services to help employees stay healthy, at work and at home. Food and nutrition were always part of the conversation. Toward the end of my corporate career I turned my attention to helping people change their behavior and obtained a certification in wellness coaching and am currently in a year-long functional medicine coaching program working toward both a functional medicine and national coaching certification. This education aligns perfectly with Edible Charleston’s mission to share the connection between locally grown, sustainable food and wellness.

All our meals were made from scratch, and although it was simple food, it nourished our body and soul the way good food does.

Throughout time, food and family have remained core values for me. I’m delighted there is now a powerful movement to raise awareness about the importance of sustainably grown, local, food, and the impact it has on the health of the individual and on our land, and I feel privileged that the McHugh family and Edible Charleston are part of that.

And so, retired from a career in occupational health and wellness, this new path started one Sunday morning in July while perusing Edible online. As I was reading the web page, I noticed a sidebar that read “want to start your own Edible?” I paused, thought for a nanosecond, and clicked yes! Yes, I do want to start my own Edible! I called my oldest daughter, Jacquelyn, and told her what I envisioned for the magazine and the family business. I believed the magazine could be the conduit to both educate and entertain our readers on local food, and that as the editor, she could ensure that focus. I knew it would be an easy sell—and it was.

Jacquelyn has degrees in nutrition and sports medicine with a background in wellness and athletic coaching, and is just as passionate about food as I am. As the mother of two young boys (ages 2½ and 1), her daily conversation and constant focus have become on childhood nutrition and sustainability of the local community. Writing for a local Mom’s blog catapulted her into realizing the need for such information in our community, and unknowingly prepared her to take on the role as editor. Elizabeth, my youngest daughter, took the lead in sales. Her background in psychology, neuroscience and health and wellness coaching fuels her passion for creating community, especially regarding good food, understanding where it comes from, and creating the relationships to foster this. I enlisted my other daughter, Stephanie, to support us on the operations and digital side of the business. Stephanie has always been at ease with technology and a great problem-solver, so managing those aspects of the business was a natural fit for her. My son, Ron Jr., uses his training as a sous chef and experience in marketing and national sponsorship activations to create relationships for the family to cultivate. Let me not forget my wonderful husband, Ron Sr., who will help with distribution and any other “honey-dos” that come up.

It is a dream come true—having my entire family work together in a venture we have passion for, has meaning and relevance in our community, and supports so many businesses working hard to do the right thing. And, most importantly, is just plain fun.

Throughout the pages of Edible Charleston and with each issue, we will bring you compelling stories of the farmers, chefs, artisans, brewers, purveyors and home cooks who will share their expertise and passion with you. Each issue will bring you thoughtful, and thought-provoking stories about local food. Through an Edible magazine, we have been given the opportunity to positively impact our readers, features and our advertisers.

I can’t think of a better way to enjoy my “retirement” years.

Article from Edible Charleston at http://ediblecharleston.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/new-beginning
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