Friday, September 25, 2009

Alice Waters Comes to Town

This is my Alice Waters day. I showed her the Montessori garden this morning and sat across from her at a three hour dinner. In between she dedicated the Edible Schoolyard.

At 11:05 the taxi from Proximity roll up with Alice, Melanie (the originator of the Children’s Museum Edible Schoolyard Project, and Betsy Grant, the Museum’s director. Coming later, Marsha Guerrero, director of Edible Schoolyard. A group gathers out front: Frank and Nancy, heads of our school, and a few teachers and parents. Several students, Codi, Dennis, Huxley, and Aubrey, join us. We talk school talk, since Alice had been a Montessori teacher, loves kids, and is all about doing something extraordinary, which, I must admit, is what our Montessori gardens are.

We flash through the Primary gardens. Alice takes note of details such as the herb spiral and the oriental persimmons. She likes the fruit trees, the shade they provide. She refers to the Museum’s plan: “You should have these.” “We do.” Melanie is pleased.

Opening the gate to the Lower Elementary garden, a flood of color, green leaves and little person’s activity greets us. Walter and fifth graders are picking Scuppernong grapes, Cathy’s class is enjoying their shaded outdoor classroom, we harvest some basil for tonight’s dinner, and over by the tables Gabriela dips into the bowl to serve more pesto. Walter comes over and I put my arm around him. “This is my main man. From undergraduate days till now as a teacher, he has designed, built and now teaches in this garden. I brought some grape juice with me. I pour several glasses and Alice, I and the young students toast the garden. She meets Jenny and Gabriela although I should have made more of a fuss about them. (In fact, I sit here now thinking that it is the young adults—Walter, Jenny, Gabriela, Amber, Justin, Daniel, Aubrey—that Alice should be talking to, inspiring. Why didn’t I think of this? Can I get them together today?)

Frank is wonderful. His easy manner is so…Californian, like Alice. She says this is the first Montessori school to invite her and then muses, what if every Montessori school had a garden; what would happen then?

Yes, what if every Montessori school and then every public school had a garden? What would happen then? Wouldn’t kids be healthier, eating better, smarter? Wouldn’t they be leaner? Outdoors, they would be outdoors, moving around, in the dirt. They’d learn how to grow, harvest, and make simple dishes. They could start a home garden, teach their parents, bring fresh food to the table. Alice says, they can do it all by 6th grade: grow it, prepare it, serve it.

The tour finishes under the kiwi pergola. The day is hot and humid; I can’t keep from sweating. We are comfortable. Alice speaks with little Huxley. Dennis brings over some tomatillo, peppers, and sour clover for Alice to try. How easy it is to talk about this and how pleasant the garden.

But the day has just begun. At midday several hundred gather to inaugurate the Edible Schoolyard at the Children’s Museum. A nice reception in the kitchen area, the garden is neat, kids and parents circulate outside. I am meeting so many. Yvonne Johnson, the mayor prepares her remarks. I ask her if she gardens and she says yes, a little. It calms me down. Lee Newlin, Val Vickers, Joel, Margaret Arbuckle. Where are the farmers and gardeners? I want to see Massoud and Saliba, Steve Tate, Pat and Brian Bush, Daniel Woodham. We go outside, dignitaries to their places. We crowd around and hear praise for gardens, health, hard work and Alice’s vision. Steve is there and so is John Sopper. I have a sense that Slow Food is on the map now. Most of the rationale is kid’s health and so be it. But this is the right approach to nutrition. It is the right thing for a sophisticated society to do, to return to a simple activity and rediscover what nourishment and taste are, having been starved for so long.

We are starved for tasty food, nutritious food. We want to gather around a table and eat together. We enjoy our own gardens and the farmer’s market. We like the fresh flavor of seasonal fruit and vegetables, we enjoy walking the aisles of the market, bumping into friends, chatting, and discovering that shopping is a social event. We are proud of our newly found intelligence about our food and making smart choices. We are tired of being fooled and manipulated by corporations. Processed food saps our health and costs too much. Fast food stuffs us with too many calories, and too much salt, sugar and fat. We are tired of being a Fast Food Nation. We want to be part of the Delicious Revolution.

The day is not over! At the last moment, an hour before, Dennis Quaintance calls us and asks us to come the special dinner at the Proximity. This hotel with its fabulous restaurant, Printworks, is a platinum LEEDS hotel, the first and only of its kind in America. Dennis is out in front of the nation!

Well, tonight is a dinner for people with money to meet Alice. Debby and I were not planning on it, but here we go. And where do we sit? Right across from Alice and next to Marsha! For the entire evening. Something in me says, this is a good thing and I want to remember this. Debby leans over and says, you deserve it. Maybe I do.


Laurie said...

Yes, you do deserve it!

Charlie, I am so pleased that you are writing about your life here, inspiring others who in turn inspire others. This is the way that the world will change for the better. Thank you.

Remember that you can always ask me for help if you have any questions or problems blogging. And I'm still planning on updating your web site if you want to continue that. It's the least I could do for you after all you've done for me.


Cynthia S. said...

I think I've been waiting for this blog! I'm showing it to my friends. So many people are interested, to different degrees, in these ideas. Thank you!

FarmGirl Arts and renEWEables said...

Oh Charlie!! How wonderful for you for G-boro, for the children, for the world, for my meager hand-full of hope!!

I'm so happy for you and so glad to read your words on the net cuz I've missed you.

Congratulations and blessings!
Laura C Frazier

Anna Banana said...

Hi Charlie,
I'm a fan of Laurie and her blog, so if she says check it out, I do. I'll be looking for inspiration as I continue my efforts in my southern CA garden.

George Peterson said...

Charlie, it's so cool that you've started blogging. I'll be reading! Also, hi Laurie! I'm still reading you too :)