Yesterday I had one of those spontaneous days when unplanned episodes ultimately fit together with surprising harmony. It was supposed to be a Sunday filled with errands and cleaning. Yet, by 11:30 am, I had deftly maneuvered off course, heading to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery. If procrastination is an art form, then I am a 21st Century Michelangelo.
If you’re in or near Washington DC – now or in the future – check out these recently renovated museums. They are truly standouts in the treasure chest of Smithsonian jewels. With 2 exhibits (Gertrude Stein and The Black List) and a concert (a group called Dance for the Dying – pictured below – in the Luce Center) under our belts, we wandered into the courtyard that connects the 2 museums where Farm to Table Family Day was underway.
Without a young kid in tow, we may have looked out-of-place. But no one seemed to notice or care. At one activity table, I even got a sprig of lemon verbena to grow in my kitchen until I can move it to the tiny urban herb garden on my back deck. After I gazed adoringly at the kids enjoying the hands-on exhibits and picked recipes for “apple lollipops,” we headed home.
I thought my Farm to Table day was ending as I played around with maple syrup and walnut covered apple pops. Just as I put them in the refrigerator, a friend called with a last minute invite to a Sunday Night Suppers party benefitting for Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen.
The meal turned out to be an amazing multi-course dinner cooked by executive chefs David Lawrence of 1330 on Fillmore and Amy Brandwein of the Casa Nonna restaurants. The food and wine were sublime, our hosts incredibly welcoming, and the other guests were marvelous dinner companions. Not exactly hardship duty.
The chefs – and yes, he really is that much taller than she is.
Certainly museum-based events and fundraisers are not going magically improve the world, or even a small corner of it. They may not even be important in the grand scheme of anything – except as small parts of a much larger picture. Our consciousness about the role of fresh, local food in health is slowly, but surely expanding and we have begun to see eating as a series of choices.
Nutrition is no longer a boring subject taught only in classrooms. Whether tending a school garden or painting vegetables and fruits, kids are being encouraged to connect healthy eating to their lives and to enjoy the process. Access to fresh, local food is no longer considered just for the wealthy. Organizations such as DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table bring the hope of fresh food and the message of healthy eating to people who would not otherwise have access to the bountiful harvests of local farms. They also teach their clients how to moderate or change dietary habits that lead to obesity and other health problems.
Canned food will no doubt remain part of food distribution programs here and elsewhere for the foreseeable future. And no one should expect school kids of any income level to totally swear off fast food any more than I expect to lead a chocolate-less life. Still, I see progress when the canned vegetables and fruit that were staples on our plates in the 1960’s have given way to directories of farmers’ markets all over the U.S. and widely supported efforts to give low income residents access to locally grown food.
Over the past week I was riveted by the Paula Deen story. I noted that she published a cookbook of butter and sugar-laden recipes in October 2011, knowing that she was diabetic, yet with no suggestion that she couldn’t/shouldn’t eat her own recipes. Alas, progress is not always uniform or in a straight line.
As I checked out my new lemon verbena plant this morning, I felt as though the day of Farm to Table events was almost an antidote to last week’s news, or at least a deep cleanse, followed by a double shot of hope. Not a bad way to start a new week.