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Farm to Table Event at the Smithsonian

Posted Jan 14 2013 12:00am
Sous Chef works at the Smithsonian.  I know I've said this before, but I am saying it again because that is one of the few statements I've made in my life that has yet to lose its sense of awe and wonder.

He participated in a farm-to-table event downtown this past weekend, and I tagged along to "cover" it; as if this blog counts as real journalism.  Although, I suppose one day it might qualify as such, so perhaps I shouldn't be so cynical.

So yeah - I strapped on my dad's camera and took my backstage pass (in the form of a companion with an actual pass) and helped bring in all kinds of supplies and equipment to help set up the event.  There were eight or so tables spaced around the perimeter of the Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery, each lined with a cute red gingham tablecloth, that just screamed "farm-to-table".  The program promised loads of family-friendly activities, including - hello! - a gourd orchestra.  Their motto: "Plant a seed, grow an orchestra."  How delightfully granola.

I came to cover, I ended up participating.  It turns out, when you promise children the opportunity to play with neon-colored dry pasta and tacky glue, you're in for a stampede toward your table.  Sous Chef's activity was called "Pot O' Pasta".  After decorating their biodegradable pot, the kids got to pick out a basil seedling from one of the five varieties they had on hand.

By the end of the day, I had glue in my hair, a brown stain on my shirt from separating the pots, and had said the sentence "The lemon basil is great for making strawberry basil lemonade" about 73 times.

During this time, I also determined that while full-time teaching might not be my preferred career, it sure is fun to talk to kids about food for a few hours.  At one point, a girl who looked to be about twelve pointed to our fresh pasta display (pasta being fed through a roller to make fettuccine) and asked what it was - she'd never seen how pasta was made before.  The same girl later couldn't decide between the cinnamon basil or the lemon basil.  Her dad looked completely annoyed and urged her to just pick one so they could be on their way.

I ended up giving her both (shhhh...don't tell the other hundred-and-twenty-three kids that went home with only one plant).  Why?  Because she had never seen fresh pasta.  And she politely waited her turn for the glue.  And she concentrated so hard while she decorated.  And for the love of Pete, she actually said the words, "Plants are so cool."

I have visions that she will nurse those two seedlings, watching them grow into large, beautiful bushes on her balcony, while the taxis and bikes and people rush by below her.

She will water them and fertilize them and transplant them when their roots find the walls of their world and ask for just a little more space.

One day, she may even become a famous botanist who eventually cures cancer and dandruff with a unique blend of herbal extracts and tree bark.

And it will all be because I gave her cinnamon and lemon basil.

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