Revision Street: Debbie Hillman (III)

Revision Street: Debbie Hillman (III)

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In her mid-fifties, Debbie Hillman decided to begin working exclusively on changing Illinois’ food production system, from Evanston.

(Photo by photoentropy via Flickr)

I came to these issues personally when I was in college, 30, 40— a long time ago… . That was the middle of the hippie movement and civil rights. A lot of back to the land movement people were definitely talking organic at that point, and after I finished college and I started traveling in India and I started seeing the connection between health and food. In India, homeopathy is very popular and it’s presented as one of a range of medical options for health. That got me understanding that there’s more than one model.

It’s not that I am totally invested in homeopathy, I’m not. What I’m really looking for, and I think a lot of people are coming to this, is taste. It’s the food that really tastes like you’re eating something. I think things that taste really good are probably the things that are most nutritious for us. The things that have the minerals and the whatever. They’re not just empty calories, or something that satisfies our chewing and probably nothing else…

I had an interesting experience a couple weeks ago. I had meetings all morning. I was really hungry—that kind of satisfying hunger, you know? It’s like, I’m just an animal, I need to eat. So I went to one of my favorite restaurants and I ordered—I love breakfast foods, I always have and I still do—so I ordered an omelet and it comes with the potatoes, and the toast, and a side of salsa, and it had a side of ketchup because I asked for French fries instead of home fries this time. That was my originality for the day. So here, all this different food, and the thing that tasted the best to me was that little container of ketchup. It was saturated with flavor. And the others things, like OK, the eggs tasted like eggs, and the avocado, avocado. Nothing tasted bad, but that ketchup was like—I could have eaten a bowl of it.

A condiment like ketchup is distilled down. It takes out a lot of the water so you’re really capturing the essence of flavor, which is pretty funny in terms of what Reagan said 30 years ago about ketchup being a vegetable. To me that says, I’m looking for flavor and I’m not getting it. I was kind of a vegetarian for probably 10, 15 years—not a hundred percent strictly, but I really bought into it. Then as soon as I went through menopause, and I’ve read this from other women, too, I started craving meat sometimes. I especially do like eggs, I really like eggs. So there’s no way I’m going to prescribe a diet for anybody else.