Friday, September 12, 2008

The Things We Gift Away

In today's NeighborsGo section of the DMN there is a nice story about the garden revitalization at Arthur Kramer Elementary (DISD) and it made me smile. I was PTA President at Kramer the year the Jonlyn Mitchell Garden was built, thanks to the efforts of parent John Tatum, the Dallas chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier, and the Chez Panisse Foundation - in conjunction with it's Edible Schoolyard Project. These organizations paid for much of the construction and a few years of funding of a "Master Gardener", he met with staff and parents who were interested in the garden. Unfortunately, that wasn't many, and the original intent of the gardens, to grow sustainable food for the children's consumption was never fulfilled.

Being PTA President, and since Chez Panisse founder/Chef Alice Waters was coming to Dallas, it was only fitting to present to her a thank you gift from the school for her generous garden. But what do you give a goddess of food? Well if you're me you give an old cook book, and I happened across the perfect one at an antique store. Rather "organic" for it's time, (1940ish) it was about growing your own fruits and vegetables, and turning them into fine spirits, wine and beer. Perhaps, I even thought, it might inspire a new concoction or two from this palately gifted lady.

Poor Sister was dragged along, we were en route to a dance recital when Chef Waters was going to be at the Farmer's Market for a book signing. She was a little young to realize the impact that Ms. Waters has made on the food movement, there is no pre-organic food days for her generation. But a few weeks later, arriving in the mail was an autographed copy of "Fanny At Chez Panisse", inscribed to Sister. That very week, she and her dad planned and executed together a four course dinner for the family using recipes from the book, and she's been interested in creating food ever since.

It's nice how a gift to a school led to a gift to a generous donor led to a gift to my daughter. Maybe now, with a new caretaker, the garden will achieve it's original goal of community gardening to supply produce for the school. And I still look for a duplicate copy of the book I gave away, I really, really, really wanted to keep it. But I can't argue that I didn't receive much more in exchange.

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