Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop Part 2

July 20, 2012

Student painting watercolor inserts for handmade book. Lois Ehlert’s “Eating the Alphabet” used as inspiration.

“Find a way to be a benefit,” my son continually suggested, in response to my constant lament for the return of my lucrative career. I eventually took his advice. By combining years of nutritional research and even more years as a full-time artist, I developed the “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop,” while applying for an after-school grant opportunity. Drawing upon my interest in watercolor painting, unrelenting enzyme research, and the science of healthy living, this workshop has potential as a universal benefit.

A girl and boy hammer nail holes into book spines.

A Book cover with student’s name and title.

In my previous post, “Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop,” I described how one of the goals – to provide education about the important connection between raw food, enzymes, and great health – strongly connects to a newer goal – to make consuming raw green vegetables “fun.”  Smoothies, juices, and tasting with dips became sources of “fun.” In this post, art projects are presented as a “fun” way to become more familiar with raw foods.  One watercolor project, the handmade book,allows students to depict the artistic beauty of fruits and vegetables before tasting them. Then health benefits, researched and  printed on labels, are put into their books.

The “trump card”

For students, painting with watercolors can be as challenging as tasting raw green vegetables. They have to acknowledge and accept their beginner’s status. Offering fruit as a tasty “trump card” encourages persistence, especially when painting confidence wanes and students despair or “act out” as a cover up. Offering fruit as a reward, again a “trump card,” also encourages students to taste vegetables, especially raw green ones.

An unexpected outcome, of the workshop, was finding strategies to correct behavior problems. For example, in one class, a student became very frustrated. She first painted the required bright watercolors on a large sheet of paper and suddenly changed to wild erratic black strokes covering most of the colors. She loudly declared it “ugly.” I had instructed students to use the bright colors only. But I told her, “The black paint does not matter and “ugly” has nothing to do with anything.”

Nevertheless, she crumpled the painting, shot it in the wastepaper basket, and stormed out of the room. She eventually returned as we began our tasting session. She asked for more fruit. I requested that she retrieve the discarded drawing and proceed with the assignment to get more fruit and she complied. Luckily, the opportunity to taste raw vegetables, and especially the sweet fruits, helped her and many other students to focus and adjust their behavior.

The “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” is interdisciplinary. It incorporates biology, reading, writing, math, science, and visual arts, all while exploring composition, abstraction, page design, color theory, form, and foreground and background relationships in the handmade books.

Evelyn helping Maurice thread a needle.

Fine motor skills—such as painting, cutting folded pages, hammering nails (very loud, but they loved it), threading needles, gluing, and sewing book spines—are developed by various book construction activities. Once completed, the book becomes a resource to share with family and friends. Plus, until its pages are full, more benefits can be added. It reinforces the importance of consuming enzymes, a little known protein nutrient found in raw produce and destroyed by cooking food.

7 year-old Eugene’s book with strawberry and benefit label.

Enzymes can also be found in dried fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, uncooked grains, beans and other uncooked protein foods. Raw green vegetables are emphasized, because students, their teachers, and parents often refuse to eat them.

Combining visual art with tasting raw produce establishes a foundation to enhance creativity, develop self-confidence, and plant seeds for instituting and maintaining health. Consequently, the “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” fills in nutrition and art educational gaps, encourages future artists, develops art patrons, and promotes a healthy appetite for daily living.

“The Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” was awarded a Milwaukee Public School Partnership for the Arts Grant. Matching community funds came from Alice’s Garden, Riverwest Artists Association, Walnut Way Conservation Corp, and Lena’s/Piggly Wiggly. For more information, please email me at terryevelyn@hotmail.com or visit evelynpatriciaterry.com.

– Evelyn Patricia Terry


Sauk County ‘DTour’

October 11, 2011

Wayfinder, by Terrence Campagna.

Now through Oct. 16, as part of its 2nd Annual Fermentation Festival, Reedsburg is offering the Farm/Art DTour, a 50-mile circular excursion through rural Sauk County. The tour winds through the county’s less-traveled roads, past tidy farms and tiny towns, to flaunt the season’s explosive color. What makes this particular drive so exceptional, though, is more than two dozen farm-based art installations and other attractions–from Roadside Culture Stands selling local produce to music and theater performances in the fields along the way.

