When partners in crime, Kelly Meyer and Chi Kim asked me to give a cooking demonstration once again for their Teaching Garden, this time on Veteran’s Day at Camp Pendleton Marine Base’s Mary Fay Elementary School, in Oceanside California, my response was – Absolutely! I have always dreamed of ways I could possibly give back to our troops who have heroically fought and sacrificed their lives to give us our freedoms. It would be an honor for me to finally be of service to the these men, women and their families. I also relished the idea of sharing what I love – food.
For those you who don’t know about The Teaching Garden – www.takepart.com/teachinggarden, it was formed by two fabulous women from the Malibu area, Kelly Meyer and Chi Kim, in partnership with The American Heart Association to bring awareness, education and inspiration to kids about the earth, nutrition and staying healthy, through building gardens in elementary schools. The hope is to reach kids at a young impressionable age to help them form healthy eating habits early on that promote strength and overall well being.
Being that these two women are big kids themselves, the events are always high energy, fun and feel more like a giant party than a stale course on nutrition – between guest appearances by the LA Lakers, volleyball champ Gabriella Reece, Nickelodeon star Miranda Cosgrove of ‘iCarly’ and Disney’s ‘High School Musical’ star Corbin Bleu, it feels more like a rock concert! Even Kelly’s husband Ron Meyer, COO of Universal Studios, who had been stationed at Camp Pendleton in the ’60s, got into the spirit as he expressed gratitude to the service men, women and children.
They ask chefs like me to come in and teach creative ways to prepare tasty snacks from the gardens they have just built – I usually have to beat back the kids from the demo table they get so excited about the cooking! The volunteers build the gardens by using garden boxes that are prefab and require no tools; just assembly- www.naturalyards.com. They are so easy in fact that they have the students build them – usually about two hours of effort = a new school garden! The kids love, love, love building the gardens and the cooking demonstrations are a huge hit! The teachers are gloriously excited to see kids so enthusiastic about eating vegetables, some of which have only dined from things that come from a bag.
What was different about this day however, I wasn’t quite prepared for…and that was the meaning behind Veteran’s Day to begin with. Here we were on a Marine base (a quite large one I might add- like its own country!) on a day that is meant for honoring those who have served our country…not all of which have come home alive. This reality was never so apparent as I drove 20 minutes through the base to the school. As I drove on this beautiful Southern California day, the blue skies and green rolling hills were the back drop to the numerous banners posted along the fences either welcoming a soldier home or in memory of a soldier lost. This drove home even further the extreme sacrifice our service men and women have made for our country. To see these beautiful children, many of whom have been raised by one parent while the other is overseas – is true heroism.
As I pulled up to the school my heart was weighted with sadness and pride…I wanted to give something special to the Camp Pendleton kids on this Veteran’s Day – I hope I was able to accomplish this for them; they deserve it! XO ~ L