Lia Huber on Finding Nourishment the World Over

Lia Huber, author of Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith, and Enduring Love, joins us for an interview accompanied by an excerpt from her book. 

Kara Rota
5-minute read
Episode #175

nourished book by lia huber

Food writer Lia Huber brings us across the world on her journey to discover the roots of hunger and nourishment in the following excerpt from her book Nourished.

I’d cobbled together a makeshift raft out of two pool noodles, one beneath my head and one beneath my knees, and lay float­ing above the warm, mineral-laden water. I could see the tree­tops swaying in the breeze and could hear nothing except the slow, rhythmic sound of my own breath amplified underwater.

It was perfect. I was at a Zen retreat center in a remote crevice on top of a mountain in the Ventana Wilderness.

I’d been gripped by a strong desire for a spiritual getaway to digest all the ways God had helped me grow in the past eight months—in the past eight years—and this retreat center was just an hour from Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley, where I had conveniently just been for another Cooking Light assignment.

I’d fasted all day, wishing to physically empty myself in order to be filled spiritually. Christopher and I had discovered, in the years since we’d returned from Costa Rica, that simplification wasn’t an external thing as much as it was a manifestation of what was on the inside. When we were centered and focused spiritually, the impor­tant things stood out clearly, decisions came more easily, life felt doable. When we lost that focus, life felt out of control.

Over the past few months, I’d also found a correlation between how centered I felt and what I consumed. When I ate things I knew I didn’t want to—heading to the drive-through or plowing through a bag of potato chips—I’d eventually realize I was running away...from myself, from life, from God. And vice versa; when I consis­tently ate the way I was striving to—finding joy in a plate filled with peak-of-the-season vegetables—I found myself filled with an inner stillness that helped me remain centered moment after moment, day after day.

But getting to and maintaining that focus took tending. Which is what brought me to the mountaintop.

The next day, I sat in the garden at the base of a sunflower that must have been twenty feet tall and went through a half-dozen old jour­nals, looking for patterns, and praying over which ones to cultivate and which ones to let go of.

As I read, I noticed how often I berated myself for changing course. I saw echoes of what I’d been told when I was younger, that I was flighty, noncommittal. But now I saw that I wasn’t so much changing course as correcting course, based on new understandings, or, increasingly, how I was feeling led by the Spirit.

So I wrote myself a note of compassion. You are constantly evolv­ing, and new things are revealed every day. Life isn’t linear, so stop trying to live it like it is.

I’d started to let go of things a few months earlier, during an ori­entation for a hybrid online/onsite MBA program I was accepted to at the University of Florida. By the time I’d gotten down to Gaines­ville and met my classmates I was in a full-blown fibromyalgia flare.. When we drove out to a challenge course the first day, I struggled just to stay clear­headed enough to keep up with conversation.

And then they led us to a ropes course.

My body was throbbing with exhaustion as I climbed the first two rungs of the rope ladder, which led to a platform high above where we were supposed to walk across two wobbly ropes to an­other platform. I looked up. I reached for the next rung and my arm screeched with pain. But I couldn’t stop. Everyone was cheering me on. What would they think? How could I let my classmates think I was a quitter or, worse, weak? But then I felt that irrational calm, and an ancient promise was whispered into my mind.

“My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

I hung there, three rungs up on that rope ladder, people’s cheers echoing in my ears, and I thought of Jann’s wise question: what if this time in my life wasn’t about proving how strong I was, but about growing roots into a deeper strength not of my own?

And then, for the first time in my life, I let go. I admitted that I couldn’t do it all.

I climbed down from the ladder, and even more of a miracle, I didn’t berate myself for doing so. Instead, I was grateful for all I could do, recognizing what a big push it had been just to get there at all. And I walked away from that challenge course feeling like I had conquered what I was meant to conquer.

The afternoon on the mountaintop had become swelteringly hot and the cicadas were in full chorus. I tucked away all of my journals but one and walked down to the bathhouse on the creek. I was tempted to keep my swimsuit on, as some women had done, but decided against it, slipping into the warm, mineral-fed stream as naked as the day I was born. In eight months, I had lost nearly twenty pounds just by reshaping what was on my plate, and felt more at home in my body than I could ever remember. I felt lithe and strong and somehow just the right size as I sat on a boulder, the soft water caressing my legs, and captured a few remaining thoughts.

It wasn’t just my body and being that was changing, our geogra­phy had changed too. We’d bought a little 1922 bungalow in town, with slanted wood floors, built‑in cabinets with glass doors, and two cozy window seats. As much as we hated to leave the country (although we were only ten minutes away from our friends in Dry Creek), it felt good to have a place of our own to call home.

And the MBA program wasn’t the only new beginning on the horizon; I’d begun to work on a novel, called I Land Home. I never expected to write a novel. But then a strange, “what if” scenario had floated through my head one day—what if I’d stayed in Greece and married Alexi?—and morphed into a story all its own. Within a day I had a sixty-page outline, and I was now a third of the way through the manuscript.

I looked down at my journal and wrote one last line that felt like a whisper on the paper before plunging back into the creek.

Reprinted from NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) Copyright © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.