At its core, the Reedsburg Fermentation Festival is a showcase for fermented food and drink (beer, of course, plus cheeses, yogurts, sauerkrauts and more). But organizers have billed the fest as a “live culture convergence,” connecting culture of the microbial sort with cultivation of the earth and cultivation of the mind and soul. By embracing the roots of the word culture, or “the action of cultivating land” in 12th-century Anglo-Norman, the event helps clarify relationships among where we live, what we eat and what we grow–as well as what we create, and what we love.

Boots, by Christopher Lutter-Gardella of Puppet Farm Arts

To make the most of festival offerings, I recommend planning ahead; many events require registration. For example, if you’re a fan of  fermented cabbage, you can participate in Saturday’s ‘Powerkraut‘ workshop. Love kombucha? Find out how to make the fermented beverage at home from a Madison-based kombucha company, also scheduled for Saturday. Opportunities for less adventurous tasters include yeast breads, honey, yogurt, wine and beer presentations.

"Field Notes" installation interpreting a hayfield for tour takers.

If you take the Farm/Art DTour, try scheduling your trip around one of the pasture performances. On Saturday, Nath and Marnie Dresser present ‘Some Kind of Sign,’ a story told in poetry and song. And Sunday, the Madison-based band Graminy performs. Download a map and take a self-guided tour, as we did, or sign up for a guided bus tour on Sunday, Oct. 16, that includes a stop at Carr Valley Cheese Factory in LaValle.

As of today, the weekend forecast for the Reedsburg area calls for sunshine with highs in the 60s. Not quite the balmy weather we enjoyed for last Saturday’s drive (car windows wide open in October!)–but still, near perfect conditions for a fall day trip.

–Tammy Kempfert

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Food Memories

May 18, 2011

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs, Wisconsin Humanities Council

Learning to eat is something I don’t remember. I remember that my now-step-sister was impressed that I, a sophisticated 10 year old, ate salad. I remember that before I ate salad and my mom insisted that I had a vegetable with every meal, I ate a lot of carrot sticks. I remember “breakfast for dinner” nights got more exciting when we got a waffle iron. And I remember learning about fish eggs and chicken livers by accident. I remember making boxed macaroni and cheese as a kid (I developed an expertise), but don’t remember the first pie I ever baked with my dad. I do remember making loads of pies, though. Point is, once you scratch the surface on the subject of food, it’s easy to roam down memory lane. The stories flow.

But I don’t remember figuring out how to use a fork or drink from a cup. As I watch my daughter negotiate forks, spoons, and sippy cups, I wonder about this process we all have successfully passed through. Much of the pleasure of eating for her, it seems, has to do with figuring it out.

I took her along to Brodhead this weekend to see “Key Ingredients: America by Food,” a Smithsonian exhibition on display at the Brodhead Public Library. Janet Gilmore, a folklorist with an interest in foodways, was there to encourage people to share their family food stories.  And she also shared stories of her own, and those of her students from the UW-Madison courses she teaches, about learning to eat. Specifically, learning to eat foods that one must develop a taste for. These foods tend to be associated closely with establishing a cultural bond and achieving a level of maturity within that culture. Many in the audience agreed and remembered learning to eat lutefisk or Limberger cheese.

The Author in cheesehead hat at "Key Ingredients"

The author in a cheesehead hat at "Key Ingredients"

The “Key Ingredients” exhibition is accompanied in Brodhead by a local exhibit called “Food for Thought.” Here you’ll learn food history and discover food stories from the region, such as the fact that all Limberger cheese sold in the country originates from the Chalet Cheese Co-op in Green County. You’ll also find out what popcorn, pickles and potato chips have in common (and I’m not spoiling anything to tell you it is not merely that they are snack foods). At every event scheduled during the six week run of “Key Ingredients” in Brodhead, I’m told there will be popcorn, pickles, and potato chips!

And cheese. Because it is Green County, and because Swiss Colony‘s history is entwined with the area, and because who doesn’t want to eat a little cheese after trying on a cheese hat (part of the “Key Ingredients” exhibition). The food story I will remember from our daytrip is of my daughter, just over a year old, getting another lesson in the hows and whats of eating. She was minding her own business, playing with her toy car under my bench, when I noticed her mouth was full. Of cheese. Some cheese she had dropped earlier. When I swiped it directly out of her mouth, she was more than a little displeased and made it loudly known.

If she remembers anything of our outing, I hope she remembers her first taste of popcorn (and not that I fished perfectly good cheese from her hungry mouth)!

