On Tuesday, June 1, I was lucky enough to join a garden-and-kitchen celebration in Austin, Texas, where students from University of Texas Elementary School starred in a culinary marathon honoring their year of gardening and cooking and learning about the pleasures of the kitchen and the table. The Hands-On Garden-To-Table Workshop was a movable feast, beginning with an assembly at UT Elementary School, moving out to the fantastic vibrant garden the students had planted on campus, then onto busses from UTES to Austin’s flagship Whole Foods Market’s Culinary Center, where the kids washed, peeled, chopped, sauteed, stirred and cooked up a gorgeous and delicious meal with an assist or two from Whole Foods’ kitchen crew and a bevy of members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, in Austin for our annual conference in the Texas sunshine. IACP member (and chair of the conference’s Host Committee) Toni Tipton Martin, food writer, cooking teacher and culinary historian based in Austin, traveled to Washington DC last June for “Chefs Move to the White House”, where hundreds of chefs and food people toured the White House garden and accepted First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to get moving into schools and help America’s kids “…fall in love with food.” My good friend Toni listened well and came back to Austin with a plan; this day was ‘graduation’ for UTES’ Garden to Table program, only way more more fun than the word “graduation” would suggest. I still remember the excitement of arriving at UTES, a wonderful school bustling with teachers, staff, students and their proud family members, members of the press with cameras and notepads, fellow members of IACP’s Kids in the Kitchen team, and Guest of Honor Bill Yosses, White House Pastry Chef, who traveled to Austin from Washington, DC, to bring greetings from First Lady Michelle Obama, meet and cook with the Garden to Table students, and give them a message: “You are important!”, he told smiling rows of kids in carrot-colored UTES Longhorn tee-shirts. “When you grow food and cook it, you are part of something happening everywhere in the world.” This post is the second of three — I’d planned on two, but just as once you start cooking, you end up with more wonderful food than you’d planned to create, I’ve got abundant photos, and I’m going to let these tell you the next chunk of the story, and finish up with, well, dessert, in my third post. Meanwhile, enjoy!
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of fourteen cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native, and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.