I was impressed with the process he and his three other teammates had to go through. World Food Day, which was held at the University of the Virgin Islands Oct. 16, had selected three foods they were to cook with: lamb, pineapple and peppers. Children had to come up with recipes and understand the history and nutritional values of these foods. They also needed to understand how and why these foods benefit poor people. They also needed to understand and be able to articulate in front of a panel of judges these facts, as well as the economic and political reasons behind food scarcity and food insecurity. (I coached them on public speaking skills and economics for sure! Down with the banksters!)
In a nutshell, it promoted a return to local farming and sustainable communities, rather than globalized corporate controlled food products. It encouraged home gardening, resourcefulness, good nutrition and back to basics cooking. It helped kids develop their talents and speaking skills. It was a top chef competition for kids.
For my son, it was a fantastic experience. It sealed his destiny and desire to be a professional chef. He’s never been so interested in my vegetarian, healthy ways, but I think it will rub off in time. He did mention the other day, (to my surprise!) he was interested in vegetarian cooking, even though he requested as a reward after the championship to go to the supermarket and be able to buy Pepsi, processed meat, processed cheese food and Wonder Bread to make a sandwich! Having never eaten the last two in his life, I relented. Kids are such a mystery!
For me, it made me so aware of food and poverty. I continue my commitment to living locally and sustainably, which I set out with my kids over a year ago to achieve when we moved away from the Mainland US, lived in Argentina to study how they survived economic collapse, and ended up in St. Croix. I continue my fight to not live as a corporate slave of globalization and work to educate youth and my family about that. We start with our own backyard.I’m an avid composter, and take our kitchen scraps out to a little garden tended by Tonio, a 72-year-old Puerto Rican farmer who lives on the property I rent. I have started a bunch of eggplant, pepper and kale seedlings as well as basil. But the World Food Day dawned on me why he grew so many peppers. It’s easy to grow. He lives on so little food and money and these crops help him survive. I plant the seedlings, he tends the crops. We already have tons of tomato plants going from the same process.
Tonio has always been proud of the numerous coconut trees that he had planted years ago on the property. I have an agreement with him that he will take them down, bust them open, get the coconut out and I will make coconut milk and other food with it for all of us. I made delicious milk and used the shavings to make coconut pound cake! Delicious! And inexpensive!
One day when I was checking on the garden he shoed me the celery plant that was gorwing out of the compost and warned me to be careful not to cover it. What celery plant I wondered? A stalk that we composted was growing again. You just have to stick it in the ground and it will root again, he said. I was shocked. I had no idea. He had done the same with mangos and avocados that we composted. We have a little tree seedling farm going!
I looked in my fridge and saw a dwindled core of celery. To me, this little piece would just be compost, but it brought me to a new awareness what it is for others, billions of people, around the world. It is not trash; it is food.I brought the stalk to Tonio. He promptly trimmed it down and put it into water to root. I hope to continue to learn from Tonio and his amazing wisdom from living so close to the land. And my son will be cooking dinner from now on with what we grow in the garden!
Food is sacred. Food is live and it’s the ties to people and community. Garden and cook with your kids. Share your bounty with others. Make World Food Day every day by being mindful of your food, your life and the life of others on the planet.
Links of interest
World Food Day