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Posted Jan 22 2009 6:28pm

Alice Waters, often called " The Mother of American Cooking " was in Chicago to promote her new book THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD, a subject I know a lot about since I grew up doing what the book advocates : Eat seasonally, eat local and sustainable, shop farmers markets, conserve, compost and recycle, cook simply; cook together, eat together and remember that food is precious. She's also the Vice President of Slow Food International which was started in Italy in 1986. Apparently the Italians, like the French, enjoy cooking and eating fresh, local produce instead of fast food. The slow food movement is catching on in major cities in the U.S. There's a Slow Food Chicago organization that lists restaurants that feature dishes from local sources.

Alice met with Hiz Honor Da Mayor, Richard M. Daley, and she pitched her innovative model public education program , an Edible Schoolyard ,which has students involved in all areas of food production from growing to eating. What better way to teach our youth ? Our Mayor has done a lot to green up Chicago and is always interested in gardening. He can't help it, he's a Taurus like myself. Salt of the Earth.

Alice promised the Mayor that she would be back to help put the Edible Schoolyard program in place. How exciting for Chicago !

Besides talking slow, eating slow is one thing we know about in the South. I remember one summer when my cousins from Detroit came for a visit. They were fascinated when I asked them to come with me to the garden to pick vegetables for dinner ( Southern for lunch ) . A simple meal of fried okra, freshly sliced tomatoes and cucumber salad, sweet corn on the cob , cornbread and blackeyed peas to go with the fresh chicken sacrificed in honor of their visit was an experience they talked about for years.

I am so spoiled now living in a time when almost everything that used to be seasonal is at our fingertips year round. I mean, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers in the winter ? These were always early summer fare to us and I still find it hard to enjoy a salad in the winter. Winter always meant stews , soups and comfort foods to keep us warm and toasty.

I like the title of the first half of the book - " Starting from Scratch ". That's how I like to start. And it concludes with " Recipes for Cooking Everyday. " Simple, honest and tasty.

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