Monday, April 2, 2007

Hey, I'm back!

I was out of town for most of last week, at a conference for work. For the most part, it was a good experience; I learned a great deal and had a pretty good time. I was immersed in a culture I know very little about- the conference was for people who are associated with youth summer camps. The not-for-profit for whom I work has summer camps as a component of the operation, but I am not generally involved with them. Along with the seminars, there was an exhibitors hall, a small city of booths where vendors reeled conference go-ers in with hooks baited with samples of all things camp.

I got some cool swag, including a peacock feather I can balance on my finger, but as I walked through the vendors village, I found I was really discouraged by the state of food in our summer camps. (I guess if I were still involved with schools, I would be equally depressed about the state of food there, too.) Food items were about as real as Saturday morning cartoons, designed to appeal to kids who eat the things advertised on them. Highly processed, brightly colored, they grated on my nerves, already exposed from listening to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma on the way to the conference. I asked a young camp director about the food choices; she replied that most of the food served at her camp was micro-wave ready. A vegetarian who lives on Kraft Mac and Cheese during her summer tenure, she added "It's because of all the food allergies. The food has to be bland or the kids get sick." That didn't make sense to me, but before I could question her further, the currents of people intent on samples of Bugjuice and peanut-less peanut butter swept us apart.
I was left with a sense of despair- how will we ever change the future when the kids are being trained to eat Kid's Food? Somewhere out in blogger-land, I read an excellent series of articles about kids food and kids eating food, unfortunately I can't find the post, nor remember the poster. I DO remember that it reinforced my opinion that feeding kids special kids food creates a generation of picky eaters.

My email brought me a post from Local Forage in which Carla talks about her appearance on a radio show with author Sandor Katz and Taylor Boetticher, the charcutier (translation from the French- Pork Butcher) of The Fatted Calf . A flurry of link-clicking took me to, where I was able to add a whole bunch of books on food and the politics of eating to my wish list. I was surprised to find there were so many that I had never heard of.

On the home front, Chuck took care of my seedlings very well. These are tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Anyone want to guess what I am using as plant markers?


Whozat said...

Was this an ACA conference? I've been to some in Texas - fun crowd!

Too bad about the camp food - we had great stuff (and great cooks) at our camp when I was there.

Of course, we got our share of Sysco shipments, for the sake of volume and cost-effectiveness, but most of it was homemade, including yeast rolls (to DIE for) and cobbler and other such yummies.

One of the most popular things they served was taco salad (secret ingredient: French dressing).

Also - are those little plastic skeleton parts (yeah, I suppose those would be called "bones" huh?) in your garden?

Willa said...

Yes, it was an ACA conference- I should have known that of all the people I know, you would have been to an ACA conference!

And yes, those are little plastic bones. When I was planting the peat pots, I couldn't find anything to mark what seeds went where. But I did have a small pile of plastic skeletons (don't ask). I cut them apart and wrote on the seed envelopes which one was marked with the hand, which with the foot, the pelvis, the ribcage, etc. I thought it made an interesting picture!


Robbyn said...

LOL ok you got me on the plant markers.

I'm glad you had a great time at the conference.

I really need to learn the lesson better about not impulse buying when I don't know how to cook certain things (Passover, case in point). What's interesting is that I assumed that items marked kosher were healthier overall. And in comparison with the purity of certain ingredients, or lack of other ingredients, it compares more favorably sometimes. But I was surprised to find MSG and preservatives, etc, in a lot of it. Not local, not affordable.

I need to learn how to cook this stuff from a whole different point of reference. I know I'd do it with "kid foods" had I to do that again, too. We're doing a littel better with our daily meals, thankfully. The Omnivore's Dilemma is quite enlightening and challenging, isnt it?

Willa said...

Robbyn, I felt the same way about Kosher and hallal butchering- I had read it was more humane, and done where the animal can't see other animals being slaughtered or hanging. But I couldn't find corroboration of that anywhere, at least with commercially slaughtered meat. And I guess they animals aren't raised any differently, that I could find, at least.

I do like The Omnivore's Dilemma- I found myself thinking I neede to buy copies for my kids, and my sisters...

Carla said...

Hi Willa. Thanks for the mention.

Willa said...

Thanks for stopping by, Carla- I read you religiously, and always find something to think about.