Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Japanese school lunches

page from weekly lunch menu at Japanese primary school
~ courtesy of Coco&Me ~

Across Montana and in many other U.S. states, schools are planting gardens and using local produce in their meals. But we could learn a lot from Japanese schools about making lunchtime an educational experience.

On the charming British blog Coco&Me, Tamami shared what she learned about school lunches on a recent trip to Japan.

In her blog post about her visit, Tamami dissects a school lunch menu a Japanese friend showed her.

For example, Tamami translates the text in the photo above:

"Cucumber – characterised by crunchy mouthfeel & warty exterior. One of the fresh summer vegetables."
"Pumpkin – Full of beta-carotene. Maintaining properties for healthy eyes & skin. Builds resistance. Lots of vitamin E & C."
"The information on which area the ingredients are produced is publicised on the council homepage."

I encourage you to visit the post to see all the pages of the menu and read Tamami's descriptions and translations.

But briefly, Japanese schools value the opportunity to educate their children about food. Every ingredient in the lunch is itemized, even by weight, and drawings and captions clarify what exactly the food is and why it is important for health.

I was especially impressed by a note at the bottom of the menu.

As I read through Tamami's blog post, I wondered how Montana schools might adapt such a detailed menu to the lunch program.

Could ag classes gather information about where the food comes from, names of ranchers and other food producers? Even knowing that some food comes from far away would be educational.

Could language arts classes write the text?

Could science classes add botanical details?

Could art classes supply illustrations?

Could the school newspaper put it all together and print out a weekly menu to share with students and their families?

There's a lot of creativity in our schools. And I know from my years of teaching middle school that there's plenty of energy and enthusiasm as well.

Students tend to consider lunch the best time of the school day. Why not also make it the most important part of their education, something they will carry through their entire lives?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Emigrant farmers market: building a community

Market manager Joyce Johnson works hard to nurture the community that revolves around and within the tiny Emigrant farmers market, with an average of 10 vendors and a very big heart.

I wrote about this market during its 2011 season. In some ways it looks the same, but in other ways, it has grown.

"We're seeking to develop a new habitat for a community gathering," Joyce told me today. She deliberately named it the People's Market so anyone in the Paradise Valley could participate, even during the early part of the season when produce is still ripening. She's considering extending the market during winter, wondering if vendors could use the local church hall.

"We're small now," Joyce conceded, "but big-hearted."

I enjoy visiting this market. It feels warm (even in the cold sun of mid-September) and welcoming. Vendors are happy to talk to you about their wares or even about things that interest them.

If you want to learn about yin and yang, ask the woman selling tiny cherry-size "yang" plums from her garden.

If you don't know anything about solar cooking, fireless cooking, or how alive water is, have a chat with Greg, who sells Sunovens and essential oils. The 3 pounds of potatoes in the Sunoven will be done by the time the market closes at 1 pm.

Eighty-year-old Richard will give you his recipe for Dutch oven potatoes if you prefer them cooked traditionally, plus he'll add a plug for cultured vegetables, like homemade pickled beets and sauerkraut, that "do good work on your intestines." Handily, he has plenty of homegrown potatoes, beets, and cabbage for sale, along with squash and other good-looking vegetables.

James is a painter, but he comes to market to share the abundance from his garden. Today he had amazing heirloom tomatoes, garlic, kale, and lettuce.

But the prize was the tub of foot-long, tender Tyria cucumbers. Each seed costs $1.20, and so each cucumber sold for $4, but every bite is a delicacy. James handed out samples of dried cucumber, which was a treat in itself.

You can already see what an amazingly abundant market this is, and I've only mentioned 4 vendors!

Today there were also jewelry, shawls, Native American artifacts, and Yankee Bob's cookies. You can read about Yankee Bob in my 2011 blog post about the market, but now he has extended his selection to include gluten-free and vegan items.

Oh, yes, and some fun wood items.

Stop in soon and get to know these friendly people.

Emigrant People's Market
Lawn of St. John's Episcopal Church, across from Wildflour Bakery
Saturday, 10 am - 1 pm
June 14 - October 25 (weather permitting)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Red Lodge farmers market: a cold wind blows

The pumpkins at today's farmers market in Red Lodge had loads of personality -- all ready for Halloween.

A cold wind blew around tomatoes, peppers, bread, and soap, but that didn't discourage shoppers, who crowded around their favorite vendors, eager to take home the bounty. The remains of an early snow lingered and everyone had to bundle up, but it was still a fine day for a market.

Colorful heirloom tomatoes from Wholesome Foods farm made a pretty picture.

Piles of peppers from Carbon County Growers in Bridger shone in the sun. You can freeze small peppers as is, or seed and chop up the bigger peppers, and put them all in the freezer to spice up winter meals.

A long line formed almost immediately after the opening cowbell for Hope's homemade baked goods. Difficult decisions had to be made about whether to take a brownie brimming with frosting, or a crisp baguette, or a cinnamon roll the size of your head. Or maybe one of each . . .

There was corn.

And honey.

And amazing tamales made fresh by Rosa.

Kenny's Double D Salsa, including the delectable mango and pineapple version, lived up to its tagline, "Dangerous & Delicious." Kenny said he's had people return within a few minutes to buy more because they ate it right out of the container in their car. Kenny makes 1500-1600 pints each month to sell at stores in Billings and Red Lodge and another 225 pints each week to supply fans at the farmers markets in those towns.

Debra, of La Naturals, was selling soap and other natural skin care products. I was attracted by her unusual combination of honey and dandelion, among others. She was eager to share her knowledge of natural products, explaining that she sources locally whenever possible, using honey and beeswax from Sunshine Apiary in Columbus, goat milk from a farm in Fromberg, and violets from a neighbor's garden. I learned a lot from her about taking care of my skin with nature's ingredients.

It's getting toward the end of farmers market season here in eastern Montana, with 2 market days left in Red Lodge. And while there may already be snow on the ground, don't let that discourage you from picking up some fresh produce and other necessities. The vendors offer an abundance of goods, and they are always happy to see you.

This time of year it's an especially pretty drive south to Red Lodge, with snowy mountains to frame the view. Take some time to enjoy it.

Red Lodge Farmers Market
Lions Park, between E. 7th & E 8th on N. Villard
Friday, 3:30 pm - 6:30 pm
June 27 - September 26