Let's do lunch

Berkeley, California, my home town, has a well—deserved reputation for leftist absurdity. Many bad ideas either originated here, or were developed to their logical extreme by activists in and out of the local municipal government. Yet, like a broken clock, from time to time Berkeley is correct, albeit never so frequently as twice a day.

When the subject is food, Berkeley's ratio of gold to dross improves beyond the usual microscopic fraction. While the impulse to scold the unenlightened remains, and the willingness to embrace the absurd is undiminished, Berkeley does know its food and wine, and really likes a good meal. The usual grimness of the left is tempered in Berkeley by the sheer beauty of the landscape, the mildness of the climate, and the ability of the nearby farms, ocean waters and vineyards to yield exquisitely delicious products. Very few places anywhere boast a better selection of restaurants, and the city's greengrocers and fishmongers are among the very best in America.
When the spectacle of political and social absurdity temporarily fails to amuse, I can always find something delicious to divert and entertain me. Good food and drink blunt the edge of political madness when the political full moon holds sway over the lefty lunatics.

The conjunction of food and the Berkeley Public Schools has an unfortunate history. The unionized food service workers in school cafeterias are called 'engineers' and well—enough paid that the schools manage to lose vast sums of money, while serving very few actual meals, due to the low quality of the product. Meanwhile, the fast food outlets of downtown Berkeley are crowded at lunchtime with hordes of students anxious to down burgers, tacos, and fried chicken instead of the fare served up at Berkeley High.

A couple of years ago, the world—famous chef Alice Waters, owner of the landmark Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. creator of "california cuisine" and author of countless cookbooks, donated a substantial amount of money to provide gourmet organic lunches to the city's school children at low cost to them. The ungrateful wretches declined the opportunity in such numbers that the program had to be scrapped, after having blown through hundreds of thousands of dollars of charitable and public monies.

Undeterred, chef Waters is back for a second try at rescuing the city's public schoolers from gastronomic and nutritional disaster. Learning from experience is a good thing. But so firmly is the city's reputation for trivial nonsense established that even the credulously "progressive"  San Francisco Chronicle could not stop itself from mocking the new program in its report:

'Berkeley will soon have the first public school children in the nation to get academic credit for eating lunch.'

Well, sort of. Alice Waters has committed her Chez Panisse Foundation to raising $3.8 million dollars to create a comprehensive curriculum teaching students to grow food, process and prepare it, and serve it to each other as in—school lunches. The scope of the program is large: subjects from geography (how climate and landscape affect the ability to produce) and history (how different peoples have manage to eat and survive) to biology and writing (recipes are literature, after all) will be encompassed in the curriculum.

Alice being Alice, and Berkeley being Berkeley, there will be an emphasis on organic growing techniques, and multiculturalism will be rampant. Pre—Columbian cultivation of corn will no doubt be extolled (and tobacco ignored), and don't expect the hunting of wild animals to be taught, even with bow and arrow. Nevertheless, there is something of value to be had, and I wish the program great success.

Each school is to create its own vegetable garden (organic, natch), and the students will be taught every step of the process, from selecting seeds to harvesting, processing, and preparing the resulting produce. They will then serve their food to their classmates.

This is an entirely good thing, even if extraneous obsessions work their way in. One of life's most important lessons is that we are absolutely dependent for our survival on the hard work of creating and preparing food. Until very, very recently in human history life was a continual struggle to secure the next meal, and the very real threat of starvation kept people pragmatic. The miracle of growth from seed to mature plant demonstrates the majesty of nature, and the logic of Creation more powerfully than any text.

I have witnessed the power of growing food to anchor adolescents in reality, destroying the notion that life is something to skate through, sneering at those who grind away at hard work. Something about being even partially dependent for sustenance on your own hard work seems to teach an extremely valuable lesson. Knowing that adequate water, sunshine and temperature are necessary, and sometimes beyond your control, teaches humility.

Of course, my praise is mixed with sadness. It is a shame that harder subjects like the three R's will lose some of their air time. But that is where we are today. Kids are woefully detached from the realities of human existence. Immersing them in the fundamental processes of food production was unnecessary in an earlier era, but we are now an urban culture full of pathologies rooted in detachment from the fundamental realities. This program may help create some semblance of balance and pragmatism in the lives of children who desperately need it.

