Digging away

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 11.26.08 AMThere is something truly magical about planning and planting a garden. Riffling through seed catalogues, talking to other gardeners about plants, hashing it out on paper, even preparing the soil. In those moments, the garden is all beautiful potential.

I think it’s a bit like writing fiction—something I’m also doing right now. Most writers begin with an image or an idea, a character, a voice, a setting, or maybe a plot twist. In your head it is glorious and perfect and you can only imagine that it will be easy to write and astonish others as it has astonished you.

But then, you sit down to write and come up against your own imperfect mind and gifts, exhaustion or inexperience. It never sounds exactly as you imagined before there were words on a page. No matter how good, no matter how surprising, it never exactly captures that initial inspiration. There are lots of people who pack it in, but also many who keep going, digging away, hoping that they might come close to expressing that moment of clarity and insight.

It is the same in the garden. In imagining the vegetables and herbs and flowers I will grow, there are no cats pooping, slugs eating or tomatoes rotting. At the school garden, there are no seedlings torn by little hands, no vandals painting over the signs the children have made, no seeds that fail to emerge from the soil. Spring is a beautiful kind of reverie and I want to linger here in this moment, to revel in pure potential.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 11.46.48 AM

Advertisements

Comments Off on Digging away

Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School gardens, What's for Lunch?

The politics of food: a reading list

bookshelf food politicsIn our house, we devour books about food. Cookbooks, kids’ books, odes to the tomato, the apple, the cow or cod. We’d read poems about tofu if there were such a thing. (Anyone?) But it’s not just because we like to eat—though we do—it’s more because food is connected to so many other things we care about. Things like community, health, the environment and social justice. We’re not the only ones who’ve noticed.

So Nick Saul and I  wrote a list of some of our favourite Canadian books that see food in this integrated way—not just as fuel for the body but a tool for building a more just and sustainable world—and 49th Shelf has it up on their blog.

Some of the books will be familiar to regular readers. I did a week long series with Jeannie Marshall a year ago here.

Comments Off on The politics of food: a reading list

Filed under City gardens, Community Food Centre, Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

Signs of spring

It’s still pretty chilly here in Toronto, but the garlic I planted last fall in our small raised bed doesn’t seem to mind.

by andrea curtisAnd the crocuses seem to be positively enjoying it.

by andrea curtisI’m going to wait for a patch of warmer days to get out my own personal brass band about spring, but I’m feeling much more hopeful about gardening—especially school gardening—now that Ontario teachers are back and able to do extracurriculars. It’s been a demoralizing school year on that front, and I was genuinely worried the garden wouldn’t happen this year—that all the momentum we’ve been gathering would be lost. Now it looks as though our plots can be salvaged for the spring. We’re planning to focus on celebrating the multicultural heritage of the families at our school and are hoping to plant some of the plants specific to the children’s cultures, as well as gather recipes from our school community.

In other good news, The Stop hit The Globe and Mail bestseller list this past weekend, coming in at #10 for Canadian nonfiction. Not bad for a book about food banks and the politics of food!

Comments Off on Signs of spring

Filed under City gardens, Community Food Centre, Kids and food, School gardens, What's for Lunch?

A trip around the blogosphere

I’m weirdly tickled by the idea of a blog tour. I know it’s old hat for most people but the idea of a virtual book tour, stopping in at various blogs, seeing the “sites,” chatting with new people, amuses and delights me. I picture myself like some steampunk traveller floating around in a hot-air balloon in an empty sky, then dropping down every once in a while to chat with a blogger who must hold tight onto the ropes, then release us the next day into the wild blue yonder (hopefully with a few new readers along for the ride!).

This week, my coauthor Nick Saul and I are off on that magical mystery tour, dropping in at various literary hotspots along the way. We are so grateful for their hospitality!

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 2.52.21 PM

First stop is Lost in a Great Book.  Jenn, who hails from the Creemore, ON, area, asked us some great questions about The Stop, the book and the future of Community Food Centres in Canada.