I highly recommend making the trip. If you go, here are some suggestions from a local who really knows (and who had a huge part in creating the local “Food for Thought” exhibition currently with “Key Ingredients at the Brodhead Public Library).

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Battle of the Bread Spreads

November 18, 2010

A brochure created in the 1930s to encourage consumption of Wisconsin butter. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society.

In the 1950s and 60s, Wisconsin had a smuggling problem so widespread that state officials all but looked the other way. The contraband in question–not drugs or weapons, as you might guess–was margarine. Yellow margarine, to be precise.

Dairy farmers took the late 19th century introduction of margarine to the Midwestern marketplace personally: many viewed the product as unwholesome and (when colored to resemble butter) downright fraudulent, an industrial threat to the agrarian lifestyle. That perceived threat initiated a battle of the bread spreads that would last decades, with dairy interests typically prevailing. For years margarine, primarily the colored variety, was taxed and regulated by both federal and state governments. And no state fought longer or harder to edge out its oleaginous opponent than Wisconsin, which by 1915 had staked its claim as the nation’s Dairy State. Between 1895 and 1967, using colored margarine here was a crime, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.

Historian Gerry Strey chronicles the epic butter/margarine conflict in an article called Oleo Wars: Wisconsin’s Fight Over the Demon Spread, which I found in a back issue of The Wisconsin Magazine of History. As Strey tells it, emotions ran high among dairy sympathizers of the day. One of the more famous examples of their collective frustration occurred in 1931, when farmers marched on the State Capitol in Madison. “Down With Oleo! Farm Crusaders Cry” read the lead story in the Wisconsin State Journal on December 16th of that year.

The traveling Smithsonian exhibition Key Ingredients: America by Food,  currently taking place in Reedsburg, features a display about another  protest that took place in the 1950s. On Wisconsin Public Radio recently to promote the exhibition, curator Donna Neuwirth explains how Green Butter Day came about: “Apparently the editor of the paper in Sauk City launched a protest and said, ‘Rather than eat your damned yellow oleo, we’re going to dye this vat of a ton of butter green’  … they did, and they sold out by mid-day. And the entire issue of that week’s paper was printed in green ink. ” (Wisconsin history enthusiasts will be interested to know that this same newspaperman, Leroy Gore, also wrote the consequential editorial Joe Must Go. In 1954, Gore’s opinion piece launched a movement to recall Senator Joseph McCarthy.)

Green Butter Day in Sauk City. Photo submitted by Donna Neuwirth.

Donna Neuwirth says the Green Butter Day account was “just one of the many stories we’ve unearthed” for the Key Ingredients exhibition. She says that particular display, which includes the Sauk-Prairie Star article and other oleo artifacts, has elicited lively conversation among people who experienced the oleo versus butter controversy firsthand. My own mother used to talk about purchasing a sort of DIY butter substitute–uncolored margarine sold with yellow dye and a plastic bag. The product, never outlawed, allowed consumers to mix their own yellowish margarine. And my aunt tells me that my grandparents staged their own butter/oleo taste test back in the day (but interestingly she can’t remember which product our farming kin backed, or which won).

Even with the added taxes, margarine remained the cheaper alternative. So consumer loyalty for butter began to erode during the Great Depression and faded even further during the food rationing times of World War II.  Federal support for the dairy spread waned, too, as lobbies for soybean and cottonseed oil producers gained strength. As a result, dairy-producing states gradually gave in to market pressure and eased up on oleo regulations–all except Wisconsin, that is, where the margarine ban remained on the books the longest. These combined factors set the stage for the aforementioned oleo smuggling, when margarine sold legally in Illinois commonly came across the border by the trunkload.

As we all know, Wisconsin legislators did finally relax their anti-margarine stance. Though a few regulations remain in effect, most restrictions on margarine were repealed in 1967.

The Wisconsin Historical Society sells gift items, like this t-shirt, for butter loyalists. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society.

Interested in learning more? If so, I highly recommend:

–Gerry Strey’s 2001 article, which is exhaustive but never boring. Demonstrating an impressive knowledge of legislation, market forces  and consumer behavior, Strey weaves an engaging tale that spotlights some of the colorful characters behind the controversy.

Key Ingredients: America by Food, on view in Reedsburg through Dec. 3  (in conjunction with the Reedsburg Fermentation Fest). Visitors will find photographs, artifacts and panel displays, presentations and local food-related art, all dealing with the ways history, culture and environment have shaped national and regional dining habits.

