Musician, English teacher, and impassioned gardener, Steven Tacheny is also a busy parent of 3 school-aged children. He's also our neighbor, and we're lucky enough to swap suppers here and there. He and his wife, Jennifer, are engaged citizens in many areas of their lives, and are always reliable conversationalists, not to mention great home-cooks. In the photo above, Steven was serving all of us lamb croquettes one fall evening using lamb from his parents' farm, and as always at the Tacheny house, plenty of homegrown vegetables on the side.
What does eating well look like for you?
Literally, looking is one sense. Eating well is multi-sensual. Of course, taste and smell. But, what about what you hear while you eat well? The conversation or music. What about the inner senses of emotional balance and safety? More broadly, how is my meal more reliant on and connected to the people around me? I imagine a group of people humbly eating inspiring, nutritional tastes using ingredients they know and participated in creating, and having fun. They don't have fears or anxieties about safety or health. Basically, whatever you eat - that would be the highest blessing of "eating well."
What is a favorite and reliable everyday dish for you and your family?
Probably, a simple breakfast. Rice cereal, maybe oatmeal, with fruit and yogurt. Bagels and eggs. Sandwich, fruit lunches. Dinners are totally unreliable. But I always envision a main course with 3 elements. Organic decision making - I hardly ever plan ahead. Kids may go crazy over homemade egg noodles and tuna with garlic white sauce. I can easily boil homegrown broccoli, kale or home-canned beans as a side, then lean on fruit/color - applesauce, squash. Other homemade recipes I can throw out: pad thai, Italian chicken or tomato sauce, pesto, pork chops, potatoes, tacos. Whatever the moment, my favorite aspect of cooking - reliable vegetables and having kids devour them.
Can you share a defining food memory?
For a while growing up during my early teen years, we had extravagant Friday dinners, sometimes 3 hours long with guests, and they let me sip wine. My mother is an amazing cook, exceptionally active and open to learning to this day. At that time, she worked full time, but still made a Friday banquet. Often, we ate our home-raised lamb. However, she came across a deal on canned escargot, like a 2 years' supply, and 6 snails a person on a Friday were amazing. Though born in the midwest, seafood and fish have always felt like defining meals. Fresh shoreline walleye lunch in northern MN, caviar at the old Russian Tea House in NYC, or the oysters I shuck on Fridays for a treat - yes. Well-prepared seafood is always defining.
What topics around food are you most interested in, and why?
Accessibility to experience and relationship to what ‘food’ means. I’m scared to lose the 15 acres I grew up on outside of Mankato, MN. I’m blessed. Luckily, I don’t have to be scared to lose the Walmart in my small town. I was especially changed the day I walked into a South Bronx grocery and the only fresh meat available was plastic-wrapped pig’s feet. Environment, accessibility and control over food culture are foundations. Even in an urban setting, people should have the direct experience and association with the elements they eat. If you like chicken, you should know what it means to stare a chicken in the face as you nurture it, use its eggs, butcher it, and make it a meal. If you eat grains and nuts, you should use the iron to turn the soil if you want to turn flour to bread and have a chance to gather the nuts or shake the hands of the people who did. Why? Because people should consider themselves worthy of that broader ideal - it is the most efficient for physical, spiritual, and community health.
I have to ask. What would you hope for as a last meal on this earth?
Sick question? O.k. it’s going to happen, but despite my high ideals about being able to easily and deeply provide for my family, there are too many meals I’d think about when it comes to a penultimate ideal, or debaucherous fantasy. Honestly, my last meal would be the biggest one I could hold for those who wanted to break bread with me, or those I’d want to hug or thank. Actually, some good baguettes would do, especially fresh and local. O.k. maybe some really good blue cheese, from my hometown of Mankato - Bend in the River?. A few oysters, canned or fresh, and a bottle of French table wine. But I would share some Dr. Pepper and pickled herring with crackers, so long as there’s enough to share with those around me, whoever that may be in the moment.