Most of what's written about the White House "gardens" says little about vegetables and fruit. Instead, we read about flowers and trees, which is interesting, but not especially satisfying for gardeners enamored with edibles.
That is but one of many reasons to read Michelle Obama's book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America (Crown Publishers, $30). Some may think this project was cooked up by political strategists. Maybe, but the book is actually decently written and fun to read -- even if, like me, you're a little weary of the sermons about fresh and local.
What the heck. It's great that the first lady chose an organic vegetable garden as a project to complement her antiobesity efforts.
Planted in 2009, the 1,100-square-foot, all-season garden on the South Lawn has already produced about 3,000 pounds of produce for formal lunches and dinners and the Obama family's own meals. About one-third of everything grown is donated to a soup kitchen serving the homeless. These are all the right messages.
As the garden and its mission have grown, so has Obama's knowledge and perspective. She started down this garden path with virtually no experience, only a desire to start a national conversation about "the food we eat, the lives we lead, and how all of that affects our children."
The book includes 16 seasonal recipes from White House chefs, plus historical photos, many pictures of Obama and schoolchildren planting and harvesting, and even a few of the first dog, Bo. There are also athletes talking about healthy diet -- how refreshing for so-called role models to do this -- and sensible tips, such as this one from executive chef Cris Comerford: Dessert is not necessary every day.
Obama also highlights public and community gardens around the country, including the Camden Children's Garden, an early leader in this -- pardon the expression -- worthwhile campaign.
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