Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuteurs for Tutelage

If you are interested in learning more about Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard Project or joining Noelle Henderson's team please find the attachments below.

Also may I recommend to find out what foods are in season, local haunts to harvest from and recipes to enlist your cornucopia in the crisper.

Tuteurs for Tutelage
I call it the back-to-school breeze. Seasonally, it begins with just a breath in August and crawls up to no more than a whistle just as the aces are crowned at Flushing Meadows. Its force has nothing on the Santa Ana or Chinook winds but it's significance carries with it much weight. In tune with my own maternal instinct, (but perhaps more temperate) it’s Mother Nature's subtle gesture to suggest to our children that the summer months of beach lollygagging are coming to a swift end. The time has come for them to return their focus on achieving a higher education and grace the halls of academia. Greeting them on campus each September are math, english, science and a prodigious splash of language and arts. For years, these subjects have been the usual suspects in forming the all star "core curriculum". On the heels of next year’s breeze though, things may be a little different. Recently, I met with Noelle Henderson who is interested in nourishing the traditional model of education with the debut of plants in the classroom. A passionate supporter of resuscitating local schoolyards with working gardens she and her team hope to graft the benefits and experiences of an outdoor classroom with current lesson plans.
I find this to be an interesting concept. (Even though, it would be a severe blow to the beloved rye grass/Styrofoam cup campaign.) Perhaps I listened to too much Cat Stevens in the 80's that left me wondering the quality of children’s play? In any event, I was game to learn more. Kindly, Henderson introduced me to the cause she champions; The Edible Schoolyard Project which has been soldiering across America since 1996. The concept for the Project began in 1971 when gourmand and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant, Alice Waters began her quest to source premium tasting produce to heighten the essence of her fare. Ultimately, her scrupulous palette led her to enlist the local California farmers who seemed the only purveyors capable of fulfilling her refined culinary demands. A noted pioneer of the organic and locavore trends she relied on these movements to endorse her signature dishes.
Fifteen years passed with great success and Waters realized a philanthropic need to share the benefits of her gastronomic philosophy with a greater audience. The Edible Schoolyard Project was Waters’ short order for duck soup. With a background in the Montessori Method and livelihood in food, it only made sense that she married her interest in teaching with her love of fresh food. The Project became Waters' medium to feed the nation her news, propaganda that would have put a smile on even Tom Joad's face. Like budding Bourdains I'm sure Waters envisioned monkey bar chatter to feature dizzy banter boasting of broccollini conquests blanched with premium soil ratio debates.
Fourteen years strong, The Edible Schoolyard Project has had the luxury of time to smooth it's wrinkles and a visit to it's website presents a truly persuasive argument in favor of introducing plants and planting techniques into the schoolyard. While stewing over the Project’s philosophy, I began to conjure kiddies captivated by the gentle art of crudite arrangement, children trading heirloom seeds from their retired Pokemon binders and backpacks brimming with basil. This Moosewood-esque nirvana would have ranch dressing usurping regional ketchup sales and the coveted Sotheby's Art of Farming Auction would replace requests for FAO boondoggles. Just think about it, a mere trip to Whole Foods could potentially assuage any child surfing along Disney's lunatic fringe!
Jamie Oliver, Vogue Magazine, Oprah and Martha Stewart are all extolling The Edible Schoolyard Project. But yes, there are always skeptics and some do believe that this approach is more educational garnish in place to satiate the horticulturally hungry diet of today’s culture. That is for you to decide. However, cheerfully deriding Cheetos in promotion of cherries seems logically in tune with Michelle Obama's admirable crusade to stop childhood obesity. At the basic level, the Project looks to educate students on the values associated with local, sustainable and organic food and serve as a platform for helping them make reasonable food choices. Ultimately, it's up to the local community to embrace this blue ribbon approach and shepherd it to the schoolyard. If you’re interested in learning more about Waters' Project or joining Henderson's team visit my blog: Until then, the next time you feel the back-to-school breeze rustle through the aspens consider it an invitation to recall Water's delicious revolution as food for thought.
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