Ah, November; what a month you’ve been, already!
This month has been nothing but nonstop action since it began. Indeed, the Orange Band has hit the ground running since we returned from Mendocino last month: exploring San Francisco, where our food comes from, and, of course, NaNoWriMo!
The movement of things by land is yet another vast undertaking for the Orange Band students. We saw, early on, that the interests and ideas we bring to the table make for a variety of possible projects and dives, big and small.
As a way to focus our energies and efforts, students began and in-depth and up close look at an essential part of our daily lives: food. We began the arc with a field trip to Pie Ranch, a thriving, working farm located in Pescadero. Pie Ranch’s food education program experience offered the Orange Band a first-hand look at one very special source of local food. Kiddos explored the multi-crop farm, its animals (pigs and goats and cows, oh, my!), and helped the farmers transition the crops and land as it began to settle in for a winter’s “sleep.” We celebrated a solid morning’s work in the fields with a delicious chili and cornbread lunch, topped with homemade herbed butter — nearly 100% of our meal was supplied by Pie Ranch! Does pulling the veggies out of the ground necessarily make them that much more tasty??
And yet, most of our food — found in our homes and in Brightworks — is not so easily traced back to one source farm. Even though the list of stores our families shop at include more farmer’s markets and co-operative markets, where our food comes from is often mysterious and unknown. More often we are concerned if the avocados in the produce department are at that *just right* ripeness, and not how these fruits always seem to be available to us when guacamole cravings set in.
Orange Band students set about to find out just where the items we so cavalierly toss into our baskets or reusable grocery bags actually can be traced back to. Students chose a recipe to track down and we set out, maps in hand to help keep track of just where our food comes from: to a local franchise in the Brightworks neighborhood, a gigantic national supermarket, and two farmer’s markets. What was especially striking was the breadth of difference between the different markets. At one store, we were able to identify the state produce or meat came from (or city of production, if a dry good). At another, we were simply informed of the country the product was from. This certainly highlighted the disconnect we often have from our food, unless we take specific steps to get closer to what ends up on our plate, such as shopping at local farmer’s markets. At both the Civic Center market and the Ferry Building, we were able to identify the farms our fruits, veggies, and meat originated from. What a difference!
Of course, the next logical step was to make the delicious meals we had been researching to such great lengths.
As a capstone to these weeks of getting ever closer to our food, Charlotte and her mom, Kiki, gave us an even more intimate experience with our food: two ducks from the Jewell’s own home to be prepped for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Orange and Teal bands were all hands in!
The labor intensive and fascinating activity included scalding the ducks to prepare them for plucking. Plucking and sorting the feathers was the most time consuming, and perhaps the most relaxing–once we got a handle on how to pluck the outer feathers, we were able to deftly leave just the soft, soft down to be removed.
The final step was to gut the ducks, a task Kiki did with an ease that many of us carnivores and omnivores do not possess. It was so special to be able to see what the meat we eat begins as, post slaughter — and it is not wrapped in neat plastic packages, to be sure!
Throughout this food investigation, and the looks into where our food is moved from into our personal lives, students began reading acclaimed food writer Michael Pollan‘s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat. As students began digging into Pollan’s investigation of the Industrial food chain, the source of most of our food in much of the country, we contemplated the True Cost of the food we eat. Just how frugal are we being when we buy tomatoes at $2.99 a pound at our local Safeway (an oxymoron?), as opposed to $7.99 a pound from the Farmer’s Market? Why is our food system so reliant on a mutation of a grain (corn)? What does it mean to buy and eat responsibly in today’s industrial food age? These questions will continue to loom over us as we read and investigate further!