Nourishment as Philosophy
Food blogger and cookbook author Alana Chernila (SF02) is a self-described St. John’s College evangelist.
“I don’t think I could have done anything I’ve done in the last decade, including being a good mother, without the education I received there,” she said. “I’m a firm believer.”
In the last decade, Alana has worked in publishing and filmmaking, sold vegetables at a local Farmers Market, and ran a school out of her house for homeschoolers that was based on the Johnnie curriculum. Her very first student is now a junior at St. John’s.
In 2008, Alana launched the website eatingfromthegroundup.com. Originally her focus was on recipes for simple foods people often buy at the store, such as cheese and yogurt, that are easy to make at home and ultimately less expensive. Now, in addition to recipes, she posts essays about cooking, eating, child-rearing, body image, and philosophical ideas about the meaning of food. She has developed a loyal core of blog followers who engage each other in discussion in the comments section.
Though Alana emphasizes cooking from scratch and prefers organic, locally sourced ingredients, she is not a homesteader nor interested in dividing foods up morally into “good” and “bad” categories.
“I feel that at its very heart, food should be something we enjoy. I’m doing my best to take guilt out of the picture, remove ideas about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Once we start thinking about rules like this, and compare ourselves to other people, eating loses its joy. It’s easy to lose sight of all the good that can be had from eating together, feeling happy and proud about it, and teaching our children to trust their own choices,” she said.
Alana and her husband, Joseph Chernila (SF02), and their two daughters, live with Alana’s parents and her 15-year-old sister in Great Barrington, MA, on an acre of land that backs onto the woods and a river. They have nine fruit trees and a big garden. On the weekends, Alana continues to work at the Farmers Market for Indian Line Farm. The pleasure she takes in providing cooking tips and recipes to customers is what led her to start writing about food. She credits St. John’s with giving her the confidence to spontaneously enter a competitive field in which she had no formal training.
When she decided to write a cookbook, she didn’t hesitate to seek out an agent. The same week she sold the book to Clarks and Potter, who published The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making in 2012, she was elected to her town’s select board and served three years as one-fifth of Great Barrington’s governing body.
“When I left St. John’s I felt like I was up for anything,” she said. “I didn’t consider myself a natural Johnnie—I walked onto campus sight unseen, without a lot of knowledge of what I was getting into. The fact that I made it through and loved it makes me feel like whatever the world has in store for me, I’m going to be able to figure it out.”