Fairfield County’s Green Food Passionista: Introducing Natural Awakenings’ New Food Editor!
Jun 01, 2014 11:24PM
By Nicole Miale
Analiese Paik, founder and editor of the award-winning website Fairfield Green Food Guide and the new Food Editor for Natural Awakenings Fairfield County, has been passionate about fresh food for as long as she can remember. She recalls growing up on Long Island; fishing and clamming in the Long Island Sound and always having a family garden. “It was perfectly normal to get some cash from my mother, hop on my bike and ride to the farm down the street to buy corn and tomatoes for dinner,” she says.
That love and appreciation for food fresh from the land followed her into adulthood even when she was in the urban jungle of New York City and Wall Street. She earned an MBA and made her living in finance, but pursued her love of food as a student at The Institute of Culinary Education. An externship requirement from the institute shifted her life path when she spent six weeks working at Coyote Café in Santa Fe, one of the first “farm-to-table” restaurants. “That is where the keys to really amazing food sank into my soul,” she says. “Use the freshest ingredients of the highest quality and you will develop the best flavor. That is what it should be all about.”
She returned from Santa Fe to Darien and began digging up their manicured yard so she could create a garden. “It wasn’t really a garden,” she says with a laugh. “It was a small farm. I went a little crazy. It was me against the woodchucks every day.” The garden at her house in Fairfield now is a bit smaller, but contains eight raised beds where she grows herbs and vegetables during spring and summer. Her search for farmers’ markets where she could get other fresh ingredients was the seed from which Fairfield Green Food Guide sprouted.
“In 2009 it was still hard to find information about farms and farmers’ markets,” she explains. “I started the website because I knew how hard it was for me to find the information and it’s so important to me that people know where to find fresh, nutrient dense, quality food. I had spent so much time gathering all that information; why not share it?”
The website – a free resource visited by as many as 15,000 people monthly – provides Fairfield County residents with news, information, and event announcements they need to find the food they want. “We have amazing local resources,” she says. “But they’re all so busy doing what they do that few people were able to get the word out. It’s really gratifying now to hear from farms how much of a difference the website has made for them and their CSA programs.”
In addition to the website and online collaboration with media outlets such as CT Bites and HamletHub, Paik actively collaborates with farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other organizations in the area such as Slow Food Metro North and Audubon Greenwich to organize and run live events. The Sustainable Food & Farm Expo at Audubon Greenwich in March drew more than 400 people, even though it was a first-time event. Paik wasn’t surprised because she sees firsthand how the appetite for this information has grown.
“There are a lot of factors driving consumer demand for higher quality, fresh food,” she says. “Personal health and wellbeing is probably the biggest, followed by concern for the environment. There have been a few activists who have really moved the needle for everyone in the recent years, most importantly Alice Waters and Michael Pollan.”
What she would most like to see shift is our cultural attitude toward food as fuel, which she says does disservice both to our bodies as well as the food. “What am I eating?” and “where does it come from?” are two questions she wishes everyone would have in mind when they consume a meal. “What you put in your body is going to determine in large part how you feel,” she says. “We lost touch with that somewhere along the way.” She is instilling this food sensibility in her two sons, who take home-prepared lunches to school each day and rarely eat processed foods.
To naysayers who complain that organic and local produce costs more, Paik says, “My philosophy is that eating locally and organically doesn’t need to be an all or nothing proposition. Most of us need to be what I call frugalistas. We have to pick and choose what to buy organically. If you’re strategic, you can do very well on a budget.”
Paik is excited about her new role as Food Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County, where she will be leading a new editorial section dedicated to quality sustainable food. “I am immensely proud of the work that I do because it helps so many hard-working people at both sides,” Paik says. “Collaboration with Natural Awakenings will bring the message to so many more people where they are. This is a perfect fit.”
Natural Awakenings Fairfield County’s new Fairfield Green Food Guide section will launch in the July 2014 issue. To connect with Analiese Paik, email [email protected], call 203-520-3451 or visit FairfieldGreenFoodGuide.com
Nicole Miale is Publisher and Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County. She is excited to have Analiese’s energy, spirit and expertise on the team and thrilled to provide the magazine’s loyal readers with more quality local content about topics of such importance.