Better School Lunches Should Taste Better Too


Seems to me that if we want school kids to eat lettuce, broccoli, carrots, peas, green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, whole wheat bread, fruit cocktail etc. etc., we have an obligation to make these foods taste as good as fast food hamburgers and French fries. MacDonald ‘s spent millions of dollars developing its French fry and now we want the kids to eat instead untried sliced, browned potatoes that I’m sorry to say, are not nearly as tasty. Ask any school kid.

Have you eaten a school lunch lately? I don’t want to criticize the cooks at all because they work hard and do the best they can, given the circumstances. About all they have to work with are mass-produced, canned products or “fresh” products from distant places. Commercially canned peas, green beans, or sweet corn taste awful to me and the fresh lettuce out of supermarkets is not very desirable either. Mechanical vegetable harvesters can’t handle peas and corn at their tenderest, most tasty stage and factory-processed food of whatever kind just isn’t as good as home-cooked. Just because bread is brown doesn’t mean it tastes good. Mass production equals mediocre taste and most school lunches are by definition mass-produced. When I ate school lunches with my grandsons on Grandparents’ Days, I noticed that most of the vegetables went right off the plates into the garbage buckets.

It’s good to see some new programs developing like the “National Farm To School” project and other efforts to link up local fresh fruits and vegetables with school lunch programs. An article in the Farm and Dairy magazine of October 11vreports that local food is being served in various counties in West Virginia (and I presume other states) and some cafeterias are actually cooking from scratch instead of heating up from cans. In one project, students planted and picked the beans that were fed to them in the cafeteria for two days. I have doubts that such dedication and pilot programs will continue, because school time occurs mostly when fresh garden produce isn’t available. But West Virginia’s Ag Department has thought of that too, and in some instances high tunnel greenhouses have become part of the effort to deliver local fresh food to schools through the winter.

Accompanying these programs there should be more experienced efforts employed in selecting good tasting vegetables and fruits. Everyone has his or her own taste, but I’m sure that those of us with long gardening experience will agree that most commercial sweet corn is harvested too late or served too stale. Peas are often picked too late, even from gardens where machines aren’t involved. Commercial peaches and tomatoes are picked too green. People complain to me that store-bought potatoes increasingly have an off taste now. I don’t know why, perhaps from being stored too long. Select varieties (Red Norland is my favorite but there are others) direct from the garden or even after four month storage, are so good. Likewise the taste of apples varies widely. I’ll bet a MacDonald hamburger that if children had access to the new Honey Crisp apple, they’d prefer it to candy.

Last Week of the Vegetable CSA 2012…


Mendocino Organics Vegetable CSA

Our Vegetable CSA shareholders enjoy a weekly newsletter sent via email. Here’s a peak at how we ended our veggie CSA season. Be sure to read our “Last Notes” – a farewell until next growing season!

In Your Share this Week – Ukiah

  • Butternut Squash
  • Pie Pumpkin
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Spinach
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Baby Turnips
  • Broccoli
  • French Shallots

Wine grapes are getting picked. Olives are ready for harvest. Reggae music is drifting through the neighborhood. Fall harvest is an active, energizing time of the year in Mendocino County, and the weather could not be more beautiful. Just in time for this last distribution, we have spinach, broccoli, and some baby roots. The turnip greens are good in soup, like miso soup. If you haven’t tried shallots before, they are a sweet allium great for any cooking.

Butternut is probably the most popular winter squash. They will last for a few weeks in a cool, dry place. You can slice it thinly, coat in olive oil, and bake for a delicious side dish. The other night, we couldn’t finish a butternut squash we baked, so the next day, we cut the remaining half into strips and cooked it in oil, almost like French fries. They were so good!

If you’re looking for a spiced up soup this fall, here is a good one from Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine (November 2012):

Butternut Squash Soup with Red Chile & Mint

Serves 4

Prep 10 min.

Cook 1 hr.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 lb.)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)
  • 2-3 tsp. ground red chile or ancho chile, plus more for garnish
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
  • Sliced fresh mint leaves, for garnish
  • t bsp. heavy cream, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve and seed the squash. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and measure out 2 cups.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, 1 tbsp. basil and the dried mint. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, cinnamon stick, ground chile and 1 tsp. coarse salt. Stir in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Break up any large squash pieces with a spoon, or pulse in a blender or with an immersion blender to smooth.

Monopoly Is Theft…


The antimonopolist history of the world’s most popular board game

[…] The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”

Magie called her invention The Landlord’s Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly. It featured a continuous track along each side of a square board; the track was divided into blocks, each marked with the name of a property, its purchase price, and its rental value. The game was played with dice and scrip cash, and players moved pawns around the track. It had railroads and public utilities—the Soakum Lighting System, the Slambang Trolley—and a “luxury tax” of $75. It also had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”

For close to thirty years after Magie fashioned her first board on an old piece of pressed wood, The Landlord’s Game was played in various forms and under different names—“Monopoly,” “Finance,” “Auction.” It was especially popular among Quaker communities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, as well as among economics professors and university students who’d taken an interest in socialism… Complete story here