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On Our Radar: School gardens, sustainable discourse, 'Iron Chef' stunt vegetables

* No article this week has stirred up foodies like Caitlin Flanagan's "Cultivating Failure." The piece savagely attacks Chez Panisse chef-restaurateur Alice Waters and others who support school gardens as "reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology that is responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might otherwise have spent reading important books or learning higher math."

The piece is worth a read because it challenges conventional wisdom: What evidence is there that school gardens help children learn? In my opinion, the article disappoints. Flanagan seems more interested in building up a strawman -- the Misguided, Liberal Foodie -- then tearing it down, rather than looking at whether gardens or anything else can teach children about healthful eating.

* Speaking of productive conversations, last week Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times called for a more civil discourse between farmers and food reformers. But the message has apparently fallen on deaf ears. Grist's Tom Laskawy reports that in a recent speech, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, announced the biggest challenge agriculture faces are liberal "extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule."

“Make your plans to fit the circumstances," Stallman said, quoting Gen. George Patton. "To those who expect to just roll over America’s farm and ranch families, my only message is this: The circumstances have changed."

* And what news roundup would be complete without some White House garden dirt? Politics Daily reminds us that those "WH" veggies used on the "historic" Iron Chef smackdown televised earlier this month were, in fact, stunt doubles. Chefs Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Cristeta Comerford from the White House were filmed picking vegetables at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., one week before the show was taped in New York. (Marian Burros' NYT story about the show last November included the same disclosure.)

"Viewers were not explicitly told that the vegetables in Kitchen Stadium were not the ones they had seen the chefs harvest," Lynn Sweet writes. "Various participants in the show misled viewers with references to 'using radishes from the White House garden' and other similar mentions. Except for the honey, no food on the show came from the White House."

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  January 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Media , On Our Radar  | Tags: Jane Black  
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Replies to Flanagan's screed against school gardens are pouring in from the food policy blogosphere:

Posted by: euclidarms | January 13, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

I was watching the Iron Chef WH show with a friend, who remarked "they must have built a kitchen stadium in the DC area!". I replied, "no, they just flew back to FN HQ in Manhattan, and used the same kinds of veggies from their usual suppliers". They'd have to harvest more than a few baskets to make meals for all the judges of each dish. I'm sure the WH kitchen made excellent use of the picked veggies. Nothing wrong with it, that's how TV keeps their schedule. Does anyone really think these chefs can time the last spoonful of garnish to land on the plate just as the "time's up" horn goes off every week?

Posted by: fluxgirl | January 13, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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