I remember August 30, 2013 clearly– the humidity steamed up the windows of any air conditioned building, and the hot sun was obscured in a muggy haze. That was the day the repairman came to our house to check on the gas and told us that our “central heating was in fine working condition.” Central heating? Mississippi? The idea of additional, intentional heat made me want to cry salty, sweaty tears.
Y’all: we switched on that heat over a week ago. People here started pulling out their leather boots and sweaters when nighttime lows hit the mid 60s. I waited maybe another 5 degrees. Anyways, the point is that to the astonishment of my housemates (who didn’t even pack their coats) and I, Mississippi gets cold. Or, for all of you in actual cold climates, let me rephrase: it gets chilly. And to celebrate the late arrival of these autumnal temps, we threw a backyard housewarming party featuring sweaters, a bonfire, hot cider with whiskey, and this homemade spiced applesauce cake.
The cool weather has been refreshing, though, and it’s certainly made lessons in the garden more enjoyable. For farm to school week, I invited Jonathan Picarsic, gardener and owner of the local farm Amorphous Gardens, to come visit the school. It was a bigger hit than I expected; the kids adored the turkey and chickens that he brought, and it gave everyone an opportunity to check out our growing garden. The day after Jonathan came to the school, I asked my 6 year old class what their favorite part of the farm visit was. One little girl blurted out “the pigs!!!” (There were no pigs.) Small steps, people.
In addition to some overly creative imaginations, my youngest class is by far the most adventurous in terms of eating. In preparation for our farm to school visit, I had bought a box of Amorphous Gardens produce that contained some beautiful leafy kale, lemon basil, green onions, radishes, and different heirloom varieties of mustard greens. I used the greens in a simple kale salad, and had different toppings, or “pizzaz,” for the 6 year olds to add themselves. When I brought the salad into the classroom, the teacher looked at me incredulously and asked: “Do you actually eat that stuff?!” Oh, if only she could see what goes on in our kitchen at home….but that’s another story. To my surprise and the teacher’s, the students devoured their salads, even though their eyes widened in spicy surprise when they tasted the radishes.
My oldest class isn’t quite as brave when it comes to trying new things, but they’re definitely getting there. The Asian greens and lettuce that we planted over a month ago is ready to cut, so tomorrow we’ll be making a salad together in the garden.
And I’m giving in (kind of) to the popular request: “Can we have ranch?” We’ll be making our own healthy version! [insert evil healthy food laugh]