Weekly Newsletter: Vacation Gleanings

Dear Shopper,

I was at the beach last week, and while it was not a busman’s holiday like last year when I was actually able to visit two farmers’ markets in North Carolina, it was interesting that I was reminded in a number of ways that the issues we are dealing with here in our own neighborhoods and in this country are also affecting others around the world.

As part of my beach reading, I read the latest in a series of mysteries by Donna Leon about an inspector with the police department in Venice. Set in modern times, it includes fascinating detail about the city itself as it struggles to stay afloat and also includes an ongoing backstory about the home life of Commissario Brunetti. Not surprisingly, his family life seems to center on family meals, as he is always hard-pressed to make it home for both lunch and dinner in the evening.

At one meal, the vegetarian teenage daughter makes clear her disgust at how chickens are raised commercially in Italy, and her mother calms her by assuring her that they are not eating one of those chickens. Later, Brunetti’s wife explains that “the others are filled with hormones and chemicals and antibiotics and God knows what, and if I get cancer, I want it to be because I drank too much red wine or ate too much butter, not because I ate too much factory meat.” A much better way to go, I agree!

I also picked up in a lovely craft shop — in addition to a mixed-media sculpture of a dancing lady and a small quilted wall hanging — a bumper sticker with the following announcement:

Feast Downeast — Bringing Local Farmers to Market”
A Southeast North Carolina Food Systems Program

I have yet to research the organization or the program on the Web, but I am sure it will resonate with what we are trying to do with Smart Markets and provide some good ideas. There are so many inspiring and exciting things happening all over the country and around the world that reflect that worldwide concern for how we grow what we eat today. We can all benefit from knowing more about them. In Italy or in a small town in North Carolina, people are beginning to question the validity of our food system that we have handed over to major corporations all over the world and that’s how revolution, even a peaceful one, always begins. Feast Downeast

I receive updates from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution each week and right now he is committed to removing flavored milk from our schools — he now has nearly a million names on a petition that he plans to deliver to the White House once he reaches that magic number. This effort has spawned grassroots cells led mostly by moms all over the country to work at the local level to incorporate the initiative into other efforts to improve school meals.

It must be the old community organizer in me that delights in this and knows that this is how it starts. We can get back to basics even if only through small community-based efforts that we think have only a limited impact. But each new initiative — especially in the age of Twitter and Facebook — can inspire 100 others. What I wouldn’t have given for that kind of outreach and influence when I was working on the first free-breakfast and free-lunch programs in the country. It may not have taken nearly so long to see them in every school in the land.

So stick with it, whatever you are doing at home or in the larger community, and know that someone will hear about it, learn something from your efforts and maybe be inspired by them too. We find our inspiration in some strange places these days.

And I didn’t even tell you about the set of small cookbooks published in 1846 that I saw in my favorite bookstore in Wilmington, N.C. More on those later.

See you at the market!