Kids teach local pols – and us – something worth salivating over.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
There were fuzzy kittens and vineyard views, a German wire-haired pointer pup who survived a bullet, a wacky organic winemaker drinking beer and a catering staffer with two earrings, a Marine sniper past and a bulletproof BMW. Oh, and a couple of county supervisors, a Congressman and great grub, too.
The sum effect for me was pleasant surprise – this registered independent has always thought “political party” was an oxymoron. But Sunday’s Democratic Women of Monterey County fundraiser proved me wrong. If that Hawaiian fistbumper B. Hussein Obama and the wannabe-Latino Mitt Witt could ever get something like this together I’d reassess my views of the wider political wasteland.
The setting was Cachagua’s Heller Estate, deep in the sun-soaked Carmel Valley, a soothing setting for any event – like the grape-stomping harvest party Oct. 20 ($55, 659-6220). The kittens are up for adoption by aforementioned winemaker Rich Tanguay. The sniper was just one of the many personalities on Mike Jones’ A Moveable Feast team, which brought along panzanella, sea bass, Wagyu beef and the dog with nine lives, Txiki, who has also survived parvovirus. I was there because I’ve volunteered at the garden-based education hub MEarth at the Hilton Bialek Habitat for years, and its programs guru and an old friend, Tanja Roos, was earning DWMC’s 2012 visionary leadership award.
And I was hurtin’ for a reminder of what MEarth does – namely, plop middle schoolers in organic gardens and a new green kitchen to learn ecosystems, farming, nutrition, cooking and culture – after collaborating on our Inconvenient cover story (see p. 18). Turns out if you talk to enough really smart climate experts, you’re not left with a whole lot of hope in us adults’ ability to steward the planet.
That gives me added incentive to invest in an operation like MEarth, where community folk like me can learn to propagate, mulch and more as they help out (www.mearth.info). Or to swing by and buy some native plants 10am-1pm this Saturday, Sept. 29.
As Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said at the event, “We should all be concerned with raising healthy Americans.” And as Ann Evans, the former mayor of Davis, Calif., added: “This garden is the kind of vision we hold for every kid in the country, and in a state like California in particular.” Evans, a regional-food-economy pioneer who wrote Davis Farmers Market Cookbook (peep www.annevans.com), marveled at what she saw on her visit to MEarth, which also serves students from across the county: The kids harvested Asian vegetables they helped raise while prepping traditional Chinese eats and practicing Mandarin.
“They’re teaching children and adults,” Evans said. “The adults just take a little more convincing.”
At MEarth (pronounced “me Earth,” as kids learn to connect “me” with the planet) I’ve seen those best equipped to convince adults – their kids – learn to scour labels, rotate crops and chef up farm-fresh fare in the outdoor kitchen.
“There are a lot of powerful people in this room,” Roos said to a group that included supes Jane Parker and Dave Potter, Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett and sustainable restaurant superstars Ted and Cindy Walter. “What I like most about my job is the chance to work with the most powerful people anywhere: Our students.”
MEarth is one of the scores of local nonprofits featured in our annual Monterey County Gives! fall fundraising push. Check out our Nov. 8 issue for pages and pages of big-hearted inspiration – and, in the meantime, put your values where your mouth is. Labor, land and local relationships figure into our food choices mightily. Like DWMC President Pris Walton said before lunch, “Eating is a political act.”
• Speaking of Heller, Ziggy Marley and his bassist are wooing the organic winery for wine club privileges after meeting the team at a Sunset Center show earlier this month.
•Speaking of good school-food news:As a part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, Dole Food Company is commemorating the donation of five salad bars to MPUSD campuses as this issue hits the streets. And on Monday, 100 school food leaders met at the Oakland Museum to find innovative ways to get more California food into the 900 million meals they serve our children every year – and less salt – and fat-laden processed foods – as part of the new “California Food for California Kids” push.
• Speaking of Mike Jones (and local nonprofits), he’s doing a Youth Arts Collective benefit dinner Sunday, Sept. 30, as part of the YAC’s new “Conceptual Café” series. He takes on son Brendan at Jones Jr.’s Lokal for a You-Can’t-Top-Papa’s-Tapas showdown with wine and live music ($125, 244-4540).
•Speaking of Lokal: Two different people have accosted me in the last 48 hours to say 1) The cocktails are incredible and 2) They’ve been told, “No dessert at lunch because we don’t want to run out at dinner.”
• Speaking of Carmel Valley, Cima Collina’s pouring it on. Live music, small bites and wine 2-5pm Sundays ($10, 620-0645) at the new tasting room – this week’s the swan song of the season. The harvest party happens Saturday, Oct. 20 ($50-$65), before Passport to East End Wine Row Dec. 8 ($50). Yes: since Carmel Valley now has so many tasting spots the east siders – Dawn’s Dream, Silvestri, Holman, Parsonage, Joyce, Chesebro and CC – have named their own region-within-a-region.
•Sunset Mag’s Savor the Central Coast spools Sept. 27-30 in SLO (www.savorcentralcoast.com). Hotels are including fest passes with lodging. Follow @MontereyMCA for peeks of what chefs like Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen and Aarti Sequeira are up to.
• “’Tis better to understand,” St. Francis of Assisi said, “than to be understood.”