Heather McCrory doesn’t remember learning the meaning of the word dietitian as a child. But she knew at age 10 that’s what she wanted to be when she grew up. That desire probably stemmed from childhood events involving her family.
I had a young, skinny cousin who went to California and came back at 19 after winning a bodybuilding contest, McCrory said. He talked a lot about fitness and followed a very strict diet. That made an impression on me. I was also really interested in how the earth and what it produces can physically affect your body, especially health and nutrition.
That interest was encouraged by her grandparents on both sides of her family.
McCrory’s Dutch grandfather was a small farmer and equipment inventor from Iowa. Her mother, along with her six siblings, was raised in a frugal lifestyle and followed a similar simple lifestyle as she raised her own family, including eating habits.
We ate pretty basic things like deer or elk, canned vegetables and starches almost every night, McCrory recalled. For my parents, it was because the game was a good source of lean, affordable protein and they liked it. As a child, I didn’t care about it, she admitted ironically.
Another source of food as well as nutritional information for the young girl was the native plants of the Yakama Reservation. On her father’s side, McCroris’ heritage is German and members of the Strong Nation are enrolled. McCrory has fond memories of picking berries, camas, wild carrots and buttons (a small flat root).
As young kids, we mostly just went out for fun, McCrory said. We picked them and ate them right away. But I always thought it was neat that we could go out and pick things that were wild. McCrory explained that she spent a lot of time on the reservation, visiting her grandparents, including trips to Toppenish Pow Wow.
Now McCrory realizes that many of those events have helped guide her toward her childhood dream and her adult goal of making a difference in our community.
The Yakima native graduated from Davis High, Yakima Valley College and Central Washington University. She is a registered dietitian who serves as the Washington Regional Women, Infants and Children’s Manager for the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. She began working at IVFVC in 2009, wanting to advance its mission to serve the underserved.
Poverty in Yakima is high and the area has great potential to struggle with nutrition, McCrory said. With VIC, we make a difference and can offer proper nutrition that some people would otherwise not have.
She also relies on family heirlooms to feed her family. Combining her own background with husband Kyle’s Italian background, the couples with four children benefit from a fun and varied dining experience, something that is likely common in many of our melting pot homes.
Her ancestors are buried on Yakama Nation land, so the family visits the site, giving McCrory a chance to point out the landscape and wild horses she grew up with. McCrory explained that she is not an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation, so she cannot hunt for food on the reservation and that she has not been able to find most of it elsewhere. But the family picked berries and every year they pick berries in their own raspberry yard.
We grow an obscene amount of raspberries, McCrory said, but they usually don’t even make it into the house. We snack on them in the yard and share them with others.
Just like her parents before her, McCrory feeds her kids lean, healthy protein, though not game. McCrory credits traits she shares with her great-grandmother to the belief that you can carry a part of the past with you while changing the parts you don’t like.
She and her two sisters attended school in Fort Simcoe and I am happy that she still embraces her heritage and has been able to maintain an interest in the old traditions, McCrory said, adding that her great-grandmother continued to teach her children to fish. and pick roots and berries.
Another favorite activity of the McCrory family is making stroopwafels and jan hagels, and McCrory has taken an interest in making her own pasta.
My husband is Italian, his grandmother was from Italy, McCrory said. We make pasta and use it for alfredo, fresh spaghetti and fresh lasagna. Those old recipes take time, they are a process, but they are so good and the kids enjoy helping in the kitchen. And it seems to fulfill another one of McCrory’s life goals.
I hope my children recognize that good food comes from the earth, that their health is important and that food is connected to it.
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