Over the weekend, I attended the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show at the San Mateo Event Center. My main reason for attending was to see Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame talk about Edible Schoolyard, a program sponsored by the Chez Panisse Foundation to involve middle-schoolers in all aspects of food from dirt to dinner.
The room was packed, standing room only, with several hundred attendees.
Alice talked a little about the program, her philosophy towards food and children, and we were invited to watch Esther Cook, Chef Teacher at ES, make kale crostini, one of the first items children are likely to make at the school.
As far as guiding principles of the school, Alice was talking to the converted where I was concerned.
The idea of growing organic produce, hands-on preparation and cooking, integration with all aspects of a middle school curriculum, awakening senses and awareness, social and sharing aspects of food and building beauty into life (making food look gorgeous is a cornerstone of ES philosophy – a point not lost on this throw-it-on-a-plate-and-eat-it mom) was all music to my ears.
The recent addition of Academy Award® nominee, Jake Gyllenhaal, as Ambassador for the program only made me swoon even more.
My middle-schoolers lapped it up. As they did the kale crostini and organic blood oranges that were passed around.
I’ve never known what to do with kale so I’ve avoided it. But my kids’ enthusiastic thumbs up and the demonstration gave me a perfect reason and know-how to try it.
And I did.
I don’t think mine was quite as good as Alice’s but I’ll live. My kids got to eat kale for the first time and I expanded my cookery repertoire a little. Next time, I’ll get them to help.
The final part of Alice’s talk was interesting. She spoke about her campaign to remove typical cafeteria food from high schools, replacing it with healthy, organic meals instead. She talked about how food drew teenagers to her home after school and how it can be used to connect with them at a time when parents and kids alike are often confused and flailing.
This was a light bulb moment for me. I am already wondering about those years when my kids want to hang out with their friends, to be anywhere but home. Maybe cooking delicious food will provide the draw that will bring them. Them and their pals.