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Campus News

Acclaimed Local Foods Enthusiast to Visit Thursday

by Jay Bost, guest writer

On Thursday, April 26 at 7pm in the WWC Chapel Deborah Madison will give a free, public lecture entitled “The Past, Present, and Future of the Food Movement.”

During this academic year, I have had the fortunate experience of serving as Interim Professor of Sustainable Agriculture while Dr. Laura Lengnick has been on sabbatical. I have been incredibly impressed by Warren Wilson College’s land management practices and educational model and have had the pleasure of bringing a number of friends and colleagues to visit campus, give guest lectures, and walk the campus to see first hand what a remarkable place this is. As a sort of going away bonus, I have been able to invite, with Lyceum funds and luck, a friend who will be quite moved by Warren Wilson and by whom I hope Warren Wilson will be moved as well.

Deborah Madison, cookbook author, chef, teacher, writer, and activist is a true food hero of mine, whose combination of all these aforementioned activities along with her walk-the-talk lifestyle have long inspired me. I am thrilled to bring her to campus and hope students, staff, and faculty will embrace the opportunity to interact with this humble icon of the local food movement. Deborah will visit WWC Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28, visiting Rose McLarney’s College Composition I: Bringing Food Home: From Local Agriculture to Personal Appetite and my Sustainable Farm Management class.

Given her long and very active involvement in so many aspects of the on-going revolution of how we produce our food and eat it (read on for details), her perspective is sure to interest many in the WWC community.

Deborah Madison grew up in Davis, California, on a walnut farm with a gardener-botanist father who instilled in her an interest in fresh, high quality fruits, vegetables, and herbs. As a college student at UC Santa Cruz, Deborah became involved with the San Francisco Zen Center, with which she remained involved for 18 years, combining Buddhist practice with a growing love for food. She held various kitchen positions at the Zen Center, from head cook, to guest cook, to private cook for the abbot and his guests. Evolving from this experience, Deborah became involved in the kitchen at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Alice Waters’ iconic restaurant, widely recognized as one of the birthplaces of the local food movement and farm to table restaurant phenomenon (www.chezpanisse.com).

Deborah went on to open, as founding chef, Greens restaurant in San Francisco in 1979, one of the first gourmet vegetarian restaurants in the country and an early pioneer in highlighting seasonally available, highly diverse ingredients, including such vegetables exotic at that time like arugula and fingerling potatoes (www.greensrestaurant.com). Greens sources many of its ingredients from the San Francisco Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm.

Following Deborah’s time at Greens, she embarked on writing cookbooks, with her first being The Greens Cookbook, followed now by more than 10 highly acclaimed, award-winning cookbooks. Among the most famous are Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Market, both of which received the distinguished James Beard Award and helped nudge meatless and locally produced cuisine into the mainstream.

A recent release is What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes, which she compiled and edited with her husband, the artist Patrick McFarlin, who illustrated this narrative based cookbook. Perhaps my personal favorite is the gorgeous Seasonal Fruit Desserts from Orchard, Farm and Market, which is full of mouth watering desserts based on diverse fresh fruits, hand made pastries, and other whole food ingredients. Her inclusion of recipes for both Persimmon and Pawpaw based desserts makes me swoon. Deborah is in the editing process of her latest book, a botanical-culinary encyclopedia, intended to educate readers on the characteristics of the growing diversity of plant foods available and suggestions on how to prepare them with an emphasis on varietal differences in fruit and vegetable plants. Her research for this project has involved cultivation of a high diversity of vegetables and herbs in her home garden, recipe development, plant taxonomy, and photography.

For the past 20 years Deborah has resided on a remote property in northern New Mexico, outside of Santa Fe, where she continues to write and delve deeper into gardening. Her activities in education and promotion of food diversity are inspirational, including coordination with some of the most innovative organizations working to preserve and promote agrobiodiversity. She has served on the boards of Seed Savers’ Exchange (www.seedsavers.org), Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste (www.slowfoodusa.org), the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Association (www.grassfedlivestock.org/), and Slow Food International’s Foundation for Biodiversity (www.slowfoodfoundation.org). She is presently the co-director of the Monte del Sol Charter School’s Edible Kitchen Garden Project in Santa Fe, NM.

Deborah travels, teaches, and consults widely with an emphasis on food writing and cooking and product/menu development, with diverse clients including UC Berkeley’s Dining Service, Heritage Hotels and Resorts and Amy’s Organic Foods. Recent teaching activities have included writing and cooking workshops at Tassajara Zen Center and the Western Folk Life Festival.

Other than in her cookbooks, Deborah’s writing can be found in periodicals such as Gourmet magazine, Saveur, Edible Santa Fe, Orion, and the New York Times. She also contributes to food blogs such as Culinate.com where she has a column, www.cookstr.com, and www.gourmet.com.

A collection of some of Deborah’s cookbooks are on display at the library this week, as well as some of the wonderful books for which she has written forewords. Please take a look at these to get your thoughts and taste buds flowing. Visit her website for more information. And most of all, please come hear her speak on Thursday at 7pm in the Chapel.

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