Friday, April 20, 2012

Pink Slime and School Lunches

The point of today's post is that you will read AgWeek writer Mikkel Pates' thoughtfully written 
"What's Real and What's Obscene"
 which you can find by clicking on the title. I hope it makes you stop and think, as it did me.
If you are interested in real news and information about Agriculture in our area and beyond, I suggest that you bookmark the main page of the AgWeek site. It is published weekly.
The pink slime sensation has affected consumer's perception of beef. In GriggsDakota we have had the luxury of knowing exactly where our beef comes from. I am disappointed that the beef industry let this negative misnomer be used into the Information Age. The potential for sensationalism seems obvious in the hindsight. The blow up was inevitable. 
I agree with Mr Pates: It would be wrong to waste the product, which is actually called lean finely textured beef. The world can certainly not afford to waste food. I am unsure if I have ever consumed pink slime as a part of ground meat. I would not be afraid to eat it, as long as the meat was cooked to 160 degrees. All ground meat should be served well done. 
On a lighter note, Mikkel Pates gives a glimpse into his life as a child and his memories of school lunch. He mentions the waste of food that he observed in his junior high lunch room, but he weaves his memories very well. 
I am the daughter of college educated North Dakota farmers. Mr. Pates was raised in South Dakota in a home with parents aware of and educated in agriculture. Our backgrounds, though not identical, are similar. Our memories of school lunch, however are very different.
At age ten in the photo above, I was a skinny girl. My Dad had paid me a dollar a pound to gain weight when I went to school four years earlier. I didn't make much money on that deal, but it might be the reason that I tried different foods at school and found that I liked most of what was served. Our cooks fixed real meat, possibly because we had such a good meat market in town. There was a milk dispenser with homogenized milk, a treat to a farm girl. We had a local creamery at that time. The chicken, beef, pork, and turkey were simply, but carefully prepared and tasty. Vegetables may have been donated by gardeners. There were often carrot sticks, sliced tomatoes, and creamed potatoes in the Fall. We may have been served mashed potatoes from flakes, I don't remember because they were covered with home made gravy. I especially enjoyed the egg salad sandwiches. We ate those often at home, too.
I quickly learned that there was a rhythm to the menus:
Mondays: Hotdish
Tuesdays: BeefStew, Vegetable Beef Soup with Dumplings, Hotdogs or Scalloped Potatoes
Wednesdays: Sloppy Joes and Potato Chips, yummy. If we had Hotdogs on Tuesday, it would be something less yummy.
Thursdays: A Full Dinner of Meat, Potatoes, and Vegetables with Dessert
Fridays: Meatless options, Tunafish Hotdish or soup and sandwiches.
There were times when the hotdogs were served with sauerkraut which I couldn't allow to be put on my plate. I do remember rinsing off my hotdog in the water fountain. Some menus were certainly better than others, but it was that way at home, too. I was picky. 
I had been an adult for a long time before I realized just how good the school lunches of my youth were. It was my first visit to the Norwegian Castle at Epcot in Disney World. After filling my plate at the Norwegian buffet, I sat down with Farmer Fred and said, "Doesn't this remind you of school lunch? Homemade macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes, rice and whipped cream, apple crisp, meat balls..." 
The list went on. The cooks must have brought recipes for school lunches over on the boat from Norway, I told him.
Farmer Fred looked at me like I had been in the Florida sun for too long. His school lunch  was not at all like the Norwegian Smorgasbord. In fact, he said that he had never had any of these dishes while he was growing up. He didn't eat them until he met the farmer's daughter.
Of course, I did not mean that we were served all of the wonderful things at once. One main dish and dessert per day, but wasn't it like this?
 He shook his head. 
Definitely not. 
Although I have never thought of myself or the people around me as anything but Americans, I was from a Scandinavian community. I felt my roots. The cook was named Inga when I started school.
At school we ate the commodities sent by the government, which included cheese. Our cooks made grilled cheese sandwiches and served them with tomato soup. I scraped the whipped cream  off the top of the red Jell-O and ate it first. We enjoyed Special K Bars and occasionally, homemade cinnamon rolls. I passed on the grayish peas, but green beans were not much different than the ones we canned each Summer at home. I like them. My favorite dessert was a square of white cake with a dollop of whipped cream, topped with a dab of cherry pie filling. I served that to my kids and they liked it, too. Norwegians like cake and cream with fruit. 
I have good memories from the school lunch room. Even so, there was food wasted in our lunch room. I tossed out plenty of food. I seldom ate a full serving of anything, even if I liked it.
Today we are farmers and yet we are not supporters of the clean plate club. I don't worry about waste. There are creatures to eat everything that we don't in GriggsDakota. Dogs, cats, birds, deer, varmints, it's a way of life on the farm.
To waist or to waste, that is the question, true.
The answers are not easy to find, but education will need to be a component as the world population expands.
  We do our best to produce large quantities of high quality food. I want the world to eat. I want there to be enough for everyone.
Prairie Grains magazine reports on that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing agricultural grants directed toward improving the productivity and profitability of small farmers and minority farmers including women. Read the article,
 Asphalt Agriculture: An Outside Look at Agriculture
by clicking on the link above.
As Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so eloquently said, 
"If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture."
The world needs nourishment and we intend to do our part in GriggsDakota.

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