Berkeley, California, my home town, has a well—deserved reputation for leftist absurdity. Many bad ideas either originated here, or were developed to their logical extreme by activists in and out of the local municipal government. Yet, like a broken clock, from time to time Berkeley is correct, albeit never so frequently as twice a day.

When the subject is food, Berkeley's ratio of gold to dross improves beyond the usual microscopic fraction. While the impulse to scold the unenlightened remains, and the willingness to embrace the absurd is undiminished, Berkeley does know its food and wine, and really likes a good meal. The usual grimness of the left is tempered in Berkeley by the sheer beauty of the landscape, the mildness of the climate, and the ability of the nearby farms, ocean waters and vineyards to yield exquisitely delicious products. Very few places anywhere boast a better selection of restaurants, and the city's greengrocers and fishmongers are among the very best in America.
When the spectacle of political and social absurdity temporarily fails to amuse, I can always find something delicious to divert and entertain me. Good food and drink blunt the edge of political madness when the political full moon holds sway over the lefty lunatics.

The conjunction of food and the Berkeley Public Schools has an unfortunate history. The unionized food service workers in school cafeterias are called 'engineers' and well—enough paid that the schools manage to lose vast sums of money, while serving very few actual meals, due to the low quality of the product. Meanwhile, the fast food outlets of downtown Berkeley are crowded at lunchtime with hordes of students anxious to down burgers, tacos, and fried chicken instead of the fare served up at Berkeley High.

A couple of years ago, the world—famous chef Alice Waters, owner of the landmark Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. creator of "california cuisine" and author of countless cookbooks, donated a substantial amount of money to provide gourmet organic lunches to the city's school children at low cost to them. The ungrateful wretches declined the opportunity in such numbers that the program had to be scrapped, after having blown through hundreds of thousands of dollars of charitable and public monies.

Undeterred, chef Waters is back for a second try at rescuing the city's public schoolers from gastronomic and nutritional disaster. Learning from experience is a good thing. But so firmly is the city's reputation for trivial nonsense established that even the credulously "progressive"  San Francisco Chronicle could not stop itself from mocking the new program in its report:

'Berkeley will soon have the first public school children in the nation to get academic credit for eating lunch.'

Well, sort of. Alice Waters has committed her Chez Panisse Foundation to raising $3.8 million dollars to create a comprehensive curriculum teaching students to grow food, process and prepare it, and serve it to each other as in—school lunches. The scope of the program is large: subjects from geography (how climate and landscape affect the ability to produce) and history (how different peoples have manage to eat and survive) to biology and writing (recipes are literature, after all) will be encompassed in the curriculum.

Alice being Alice, and Berkeley being Berkeley, there will be an emphasis on organic growing techniques, and multiculturalism will be rampant. Pre—Columbian cultivation of corn will no doubt be extolled (and tobacco ignored), and don't expect the hunting of wild animals to be taught, even with bow and arrow. Nevertheless, there is something of value to be had, and I wish the program great success.

Each school is to create its own vegetable garden (organic, natch), and the students will be taught every step of the process, from selecting seeds to harvesting, processing, and preparing the resulting produce. They will then serve their food to their classmates.

This is an entirely good thing, even if extraneous obsessions work their way in. One of life's most important lessons is that we are absolutely dependent for our survival on the hard work of creating and preparing food. Until very, very recently in human history life was a continual struggle to secure the next meal, and the very real threat of starvation kept people pragmatic. The miracle of growth from seed to mature plant demonstrates the majesty of nature, and the logic of Creation more powerfully than any text.

I have witnessed the power of growing food to anchor adolescents in reality, destroying the notion that life is something to skate through, sneering at those who grind away at hard work. Something about being even partially dependent for sustenance on your own hard work seems to teach an extremely valuable lesson. Knowing that adequate water, sunshine and temperature are necessary, and sometimes beyond your control, teaches humility.

Of course, my praise is mixed with sadness. It is a shame that harder subjects like the three R's will lose some of their air time. But that is where we are today. Kids are woefully detached from the realities of human existence. Immersing them in the fundamental processes of food production was unnecessary in an earlier era, but we are now an urban culture full of pathologies rooted in detachment from the fundamental realities. This program may help create some semblance of balance and pragmatism in the lives of children who desperately need it.