October 5, 2007

Waters talks Mayor Daley into opening Edible Schoolyards in Chicago

Breaking News!

Even though her new book (The Art of Simple Food) did just come out this past Tues., Alice Waters really came to Chicago, Ill., to meet with Mayor Richard M. Daley to discuss opening up Edible Schoolyard programs in Chicago.

The two met on Tues., and Mayor Daley agreed to open up six of the projects, according to Waters’ reference to her conversation with Daley. “We’ll see if he sticks to his word,” Waters said. She announced the news to fans and supporters of the project who attended her book signing event at Prairie Grass Cafe on Wed.

“It’s so nice to have such a benevolent dictatorship here,” said Waters in regards to Mayor Daley. She was thrilled that he agreed to start up the projects here. Chicago is now the third city to agree to an Edible Schoolyard project, following the pioneer program in Berkeley, Calif., and its sister project in New Orleans.

Waters chose Chicago because of its culinary influence and accessibility to organic and sustainable foods. She endorses the Green City Market, the most widely recognized farmer’s market in the city of Chicago, and recognizes that it’s a truly organic and sustainable operation.

“We have everything going for us,” Waters said. “We just need to have the leadership and the money to make it happen.” And Waters recognizes that starting up one of these programs can be expensive. According to Waters, maintaining just one of these Edible Schoolyards in Berkeley, Calif., cost $450,000 a year to keep up the garden and kitchen.

The Edible Schoolyard projects are geared toward helping children eat better. “We have found that if they grow it and pick it, they eat it,” Waters said while explaining her efforts. The cafeteria becomes a lab of gastronomy, and children can recognize the connections between what they eat and where their food is coming from.

The pilot program in Berkeley, Calif., runs the program for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. With each year, the amount of time spent in the garden classroom actually decreases, since the emphasis is placed on the younger students. Sixth graders spend two nine-week blocks per year in the garden classroom, while eighth graders only spend two three-week blocks.

At the book signing event, Waters quotes Ghandi in saying “We have to be the change we wish to see in the world.” And that’s what Edible Schoolyard is all about; changing the future by starting at its very root – the children.

For more information on the Edible Schoolyard, visit the Edible Schoolyard homepage, or read A Profile of Alice Waters.

-Hillary, reminding you that you read it first at Chew on That
Editor, Recipe4Living

October 4, 2007

On Meeting Alice Waters

Alice Waters is truly an inspiration.

I had the pleasure of meeting her yesterday at the Prairie Grass Cafe, an event for the release of her new book entitled The Art of Simple Food. While I knew how inspiring she was before meeting her, my impressions were only solidified upon speaking to her in real life.

If you know a thing or two about Alice Waters, you’d know that she opened and owns a world-renowned restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. called Chez Panisse (which has been on the top 50 world restaurants for years). Her inspiration for opening this restaurant came from a trip she took to Europe (mainly France) when she was 19. And she named her restaurant after a character in a trilogy of French films she encountered on that very trip. The food at Chez Panisse is prepared solely from organic, sustainable, and locally-grown ingredients; she has a network of over 60 local farmers.

This restaurant not only became a standard many aspire to, but it made Alice into an icon for organic and slow food movements. More than this, she has taken the cause further by starting up the Edible Schoolyard project, and uses her Chez Panisse fame to make sure kids are eating better. She spent a great deal of her time at this event talking about this project (a breaking news post to come soon! stay tuned!)

Prior to Alice’s arrival, the restaurant served an array of hors d’eurves made entirely from her recipes. Excuse the terrible picture, but as you can see, the PrairieGrass chefs prepared her guacamole with chips, onion tart, roasted peppers, oatmeal and currant cookies, and chocolate cookies.

Not pictured: marinated feta cheese, and swiss chard with prosciutto. Everything was truly delicious, and while not prepared by Alice herself, was created from local and organic ingredients, and most of these recipes can be found in her new book.

I asked her if she was raised this way: to be so careful about what she eats, not in the way of health, but in the way of quality. She perked up, as if no one had ever asked her that question before in her entire life which really surprised me. She paused for a moment and then carefully said “No. I was raised in New Jersey with a garden. We didn’t have enough money for fast food, so we ate out of the garden.”

I was sort of taken aback. It’s one thing to promote a cause. But it’s another to promote a cause that’s a result of both the way you were raised, and the self-growth you have had throughout your lifetime. Alice Waters’ cause is a culmination of both her nature, and her nurturing, and that’s what makes it real. She really cares about making sure people are eating right, not by cutting back the butter, but by making sure you know where your food comes from.

That’s what makes her an inspiration.

For more information on Alice Waters, feel free to read A Profile of Alice Waters.

-Hillary, hoping to do more cooking in the near future
Editor, Recipe4Living

P.S. I can’t help it. Here’s me, my friend Talia, and Alice!

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