Making Manna


One of the biggest thrills of my elementary school years was the day our first-grade class made butter. We learned about the tools and ingredients necessary for this task from a smiling, sturdy woman, invited for the afternoon by our young teacher, Mrs. Lawson. I remember, in particular, the small wooden churn that sat on Mrs. Lawson’s desk, and how each student got a turn cranking the handle that stirred the cream in the little barrel.

At the end of the day, we sampled the hardened cream on saltines. At home, I would have turned up my nose at such an offering. But having had a hand, literally, in making the butter, I was curious to taste the results. And it was delicious. After school I hurried home to try my mother’s store-bought margarine on crackers. Even to my 6-year-old taste buds, however, there was no comparison to the homemade product.

Thirty-eight years later, I realize there’s only one way to recreate that experience. If I want to delight in childlike wonder at the manna on my plate, if I want to feed my soul as well as my body, I have to be involved in the art of food-making.

Sixteen-year-old Sam Levin reminded me of this when I heard him speak at the Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference in Louisville last month. He and others involved in Project Sprout launched an organic, student-run garden that supplies fresh produce for school lunches. For much of the year, they get the sort of sustenance I sampled for a single day in first grade. See the article on school gardens in this issue’s Fuss section.

What we eat has changed radically in my lifetime. Corporations have taken over our nation’s farms, and their methods of production have poisoned the entire food chain. Agribusiness takes whatever drastic steps needed to make a profit, from pesticides to toxic manure lagoons to animal abuse.

More than ever, I understand the value of fresh over factory-made and synthetically preserved. I know that the spirit with which food is grown and prepared ultimately affects its flavor.

So I’ve set a goal for the new year. We will attempt to produce half of our household’s food by the end of 2010. My husband and I have gardened for fun for years, and I’ve learned enough about layers and broilers to take on some chickens. Yet I know that even a goal of 50 percent is a lofty one for homesteaders of our caliber.

It’s with inspiration from young people that I move forward. Thank you, Sam. Lead us onward.

Bobbi Buchanan

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