March 15, 2011

Brush that carrot off and you have a snack

As many of you know Rolando and I just got back from a tour of New Orleans (coffee) and Texas (BBQ and food trucks). I’m going to share with you here my favorite story from our trip.

We’d just finished Chicory coffee and Bignet at Cafe Du Monde. The vietnamese servers couldn’t answer my questions. And the grumpy manager wasn’t interested. But I had a ton of questions, I was wondering why the milk was brown, how the made the coffee, etc.

Next door at a Praline (say “Praw leen”) shop I found an elderly lady named Doris. I asked her about Chicory and she was full of answers. She told me how during WWII they had 100% chicory coffee. How there used to be no such thing as a coffee filter (makes sense, right?), they used to use metal filters, like tea. And she told me about a cowboy coffee I’d never heard of, roasted grains.

New Orleans has one of the richest coffee histories in the country. It’s where most of the green beans were delivered and is still home of the largest Folgers plant in the country.

But the best was when Doris started talking about her childhood. She was talking about not having much money. She was talking aboutrelationships with neighbors. She told me that when she was a kid, if she was home in the afternoon and nobody was around and she was hungry she would go over to her neighbor’s yard. They knew their neighbors well and shared. And she’d pick a carrot from their garden. Wash it. And there you go, she had an afternoon snack. She told me how she thinks that often when people have less they live better.

Doris talked to me for about 25 minutes. The crazy thing? There was something waiting in line behind me. No kidding! And she didn’t even seem to mind. Wow.

This story hit me really hard. I mean, that’s amazing right. Amazing. And it really wasn’t that long ago. 70 years maybe? I mean if you were sitting at that point in time thinking about food would you have every imagined that in 70 years you could absolutely change the way people eat? Can you imagine?

This was a new perspective for me on our food systems. I mean, it would feel like a monumental task 70 years ago if you were thinking about making the whole country fat, eliminating back-yard farming, making 90% of food processed. I mean, starting there, how would you imagine that could be possible?

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