–Larry Meiller’s interview with Donna Neuwirth on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Statute 97.18 details current “oleomargarine” regulations. If you’ve made it this far into my post, I’m betting you’ll find these interesting–maybe even a bit surprising.

By Tammy Kempfert, PortalWisconsin.org


Bread to Drive For

February 7, 2010

by Joan Fischer

Have you ever eaten something so delectable that you felt slightly haunted ever after? So it was for me after trying fresh-from-the-oven bread—rustic peasant wheat, crispy yet moist baguette, foccacia with blue cheese and artichoke, and the best challah I have ever tasted—at an unassuming, you’d-drive-right-past-it bakery on Highway 14 in Arena. I’d stumbled upon it about a year ago and more recently decided I had to go back, despite a round trip of more than an hour.

“I’m the worst marketer in the world,” jokes owner Bob McQuade, 78. “The Shoppe: Herbs, Spices and More” is all you see on McQuade’s billboard, no mention of bread. But customers have been finding him anyway during his career as an executive chef (the former Spring Green Restaurant) and a master blender of herbs and spices that he sells to other chefs and home cooks (he did this as a booming wholesale business before semi-retiring 10 years ago). Jars and jars of them line a wall, most selling for 50 to 75 cents an ounce.

Especially popular with chefs and home cooks alike is a blend called Exotica, eight herbs and spices including coriander, juniper berries, thyme, onion, and garlic, which is especially good on roasted meat. Another favorite: Papa Bob’s Rib Rub. So original and bewitching are his seasonings that many chefs have purchased proprietary blends to serve as an exclusive signature for their dishes. Over the years his customers have included Madison’s legendary Ovens of Brittany, the Concourse Hotel, Food Fight, and the Edgewater Hotel.

In the shop he runs with wife Kate you’ll also find kitchen supplies (Berghoff knives, beautiful handmade maple cutting boards, ceramic serving dishes) and art. Yes, art. A large adjoining room is a gallery displaying work by local artists (John Sheean, Ed Wohl, Jean-Marc Richel) and exhibitions that change every four to six weeks. Nor do the café-style tables and chairs go to waste. Every Sunday people from the wider community gather for coffee and conversation over McQuade’s home-baked pastries. They call it “The Church of Sweet Rolls,” McQuade says. Visitors can also buy a selection of homemade frozen soups and sauces.

You can’t see a trace of it, but McQuade is half Italian. He learned cooking and baking from his mother and grandmother, who hailed from Sicily, and he and Kate have spent time with family there. They swoon over the food and know how to replicate it at home.

McQuade’s baked goods—which, in addition to bread, include biscotti, tirami su, and many kinds of cheesecake—are available at a few restaurants and other venues (examples: Convivio in Spring Green and Crossroads Coffee House in Cross Plains). His challah goes all the way to Bushel & Peck’s in Beloit. But if you’re at all in the area, you might as well drive straight to the source. You’re assured of delightful conversation and a very fragrant ride home.

The Shoppe at Herbs Spices & More
7352 Highway 14, Arena
Tel. 608-753-9000
e-mail: papabob@thespiceshoppe.com

Hours:
Thurs. 10-5
Fri. 10-6
Sat. 10-5
Sun. 9-2
Closed Mondays
Open Tues./Wed. by chance


The pigs know…it’s all about dirt

September 23, 2009

A friend of mine just started farming his parent’s land and he invited me out to help dig potatoes last weekend.  Before we got down on hands and knees in the dirt to unearth the tubers, he said the pigs needed a shower.

The three dudes, as he calls them, were weighing in around 200 pounds after about 8 months of eating. On Sunday, when I arrived, they were lumped together in the shade. Pigs don’t sweat, my farmer friend told me. When he got the hose out, they came trotting out in a hurry to splash around and get their snouts down in the newly created mud puddle.

As I spent the next hours harvesting purple, red, and gold potatoes, all found like prizes hidden within the rich soil, I thought about Will Allen.

Will Allen is a very successful farmer in urban Milwaukee. Will inspires people to garden, to grow food, and to improve their landscapes and lives. And he says, with impressive conviction, that to grow food in poor or tainted soil is irresponsible.

His main message is this: It’s all about the dirt.

Will Allen bought the last parcel of agricultural land in Milwaukee and, back in 1993, connected with teens from the surrounding neighborhood to provide work restoring the soil and the greenhouses to grow food. It was an area of the city where people needed jobs and that offered residents no other options for fresh veggies. That was the beginning of Growing Power.

