Thursday, August 19, 2010

An open letter to Ruth Reichl from an Urban Garden in Chicago (cc: Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA)

Dear Ms. Reichl,

So glad that the combo of the lake and spicy beef seduced you this morning.  As a small garden in "The Second City" I'm flattered that you, a national figure and prominent New Yorker enjoyed your stay enough to tweet your love for my city :  "Sparkling Chicago morning. Walking along the lake munching spicy beef bao. Mouth on fire. Love this city. Such swell food - so little time." (@ruthreichl)
Sweet Potatoes and peas at the preSERVES
garden in North Lawndale.

That you sought out something spicy probably means you visited Argyle St. and were walking along the beach near Lawrence, am I right?  Good for you for getting out of the loop and using your time to explore a slightly less beaten path.  Another national figure and prominent foodie from New York, Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA, was in town this week and he too was initially drawn to the Asian flavors our city does so well on the north side too, tweeting  "Insane dinner at #bellyshack with my sister in Chicago. She knows where to go! My lord. Look out David Chang..."  (@joshviertel) 

Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel (left) with
Mr. Gerald Earles, Slum Busting Gardener since 1962.
I hear the food up there is wonderful.  Food's wonderful down here, south of 290, in North Lawndale too.  Seen from a car window travelling on Roosevelt Road, we look like a blueprint for the type of food desert in Chicago that NPR's Natalie Moore just profiled, but let me tell you, in mid August when my Crowder peas and Sweet Potatoes are so plentiful it takes a team to harvest, there is more hope than sand in my corner of town.  Come down next time your in town and meet Mr.and Mrs. Earles who have been busting slums with their gardens in this area since 1962.  Come meet Dr. and Mrs. Israel who are the current heads of the North Lawndale Greening Committee and who work with gardens, volunteers and families all around the neighborhood including at the Millennium Garden / Honey Coop space.  Come to the Chicago Honey Coop, where some of the city's best honey is produced by folks whose efforts and intentions go so far beyond food production.  Come to meet the people featured in this video tour of the area's gardens, which is worth watching more than once, especially if you've never met someone fighting to green a desert, one neighborhood garden at a time.  

Just come.  There is something special going on here in North Lawndale.  The people who have been defending the food traditions in their community for so long deserve a tweet or two themselves.  Next time you see Josh in New York, ask him about The Earles and all the other people he met, the stories they told, and the food they shared, then come see for yourself.  We'll save some sweet potatoes for you.


The preSERVES garden at 12th and Central Park in Chicago

Editor's note:

All proceeds from Chicago TomatoFest 2010 will go towards completing the garden at 12th and Central Park.  We aim to provide funds to build a shed and a fence and provide tools needed for upkeep.  Food grown in the garden is shared with the community by the North Lawndale Greening Committee with a focus on school lunch programs.  preSERVES is a program started by Slow Food Chicago in coordination with Neighbor-Space and the North Lawndale Greening Committee.  $0.50 will be donated by participating restaurants from every "Old School BLT" sold between Aug 23 and Sept 19th. "Buy a Sandwich, Build a Garden!"   Our annual Heirloom TomatoFest at the Chicago Honey Coop will be held on September 9th.

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