Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Commentary: Obama to Keep Bush’s Chef

January 24th, 2009 · No Comments

Christeta Comerford - First Chef

A report in Newsweek notes that the Obamas are keeping Christeta Comerford, the first woman to command the White House kitchen, in her job.

There have been calls from the activists in the food community to hire a new chef, and use the White House kitchen as an example of how and what we should be eating.

Grow a garden for the White House (tough in 12 degree weather, folks — give them a chance!), be forthright about what the First Daughters are eating, and publish the menus. Better still, put influential people on a “Kitchen Committee” — people such as Michael Pollan, whose book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals stirred things up in the food world and got a lot of people thinking about what they eat and how it affects the planet.

One of the biggest pushes is for “grow and eat local!” to replace the current mantra of corporate farming and foods that are trucked all over the country at enormous expense to the economy, the farmers and our foods.

Peaches in January

I’d certainly like to see that. I did a doubletake in Publix the other night, looking at a huge display of peaches. I was bundled up against freezing temps, and it really jarred me seeing peaches in the produce bin. They were not local; they weren’t from this side of the equator, in fact.

These things can change, but small farmers are going to have to be allowed on the same playing field as the big growers. A great number of policies would need to be implemented and changed — and if you think abortion’s a touchy subject, just try fooling with food policy. Everyone who wants change is saying reforms must wait till the next Farm Bill comes up – in 2012.

Why is that?

This is one place I personally want to hear, “Yes, we CAN!” – not more excuses that produce the  “same bull, different day.”

Back to the garden

What can you do? Lobby your congresspeople by emails and letters to get off their behinds and put people to work growing food and starting farms, and giving support to those little farmers and ranchers who already work at it against all odds.

Then, begin at home:

  • Grow your own tomatoes. All it takes is a 5-gallon bucket with a hole in it, dirt, and a tomato plant. You don’t need a yard — a balcony with sun will do.
  • If you know how to grow, teach a garden class at an elementary school. If you’re part of a small community or neighborhood, condo, or church or synagogue or mosque, consider a community garden on the property, where everyone dedicates time working it to reap its benefits.
  • If you’re a teacher, make a home-grown vegetable a class project, or make a “field trip” to a real farm where vegetables are grown. At least bring in a farmer to talk about how food gets from the ground to the plate. Education is always rule No. 1: teach about real food, and it will eventually take root.
  • Buy locally. Support the small farmers at the green markets, and the produce stands and go to restaurants like 32 East, Cafe Boulud, and 11 Maple Street where the chefs are tuned in to local growers, ranchers and fishermen, and feature their foods.

We can bring back real — not corporate — food, if we work together and realize we don’t need peaches in January that come from another continent. The ones from Georgia are truly special in the summer — and that’s as it should be – right?

Tags: Today in the World of Food

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