Thursday, August 20, 2009

Project Descriptions - Who, What, Where, When

I met with Tina Firesheets of the Greensboro News and Record today. She was great to talk with. It appears we may get some press coverage to help us find the family we've been looking for! She wanted me to review what I thought I was looking for in a family and what activities we'd be engaging in over the year. Here's what I told her...

Ideally the family would live in close proximity to my house so we none of us are traveling great distances to participate in the project (remember I have no funding here!); both adults should have a fairly equal investment in participating in the project (I have done enough counseling to have seen that an unwilling spouse can be anything from annoying to outright passive aggressive); everyone is willing to share their experience with the blog and other media (but not in a reality tv, embarrassing or overly exposed manner - honest and tasteful exposure is what I am aiming for); and the family has to be willing to give the project the time it needs, which is about 4 - 6 hours a week (so probably not a family who have working parents with 3 or more jobs and kids engaging in 2 or 3 extracurricular activities each week). This project needs to be viewed as an extracurricular activity for the whole family. If I find a family, instead of a couple or some singles, then I want the kids to be at least school age and willing to make some dietary change. Also they should be willing to write an essay here or there or at least to be interviewed about their experiences. And lastly, I don't want to have participants who have major dietary restrictions as I don't want this project to be about me wearing my dietitian hat (it looks dorky on me). I want to have my chef torque on instead. (Did you know that the 100 pleats in a chef torque represent the 100 ways you can cook an egg?)

So, as I have done with the applicants to date, we talk by phone and then decide if a sit-down interview is next. Then we can decide on the parameters. Here's a pseudo list of some of the things we'd talk about in the sit-down:
  1. Conduct a family interview:
    a. What would you like to see as the outcomes for your family by participating in the project?
    b. What level of ability and willingness do you have for blogging, tweeting, facebook(ing?), being videotaped, etc.
    c. What is the current state of your kitchen? What tools do you have now and what might you need to purchase so you can cook? My basic kitchen tools are: a good pot, pan/skillet, w/lids, a casserole dish with a lid, colander, a few good knives, cutting board, peeler, microplaner, roasting pan, cookie sheet, spatula, serving spoon, slotted spoon, rubber spatula, food processor, hand mixer, crock pot and kitchen scissors
    d. Let's talk budgets – can we analyze how much is currently being spent on food and what percentage of foods are being consumed as processed foods, meals out or cooked from scratch? I think you will save money in the end but we would need to have a good idea of where we start to assess that.
    e. What is the cooking skill level of everyone in the project?
    f. What scares everyone the most about the project?
    g. What is the most exciting thing about the project?

  2. Decide if the project is right for both parties.

Then we'd start doing the actual project and this is how we'd be spending the year.

  1. At the first family visit I will inventory the pantry and fridge and make an analysis of what is being consumed now and note which things may need to change initially and then later based on every one's mutual goals. And I will probably have everyone cook a real simple meal with me to celebrate the start of the project.

  2. Have everyone make a list of their top ten favorite dishes that they would want to learn to make from scratch themselves by the end of the year?

  3. Show them my "recipe bucket" and help them create their own.

  4. Over the months teach everyone to cook from scratch and make it fun. (I can teach you how to make everything from grilled cheese and french toast to goat cheese, pasta from scratch, ice cream, pastry, bread, desserts, barbecue, roast duck, beef wellington - the sky is the limit - I am intrepid in the kitchen!) As Chef Gousteau says in Ratatouille "Anyone Can Cook!"

  5. Over the months teach new strategies for grocery shopping by concentrating on the different areas of food each week: fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, meats, canned goods, condiments, breads, cereals, the baking aisle, dairy, etc.

  6. Go on a monthly excursion trip to local farmers' markets, farms, artisanal production areas, edible gardens/homesteads and community gardens - come over to my house and see the chickens!

  7. Decide late spring to plant a garden or work on a community garden.

  8. Learn how to process foods from the garden or market: make pickles, can salsa and tomato sauce, jams, dehydrate foods and freeze some foods.

  9. Concentrate on taste re-education for everyone and see how far we can get people from having a taste for processed foods to wanting more whole foods. I use a taste re-education scale - more later.

  10. At the end of the year evaluate where you started and where you are now and what impact the year had. I know it will change me! Let's get started...


  1. If, as you read over this blog, you find yourself thinking this is pretty esoteric stuff and how important is it really to consider a change in your eating habits, you might want to reference a TIME magazine article accessible through the following link:,8599,1917458,00.html. TIME magazine is pretty mainstream as far as I see it, so when they see fit to commit this many pages to the issue as Bryan Walsh does here, perhaps it's time to sit up and take notice. I'm just sayin'...

  2. Well, it's Saturday morning and what a delight to make the weekly visit to the farmers' market to pick up some local milk and butter, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bag chock full of just picked veggies, and a fresh chicken raised right here in Guilford County. Also to take a few moments to chat with some of the local farmers, who we now count among our friends. Then home for an omelet made of two fresh eggs from our own backyard chickens, complete with slices of a local red pepper from that CSA bag and a dash of Jane's Mixed-Up Salt, one of our favorite seasonings. Included was a side of homemade multi-grain bread toast slathered with strawberry cream cheese made from strawberries we picked and canned just a month or two ago. Adding to the joy were two neighborhood kids, Elizabeth and Oliver, who happened by just in time to observe and collect two more freshly laid eggs right from the nest box in our chickens' coop. Elizabeth was a little hesitant to reach in to pick up the eggs with a hen so close by, but our girls are quite docile and have no problem sharing their bounty. Afterall, they get to live in the Taj Mahal of chicken coops and roam the yard pretty much at will.

    Does this sound like a morning your family might enjoy? Don't say you don't have the time; both of us work demanding full-time jobs and have to keep track of an active five year old, but have simply decided to make this lifestyle a priority. If we can do it, your family can too. It doesn't happen overnight, just a little bit at a time, but if you start now, maybe you too can be enjoying this kind of blissful existence by this time next year!

  3. What an interesting, worthwhile project! I do hope you find a willing family. Ms. Scott, a suggestion: Maybe consider contacting UNCGs film department and getting some students who might like to make a documentary, to air on Guilford County's public access cable tv. Sort of a reality tv show. Collaboration, engagement -- academia at its best ! I bet it would be a hit!!

  4. I love this idea. I will definitely keep watching your blog to see the progress. Good luck finding a family. They have to be out there!

  5. What a wonderful opportunity for some lucky family! I wish we could have been selected, but I very much understand, since we live in Winston-Salem.

    So, Anne-Marie, in response to your request, here's a link to my blog... I'll be visiting yours often to see how the project is going!