Food Fight Over School Gardens

The current issue of Atlantic magazine has a fascinating essay by Caitlin Flanagan who criticizes the "school garden" movement launched by restaurateur/food "guru" Alice Waters. (*1)

The whole school-gardening thing has bugged me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why, until I read this essay. And then I started nodding my head. Yep, that's the problem. Yep.

In the interest of fairness, of course, I also direct you to a thoughtful, smart rebuttal at the website Civil Eats. And make sure there to read the comments. I think the essayist at Civil Eats (an Iowa chef named Kurt  Michael Friese) makes good points.

But I also think his own critique smooshes the dividing line between Flanagan's critique of the garden movement with his own critique of the current educational system in the United States. He'dve been better off sticking to one topic. In any case, both essays are worth reading.

Although, cough cough, both of course manage to take a fairly tiny part of the "food debate" and inflate it into Something Monumental. In the general scheme of things, Waters' idea is fairly small potatoes (no pun intended). Still, it's indicative of the extent to which there is a debate and there is conflict about food in America that such a seemingly small matter can take on a life of its own.


*1: Full disclosure at the outset: I'm not a big fan of Waters, if only because of what I think of as nearly narcissistic hypocrisy on her part. She claims to care about food, nutrition, etc. But according to everything I've ever heard and read, including an adulatory biography (*2) that came out a few years ago, waste is no problem with her. If a bunch of spinach, for example, is not perfect --- and I do mean perfect --- it gets tossed. Not just the bad leaves; the entire bunch. Hello? I mean, I could see not serving squished leaves on a plate when the restaurant is charging $30 for the plate of salad, but to toss the entire bunch? Hello??

*2: The biography, written by Thomas McNamee, is quite good: well-written and researched, lively, engaging. But it does lean toward the adulatory, so much so that the irony of Waters' attitude toward wasting food is lost on McNamee. Still, it's a good book and I recommend it.