August 18, 2010

Heritage Harvest Festival


For those of you in or around the Virginia area, we’ve found a special treat for you! The annual Heritage Harvest Festival will be held on September 11, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Thomas Jefferson’ Monticello in Virginia. The festival is perfect for foodies, vegetable lovers and those always looking to learn more about healthy eating and recipes!

The festival will honor Thomas Jefferson’s legacy as America’s first foodie and local produce enthusiast. The president championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation, and sustainable local agriculture.
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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!

August 6, 2007

The Question of Food Miles

As more and more Americans demonstrate specific environmental concerns, like hoping to shrink their “carbon footprint,” the idea of “food miles” has become a popular rally point. Such campaigns push for labels which indicate how many miles the food has traveled to the market, an indication of the environmental impact of packaging and transporting certain foods. With my interest in smaller-scale, local agriculture, I have certainly expressed optimism with this concept. The idea seems logical, and I’m always an advocate of fresher food.

In an opinion article entitled “Food That Travels Well” published today in The New York Times, James McWilliams, a similar optimist, examines the results of a recent study conducted in New Zealand. This Lincoln University study looked more closely at the concept of food miles, examining more factors of energy consumption, such as water use, harvesting techniques, means of transportation, and more. McWilliams summarizes the findings,

Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

For many advocates of local agriculture, and even the passionate locavores, these findings may come as somewhat of a shock. But, I agree with McWilliams in that it doesn’t have to be a cause for alarm. We can still encourage the development of local, sustainable agriculture, but with the understanding that globalization is generally a beneficial initiative. Globalization allows the resources of the world to be more equally distributed throughout its inhabitants. Fertile hubs of food production can provide for more arid regions, with more of an emphasis on renewable energy and hybrid engines in food transportation.

The growing use of the internet, global fads, multiculturalism, commerce, and the obvious political realities attest to the our growing global connectivity and interdependence. Globalization is a very much the reality of our lives. When we talk about the benefits of sustainable agriculture and local food, we must examine its relation to this concept, however more difficult our choices become.

July 16, 2007

Grow Something

On the acreage of my family home in Indiana, we always had gardens. From time to time, I enjoyed tomatoes, carrots, beets, raspberries, strawberries, and the bounty of several apple and pear trees. We had a corn field on three sides of us from which the farmers were happy to share a couple ears. In addition, our pond boasts a rich supply of fish, frogs, and turtles (although the huge tilapia, cruising like sharks along the top of the water, do intimidate the dogs).

Recently, Red State Green wrote an article asking people simply, “Can you feed yourself?” The author examines our dependence on the supermarket and praises the practice of “Victory Gardens” during WWII when people grew their own food so farmers could contribute directly to the war effort. While the breakdown of the chain of food production in a national crisis is indeed worrisome, I always find discussions of small-scale agriculture interesting.

As always, the hostility (just read some of the comments) directed at such discussions is frankly staggering. How can learning to garden, keep chickens, and overall grow food for yourself inspire such anger? Do people fear the breakdown of convenience food? I certainly don’t believe this is going to happen, but there is nothing wrong with people diversifying the food choices they make. Perhaps if more people spent time growing fruits and vegetables in their backyards or in community gardens for city-dwellers, we could work on that rampant obesity issue in America.

I whole-heartedly support learning how to grow your own food, and even how to store and germinate your own seeds. From the foodie argument, you’ll have the freshest ingredients. From the sustainable argument, you’ll reduce your negative environmental impact by not contributing “food miles.” From my own personal argument, there’s just something beautiful, even magical, about watching things grow and knowing you had a hand in that.

-Caley, hoping you didn’t throw up from that last statement, and that instead, you’ll enjoy some seasonal strawberries with cream

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