To hear Will go through a brief history of the past sixteen years is jaw-droppingly inspiring. Now he travels the world sharing his techniques for creating huge quantities of high quality soil, putting it to high-density use, fertilizing it with worm castings, and changing the landscape for the better.

The Wisconsin Humanities Council brought Will Allen to Madison last week as a pre-event for the Wisconsin Book Festival (October 7-11 in Madison). The room at the Goodman Community Center was overflowing with fans, followers, and some new faces (now known as the recently converted). Forget about fire code, people were crammed in there! By the end of his talk, Will had everyone happily yelling “Soil!” when he asked, “What is the key to feeding everyone healthy food?”

And what do soil, dirt, and farming have to do with the a statewide cultural organization like the Wisconsin Humanities Council?

Dena Wortzel, the director of the WHC, may have said it best when she explained, “For our part, what we hope to do is help folks in Wisconsin use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone.”

The event was planned to bring people together to talk about what’s going on, what people are excited about, and how new ideas can be realized. This conversation, on-going and building, is part of a history, heritage, and legacy in Wisconsin.

“I don’t know if it is in the air, the water or the soil,” Dena continued, “but for more than a hundred years, Wisconsin has been home to visionaries of land and community, from John Muir to Aldo Leopold, to Will Allen – as well as less publicly known, but equally passionate people like all of you.”

I’m with Will on this one: it must be in the soil!

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs, Wisconsin Humanities Council


Local food, local art, small town entrepreneurs

March 22, 2009

Taking an occasional drive is a family tradition. We love to explore, and long ago took the advice of a friend to follow the squiggliest lines on the map. This time we squirmed our way to a fairly new and exceptional little store in Platteville we’ve been meaning to visit.

The Driftless Market is named after a unique geographic characteristic of the region, not one my kids. The store seems at the center of a region known for its deep river valleys, and the terrain reflects having escaped glaciation the last time that was the happening thing. The region’s topography makes a drive on any road a neat experience, and perspectives from the same road will vary widely with the seasons.

Like one of those old neighborhood stores your folks took you to when you were a kid, the market has a community feel to it as soon as you enter. You’re likely to be helped by an owner, any one of a small group of intrepid colleagues who together took the plunge into retail a few months ago.

Have a refreshment and chat. Maybe some soup or a wrap from the deli. Check out the photos, or a watercolor over by the window. (The tables are by the art – marketing genius!) The handmade cards alone bring lots of customers. Jewelry, mosaics, fiber art, stained glass, ceramics, rosemaling, woodworks…………..local writers even! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

I asked Heidi, one of the owners, if the art was mostly local. She said she knew every artist. Don’t ask me why I think so – but we could tell. All this different stuff felt the same, like over 40 different members of the same family. And there are already almost 50 local food suppliers.

Locally-produced foods dominate the grocery and deli – and as homey as the place is, this is a full-service store. If it isn’t local, it will likely be organic or from the greater area. It is hard to think of something that isn’t here. Great pizzas – the yogurt will devastate you. Bottled milks from Barneveld, Emu meat from Fennimore (true story!) and sprouts grown in his room by a UW-Platteville college student. You can see his pic: “student with sprouts”. I bet the Louvre doesn’t have a “student with sprouts”.

The Sham Wow guy would say, “But wait, there’s more!” They were just finishing a soap-making workshop when we visited, and classes are augmented by occasional tastings and readings. This is a neighborhood place defined by a community of sellers and buyers more than geography.

In retrospect I thought the owners as unique as the products. Running a retail store takes a huge amount of work, so what would prompt folks to add this to their current work or give up the day job to launch such a venture? It was a way for a farmer to sell more of what she grows or for an artist/farmer to leave the university job to engage her passion and meet the greater demand for food and art she saw at the local farmers’ market. For all it was the right time. I think it was a mission. I admire the commitment and entrepreneurial panache it takes.

Business is good and building. Word of mouth is bringing friends with more friends and folks from farther away. People talk it up when they get back home. Check them out at driftlessmarket.com.

Make some time, go follow some squiggles. Driftless Market is a neat place to visit and your area most likely has stores that similarly attract community-minded folk – people who think a marriage of locally produced food and art is satisfying and oh, so fun. Wisconsin is rich in places like the Driftless Market and the people who create them.

Rick Rolfsmeyer
Wisconsin Rural Partners
Hollandale, Wisconsin (Pop. 283)