Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Opening of the Greensboro Children's Museum Edible Schoolyard Events

All of the events are wrapping up and the excitement is ebbing away from the extreme high of Alice Waters' visit to Greensboro. I had the opportunity to attend three of the events over the last two days and each had its own flavor. (Some would say it was a pork flavor as that was served in one form or another at almost every event - which fits in with our local food palate - we are all about some hogs in North Carolina!)

The first event I was able to attend was the official groundbreaking at the Children's Museum. I brought along my daughter, Charlotte, as she loves the museum, and we went early so she'd get a chance to play for a bit first. She loves all of the interactive exhibits and I love the safe and creative environment they provide. Close to 4 pm we all moved outside for the ceremony and speeches.

On Thursday, the day of the Groundbreaking we had a sudden shift in the weather and it was 86 degrees and about 90% humidity. It was muggy, sunny and hot, Charlotte was antsy and I ended up sitting next to a beam in the barn area where I was attacked by a swarm of the tiniest ants I have ever seen crawling over my skin, so even I got squirmy. Luckily, my parents were on their way into town so they showed up right before the end of the speeches and took Charlotte back into the musuem to play. I was free then to mingle and talk with many of the grown-ups.

Both of the Locavore Makeover families made it to the event. I was able to introduce Kim and Tammy to Steve Tate, owner of The Goat Lady Dairy. Kim had met Steve's wife, Lee, at the Farmer's Market the weekend before so it was a great time to talk. Steve is such an incredible farmer and advocate for local and sustainable foods. He was one of the founding leaders of the Piedmont Triad Slow Food Convivium (they call them Chapters now, but I still prefer convivium!) along with my other permaculture hero, Charlie Headington.

Alice graciously agreed to a book signing, which was housed back in the air-conditioned museum (Thank God!). I had purchased another copy of Alice's The Art of Simple Food for my sister and was able to get it signed. And both the Locavore families got their picture made with Alice. The Museum photographer, Abigail Seymour, got those shots and hopefully we'll have them posted (and framed) later. I was able to give Alice the briefest idea of the project at the book signing table during the photo op and she said she'd look forward to hearing more whereupon I said I would see her on Friday morning at the Farmer's Market Breakfast event.
Friday morning dawned and I was up and out at 6:55 am to meet Betsy Grant, the Children's Museum Director, for the Breakfast. We were all alone setting up tables in the greyish, reddish dawn. We just knew it couldn't rain on our parade! The caterers and volunteers started arriving just before 8 am for the 9 am breakfast. We had coffee from a new local coffee roaster (he has a stall at the downtown Curb Market and I have lost his card in the mess that has become my car and home), bread from Simple Kneads, granola made by the Granola Lady who also sells at the Curb Market, cheese spreads and goat yogurt provided by the Goat Lady Dairy and local NC apples mixed with goat cheese and wrapped in locally sourced apple smoked bacon and grilled onto skwers provided by the Ganache Bakery. (This was the start of a porkie day!)
Alice sat right next to me during the breakfast portion of the event and I was able to give her a copy of the opening page of the blog with the link on it. I was able to tell her more about what we are doing. She was thrilled with the idea and made a comment that it is projects such as ours that will help change the whole system. Admittedly, I was without a recorder so I am paraphrasing here, but she was saying to me how important it was that we were actually doing something and not just talking about it. I was very touched and I thanked her for her supportive words. I was also able to talk with Marsha Guerrero, the Edible Schoolyard Director in Berkely, CA. She also got a copy of the blog page and it is so fantastic to think that they may follow what we are doing or tell others about it! They are both inspiring leaders who are setting the example of doing instead of just talking.

I then went to work and found out about an immediate project goal that I will have to meet. It will interfere with a bit of my progress on the project for the next week or two, but I have lots of editorial blogs (I write in the middle of the night when I can't sleep) to keep you entertained in the interim and I have been planning to include more recipes and rearrange some of the tips to make the blog easier to navigate anyway. So, you won't be left without new content.
My day ended magically as I was able to attend the fundraising dinner that evening at the Levy's house in Greensboro. I met some great Museum supporters and got to see old friends like Michelle Novack and Margaret Neff, both with the Piedmont Triad Slow Food Chapter. The food was fabulous and local. The menu was dominated by a slow cooked smoked Ossabaw pig which was served in the traditional Southern pulled pork style. The richness of the smokey overtones and the tenderness developed in a pasture raised pig made this easily one of the most unique and delicious pork dishes I have ever eaten. I also indulged in more than a few bacon wrapped goose breast appetizers (ramaki), NC wild caught shrimp with a variety of NC tomato salsas and gazpacho shooters. There were corn husk appetizers filled with a corn pudding and cucumber tadziki style sauce that were eaten by sqeezing and sucking. I had some divine pickled okra - a true NC delight! There were local cheeses from both the Goat Lady dairy and my friends at Celebrity Dairy. The wine was organic and biodynamic, but from Spain and France, which surprised me, but it was wonderful. Other local beverages included Natty Green's Beer and Foggy Ridge Pippin Apple Brandy. I know Diane Flynt, the cider maker from Foggy Ridge - (note to self: that would be a great field trip!).

We all left with a collection of index card sized recipes of some of the selected items served and thanks to all those involved in making this Alice Waters visit so wonderful. But attached to the card collection was a linen wrapped item and I just opened it this morning. Inside are two dirt/clay balls that I feel certain must be from the Children's Musueum Groundbreaking, but I will ask Betsy next week and let you know. Either way I have some clods of dirt to remind me of the mission - all our food comes from the earth and we need to respect it and treat it well!

