a journal of our edible education


Food as the Subject of Art

IMG_4783Representing fruits and vegetables in “still life” is a rich and ancient artistic tradition. Countless artists, throughout history and throughout the world, have celebrated the beauty of food by arranging it thoughtfully on a table and capturing its image on canvas. Recently, students at OJA had an opportunity to experience this tradition in their art class. Using produce straight from the garden, they combined scientific, botanical observation with artistic expression. As with many of their projects, they first saw how other artists had approached this subject and used that observation to inspire their own work. Seeing work from historical seed catalogs and even a few contemporary artists rounded out their appreciation for this genre. Our art teacher is gifted at integrating other curriculums into her art program and this day was a good example.  By elevating fruits and vegetables (in this case okra, pink-eyed peas, eggplant and watermelon) to subjects of art she sent a subtle but significant message to her young artists. Fresh and healthy food has value beyond nutrition.  Sometimes this piece gets lost in the conversation. In our efforts to get kids to eat better we sometimes forget to emphasize the aesthetic experience of food. It is said in the restaurant business that the customer eats first with his eyes. Kids are no exception. Never is it more true that presentation is everything. The road to healthy and pleasurable eating is a journey of a thousand baby steps.  This day our students took more than a few as they “ate” with their eyes. Introducing unfamiliar foods (along with some that are already known and loved) in this way gives kids a positive experience that will more than likely affect their perceptions of that food when they encounter it on a plate.

Artist at Work

Artist at Work

You might think that having kids draw a watermelon isn’t really necessary in getting them to value it. Granted, it’s kind of a low bar for watermelon. Even so we can’t forget that we are living in a world where the industrial food system is trying to convince parents that having a child suck pureed watermelon (along with some other unfortunate concentrated fruits) out of a plasticized foil pouch counts as healthy eating. “Eating” watermelon this way will never compare to the sticky mess of putting your face into a juicy slice of heaven and seeing how far you can spit a seed from the back porch. That is beautiful.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see” – Edgar Degas


Dirt Day in Pre-K

Mrs. Webster’s Pre-K class recently enjoyed their day in the dirt.  Tables were placed just outside the classroom with a wheelbarrow full of soil and some buckets of water standing by.  One student, before the festivities, was overheard telling Mrs. Webster that he didn’t like getting dirty. Mrs. Webster just smiled.  Behold the power of mud.  It was no time before little hands and big imaginations dug in to create  oatmeal and chocolate milk, cookie dough and pizza pies.  Chocolate seemed to be a theme on the menu and it turns out everything tastes better with a garnish of grass clippings.

Dirt Day Pre K

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough


This is what fun looks like.

This is what fun looks like.




















It may seem that these children are only having fun, but there is an underlying lesson.  It’s a subtle message but one that is fundamental.  Soil is the source of all that we eat.  The sooner we can introduce this to children (even through play) the more likely they will value healthy real food and respect the process that brings it from that source to their table.  In the mean time, bon appetit!

April 1st Update

In the spirit of “If you can’t beat’em.. join’em”, OJA has hopped on the GMO bandwagon!  In case you aren’t familiar with the acronym, GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. These are living things that have been improved by having their DNA spliced with the DNA of some other living thing.  It’s like getting the best of two creatures in one!  (without the hassle of species differentiation) Our students are definitely reaping the benefits of this ground breaking technology.

As many of you may already know, for several years we have grown cotton on our campus.  We also have an expanding stand of sugar cane.  Wouldn’t it be great if these two species could be introduced to each other in a lab and come together to make something truly useful?

Surprise!  Organic Cotton Candy


Go ahead… eat your sweater.

Students are loving our recent addition, and there’s no need for a cotton gin.  The seeds taste like Red Hots!

IMG_3231It’s even harder now to bring students in from the garden.

IMG_3233 Added bonus:  The students return to class with an extra “boost” of energy that the teachers love.

We’ve also acquired seeds to a newly patented vegetable that blends the starchy goodness of a potato with the convenience of asparagus (which frankly… if asparagus weren’t so easy to pick, no one would eat it.)  Behold: Potatogus Crispicus, commonly known as the french fry plant.


Fertilizing the Seedlings


Water sparingly.

Here’s a helpful hint:  For smaller patio gardens consider the variety “shoestring”.  They do great in pots.  Also, if you choose “curly fries” we recommend you provide a trellis for them, as they tend to flop when grown unsupported.

Of course these delicious cuttings will need condiments and fortunately Heinz has pushed the scientific envelope. (or should we say “squeezed the packet”)  We now have as part of our  sponsored test garden a plant that makes it possible to grow our own ketchup!  For too long the tomato has been an unecessary and inconvenient step in the “seed to red goop” process.  With no refrigeration necessary and no expiration date, this is something really worth growing.IMG_3265

We’re not sure what other DNA was added to a tomato plant to make this marvel.  We’re not even sure it was DNA, but hey, we know better than to ask questions about our food.

So, what’s your favorite GMO?  Add yours in the comment section.

Tasting the Peas

Two classes of first and second graders tasted their “Champion of England” peas this week for the first time.  There were just enough peas for everyone to taste two or three but there are many more to come.  This heirloom variety did not disappoint these children who have waited so patiently. They were so sweet. (so were the kids.)  Do you remember the first time you tasted a pea straight from the pod?                                 IMG_3148

 Harvesting PeasIMG_3137                                                                                                                                           IMG_3144