Monday, September 22, 2008

Who says it rains in Ireland??

We're over in the homeland for the annual summer family check in. Rumor has it it was raining for a month before we arrived but I guess we brought the good weather with us as it has been gorgeous since we arrived. And by gorgeous I mean dry and mostly sunny. I have to say if the weather's nice here there's nowhere else I'd rather be. Funny though, as soon as the sun makes an appearance the shorts and t-shirts go on and lots of farmers' tans to been seen! Makes people watching good craic. Just to let you all see what 'summer' in Ireland looks like (since it's actually Sept), here's a quick taste. We've been doing plenty of eating and drinking as you can imagine so check back for those photos as we'll be giving the local restaurants and pubs the once over. Thank God for Chaser!

Friday, September 19, 2008

URBAN GARDENS: Late Summer / Autumn

I've put my green fingers back to work in my latest Urban Gardens trilogy, this time focusing on planting for late summer/autumn. With the help of my neighbour/gardening guru, Erica we learned how to get the soil ready as well as what to plant at this time of year. The trilogy shows the before, during and after proving how easy it is for you guys to start your own urban garden. Clearly if I can do this anyone can!

Monday, September 8, 2008


I was watching the box the other night and saw this commercial for microwave mash potatoes. Unlike the powdered variety, apparently these are at least real potatoes, already cut up in the bag so all you do is nuke them in the microwave and add butter. Seriously how busy/lazy are you if you haven't time to cut up a few potatoes and throw them in a pot to boil?
I've always noticed the pre-packaged foods (how can I not with all the time I spend at the supermarket?) but lately it seems like they're breeding like rabbits. What is the method to the madness? Is it lack of time, convenience or laziness? Probably a mixture of all of these as we all have to work harder and longer hours nowadays to make ends meet. But food shouldn't come out of a box and when kids see this display, how else would they think?
When I see this in supermarkets I realise how lucky I was growing up in Ireland having my Mum cook for us everyday, food fresh from the garden or meat fresh from the butcher. I get it that people have to work more now but there has to be a way to show kids that food does actually come out of the ground or is bred for eating. This idea goes hand in hand with my blog below, Eat Up Kids. It's crucial that kids see the co-relation between say a potato being picked in a field and ending up as fries or mash and not a powder mixed with water. For some, weening your family off boxed foods is a big step, so start with a weekend trip with the family to your local farmers market. The idea of incorporating field trips for kids to local farms and/or farmers' markets is definitely a solution whereby they can see first hand what actual food looks like as well as speak to the farmers. Even as a chef I learn new things by talking to the farmers. There is so much to see and learn at these markets that it's invaluable not only for kids but adults as well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I came across a great article last week in the Wall Street Journal (that's right you read correctly) which talked about how some school districts here in the States are now establishing relationships with local farmers to get some of their produce for the kids to eat. The school year has just begun and some school districts have signed up for what's called the "farm-to-school" movement. I love this idea and I have to say it's about time. You don't have to be living in the countryside to avail of fresh fruit and veggies. A lot of cities nowadays have farmers' markets which if you know anything about my beliefs, I'm a big fan.
According to the article, 50 million kids eat school lunches every day. Due to cost, most of the produce is shipped in from across the country. This may prove more economical but due to the increasing awareness of child obesity and food safety, some schools are now finally looking into this farm-to-school idea. Although this alternative  may prove more expensive initially, the heads that be realise that the locally grown produce is not only fresher and better tasting but more children are eating it. A school in upstate New York has banned fries, the American delicacy tater tots and started getting actual potatoes in for the kids. Another school has started getting their lettuce from a local farmer. I love this idea. If you're from a farming community or just go to the markets you know how much these folks need to be supported. Even here in LA, which incidentally is the second largest school district in the country after NYC, they've even started buying from local farms.
This 'movement' is definitely taking off. Two non-profit organisations have started a programme to link schools with farmers in their particular area and estimate that 2,000 links have been made thus far. There's no doubt that this is the way forward. People are now realising how important it is to feed and nourish our kids properly.
Aside from the health aspect there's an educational one as well. It's important to teach these kids where their food comes from. Some kids would not associate fries with an actual potato that comes out of the ground. Food doesn't come out of a box and some of these schools are really getting on board with teaching the kids the importance of knowing where our food comes from as well as the environmental aspect of farming. All in all things are gradually improving. As in every business, cost is an issue and this is no exception but at the end of the day can you put a value on our kids health?