I didn't manage to talk further with Alice at the evening event and I was fine with that as there were so many people at this dinner that weren't at the other venues that I felt I should let them have their turn. It was enough to be in the presense of so many people who believe in the value of eating locally and teaching our children how to feed their bodies and spirits with real food made from scratch. I am still relishing the moments... but now on to those other work projects... or maybe I should start by making a quick local lunch instead.

Eat well and be well!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Alice Waters is in town... can you feel the buzz?

I just have to write a brief update on the Alice Waters' visit to Greensboro. Today she will be attending the Ground Breaking Ceremonies for the Edible Schoolyard at our treasured Greensboro Children's Museum. I will be there with both of the families and the kids and my own daughter, Charlotte.

We are all very excited! Alice Waters, a famous Berkeley, CA, chef and owner of the Chez Panisse Restaurant, is the president of the Chez Panisse Foundation, originators of The Edible Schoolyard program. The foundation seeks to make sure every school in the country has an operating garden space for kids to reconnect with the earth and become aware of how their food is grown and prepared.

Today's Ground Breaking is one of three events I will get to be in attendance with Alice and I am very excited. She is a foodie rock star on my planet - ha ha! I have promised my sister, Susie, that I will get her a signed copy of one of Alice's books, as I already have autographed books of my own. Hey sis, can that count as your belated birthday gift?

And stay tuned as I will report on this later, but I met another incredible Greensboro gem yesterday, Chef Reto Biaggi. I will save his story and planned work with the project for another post because he deserves his own spotlight!

Look for the first of a series of articles on The Locavore Makeover Project in this Sunday's News and Record!!

Eat well and be well!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Richey Family Report from Sept 19/20 Weekend.

Wow! These last 3 days has been a whirlwind for me as far as me wrapping my head around some new ideas! There are some things that Anne-Marie has already mentioned, but from Friday evening I came away with the importance of putting some water on to boil (and maybe turning the oven on to 350°, as well) to commit myself to fixing something and eating in. The other thing I came away with is the importance of composting. Prior to my conversation with Anne-Marie, I had a general understanding of composting (or so I thought), but I don’t think I truly realized that you can create your own soil with composting. This is perfect for us! We live in an older home (it first belonged to my husband’s great-grandparents, then his great-aunt, then us) and we know that unsafe lead practices were used to repaint the home after we moved in. This means dry scraping of lead paint that, in some places, fell into the soil, etc. Since Lily’s blood levels of lead were high when she was 1 year of age, we have since been careful of lead exposure. So, realizing that I had the potential to create my own soil and have a healthy garden in my own yard made a light bulb go off! We will see where that takes us….

As for Saturday, going to the Farmer’s Market (FM) w/Anne-Marie was awesome. She’s mentioned a lot of the main points, but I did buy a small basket’s worth ($3) of heirloom yellow cherry tomatoes from Pat & Brian of Handance Farms. They were so sweet! I had NO idea that tomatoes could be so sweet and yummy! My husband & I ate the entire thing in one day. I will need to grow some of those in my garden next year! I did try to convince Lily to take a “no, thank you bite,” but she wouldn’t budge. In fact, in the pictures in the blog, you can see Charlotte (Anne-Marie's blonde, curly-haired daughter) showing Lily something in a brown paper bag. Well, those were the heirloom tomatoes. You can see Lily shaking her head “no” in response. Sweet Charlotte, though, giggled so happily when Pat handed her the bag. Perhaps next year my sweet Lily will come to love them as well.

Well, today is Sunday & I am very proud of myself! I designed an organic (80-90%) locavore lunch for the three of us. We ate flank steak from Bradd’s Family Farm (Mike cooked the meat), green beans from the FM, & red leaf salad greens. With the green beans, we used a garlic-basil dressing (recipe from Moosewood) and for the salad, a simple red wine vinegar-olive oil dressing I made (courtesy of the N&R a few weeks ago). I have to tell you about this flank steak. This was the best DAMN meat I’ve ever had. First of all, you have to understand that I don’t eat a lot of red meat. But, I ate 3 servings. And get this: so did Lily! In fact, she wants me to pack some of the left-overs in her lunch tomorrow! There was a different texture about the meat; it wasn’t so “compacted” (this is a hard concept for me to explain, maybe Anne-Marie can help me with that) and the flavor was so robust. In case you’re interested, Mike marinated it in a very simple combination of soy sauce, ginger, OJ, and garlic.

One thing about the salad greens: I don’t know the name of the farmer, but the man who sells leafy greens, kale, etc. keeps the root systems attached to his salad greens. So, when I bring them home, I fill up a jar of water, put the roots into the jar and the salad greens don’t wilt and last for a good while. It also makes for a good-looking “bouquet”!

So, around 5:30pm today, as I was feeling very proud of myself from my earlier cooking venture, I decided to cook some potatoes & bell peppers that I had bought from the FM. We had just dropped Mike off at PTI airport and I was needing to cook dinner for Lily & me. Well, I found an interesting recipe in my Moosewood cookbook that required a large pot and a broiler pan. To give you an idea of why Anne-Marie may have chosen us for her project, let me tell you why I called my husband while he was waiting for his plane. Call #1: Where is our really big pot? His answer: The same place it’s been for the last 8 months (are you getting an image of how much I cook?) and then Call #2: Honey, I know I’m supposed to know this, but what’s a broiler pan? My husband is the sweetest man on the face of the earth and although some of you may be laughing at my 2nd phone call, he did not laugh! I actually ended up not cooking the potato/bell pepper dish b/c I realized that I was getting hungry and wouldn’t be able to make it through all the prep work without getting irritable. But, that’s OK. We had LOADS of left-overs from today’s lunch, so I ate that instead. Perhaps I will try the potato/bell pepper dish tomorrow…..

Thanks for reading!