On day two, we meet the lovely Char from The Literary Word, who filled the book with post-it notes and called it “a highly addictive and wonderfully informative read.”

On day three, we stop in at Pickle Me This, the stomping grounds of writer,  editor and longtime blogger Kerry Clare. She said “The Stop is a fantastic story well told, compelling to read, and it will inspire readers to reconsider their relationships with both the food they eat and the people they live amidst.”

Day four is a stop at That Tall Girl Loves Books (this short one, too!).  Carrie did a Q&A with Nick and me, and asked us smart questions about Jamie Oliver, ideological versus logistical challenges and more. She called the book “a fantastic read. It was interesting, informative, and inspirational. Reading accounts of how everyday people made such profound changes and impacts certainly does make me want to get more involved.”

The last stop is Serendipitous Reading where Marci writes: “I urge everyone to go out and get this book. Not just because you have to but because you want to make change in your own communities….Get stubborn, get active and make your city or town better not worse.”

If you haven’t already, check out the fabulous animation CFCC produced to tell its story about the power of food.

1 Comment

Filed under Community Food Centre, What's for Lunch?

Growing good neighbours

This week, Crave, a web site focusing on food and health-related books, asked us to blog about our book, The Stop: How Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement coming out next week. Nick Saul and I decided to write about our experience planting a veggie patch on our city lawn—and some personal discoveries about the power of food.

urban gardenHere’s a taste of the blog post. To read the whole thing, check out Crave.

When we decided to build a raised bed vegetable garden on our small downtown Toronto front yard a few years ago, we thought mostly about the delicious tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs we’d enjoy come harvest time. We ordered fresh soil, built a simple structure using 2x6s and some brackets and shopped for seeds at farmers’ markets. But the day the soil arrived, it was clear the harvest was the least of the pleasures involved in growing food in the city.

1 Comment

Filed under City gardens, Community Food Centre, Kids and food, What's for Lunch?

Coming soon!

The book that I’ve been working on with my husband, food activist Nick Saul, arrived at our house the other day. The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement is a bit like our third baby. It’s been a long and interesting gestation process thinking about, researching and writing a book together and it was thrilling to see it for reals.

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.05.03 PM

If you can’t wait for the book itself to launch into the world on March 19th, an excerpt is coming out in Reader’s Digest next week. In the meantime, we’ve written a piece about the challenges of food banks in the April issue of The Walrus. The online version of the essay won’t be up for a bit, but you can find one of Canada’s last great magazines on newsstands everywhere great magazines are found. Nick and I will be talking about the book and the Community Food Centre (CFC) model a lot over the next few months. Watch here for details. For more on CFCs, visit the Community Food Centres Canada website or www.andreacurtis.ca

Comments Off on Coming soon!

Filed under City gardens, Community Food Centre, Kids and food, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

FREE teacher’s resources

What’s for Lunch? was created for kids, their parents and teachers to initiate discussions about food and the way it connects to so many issues that we all care about. Things like the environment, poverty, hunger, our health and the health of our communities.

cafeteria-tray.pngBut reading the book is just the beginning. I hope families and educators will use it as a bouncing-off point for more in-depth discussions. That’s why, with the help of my publisher, Red Deer Press, I’ve created a FREE Teaching Guide for use in classrooms everywhere. The guide has questions aimed at initiating talk about what kids eat around the world, teaching ideas inspired by the book’s content, blacklines for easy printout—all downloadable here. (It’s about 5 MB.)

There are curriculum connections to health and nutrition, environmental sustainability, diversity, urban/rural connections, media education and much more. From the Pizza Pie game to Untangling the Food System to a more in-depth session we call The Lottery of Life, I hope these resources will inspire teachers to bring the ideas in What’s for Lunch? into their classroom. I’d love to hear how it goes. Email me (andrea at andreacurtis dot ca) and let me know!

Comments Off on FREE teacher’s resources

Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?