Pittsburgh's Chatham University, the alma mater of Rachel Carson, is taking on one of the big environmental consumer issues of our time -- processed foods. The new School of Sustainability and the Environment's first degree program will be a Masters in food studies. Armed with textbooks, wooden spoons and compost, students will confront the challenges of sustainable food production and distribution. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple visits the farm and kitchen at the university's newly acquired Eden Hall farm, north of the city. WEB EXTRA- Click "Read the Transcript" to get a Brussels Sprout Soup Recipe mentioned in the story.
OPEN: Pittsburgh's Chatham University, the alma mater of Rachel Carson, †is taking on one of the big environmental consumer issues of our time -- processed foods. †The new School of Sustainability and the Environment's first degree program will be a †Masters in food studies. Armed with textbooks, wooden spoons and compost, students will confront the challenges of sustainable food production and distribution. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple visits the farm and kitchen at the university's newly acquired Eden Hall farm, north of the city.
(FADE in sounds of Brussels sprouts cutting and under)
HOLSOPPLE: At Chatham University's new Eden Hall Campus,† sophomore Shannon Fink snaps off Brussels sprouts from the stalk with her fingers like a pro:
FINK: My mom made nasty Brussels sprouts when I was little, and they were the one thing I never wanted to eat. I am not a picky person, I just so I am trying to embrace them now.
HOLSOPPLE: She's been gardening all semester in the 6500 square foot organic plot put in by her professor, Kerri LaCharite. It's mid November and Fink and the other students in her wellness class are still divvying up the vegetable harvest, including potatoes, onions and kohlrabi, while reading texts like Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
(pulling Brussels sprouts sound still under)
FINK: I've learned a lot from it so, it is really cool because all the information about organic food and government subsidies and everything else coupled with learning actually how to do it is really cool. It's like all the theory plus hands on growing vegetables and getting dirty is very cool.
FADE Brussels sprouts sounds
HOLSOPPLE: Marrying practice and policy is just what the new food studies director hopes to do at the Eden Hall Farm. Alice Julier, a sociologist who has taught gastronomy at Boston University and written about food, gender and inequality, is moving on to greener pastures here ñ literally. And she's excited about the possibilities.
JULIER: I think it's such a really amazing thing for a liberal arts college to take on, sustainable ag programs really sit mostly in large land grant universities, culinary arts is often treated as a professionalized degree, practical trade than something intellectual, and to me, if we can grow those to really show how integral they are to the whole process that would be thrilling, and then if we can really push science in there as well, I'd be a very happy person. [laughter]
HOLSOPPLE:The co-ed graduate program won't get into full swing until fall 2010, but Chatham's undergrads, who are all women, are already getting a taste of what the food studies program will have to offer.
This afternoon Julier helps supervise the cooking of a Brussels sprout and buttermilk soup. She's using the class' vegetables in a 1950's industrial style kitchen in a building on Chatham's Farm. The Lodge was originally built as a recreational retreat for the women who worked at the H.J. Heinz plant. It stayed a retreat until the Eden Hall Foundation donated the building and all of the property to Chatham last year. The foundation wanted the old farm to continue to benefit women, which it will do, though in a more modern, academic setting.† Julier also hopes it will help Chatham become more sustainable.
AMBI Sauteeing sounds
As she sautees shallots, Julier explains how Pennsylvania's policy around raw milk production affects both producers and consumers of the local ghee, or clarified butter, she's brought to make the soup:
JULIER: " you know how we were talking before about why is organic more expensive, what are the regulations† that shape people's experience of being able to buy these foods, raw milk is outside of regulations.† When I was at the farm, and I bought this ghee, I had to fill out a little piece of paper that is essentially a contract between me and the farmer contracting for his labor and the product
HOLSOPPLE: But the food studies program won't just benefit students. Julier intends to hold community events and offer programs like local wine-making to the community.† And a partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is in the works.
JULIER: students will intern with them in their farm market program, I believe they do an amazing job of looking at food through the whole system and how people have access to it and that training will be invaluable for students
HOLSOPPLE: Eventually the farm will produce food for the food bank, and Chatham's urban campus.
For now Julier has a lot on her plate, bringing in course instructors, wooing graduate students, and thinking out loud about where hoop houses will be built on the farm. Her new book, Eating Together: Food, Friendship and Inequality in the US will be published next summer. But her eye is on the more distant future:
JULIER:† I expect the students to be able to walk out of here and really bring a much more complicated and rich view of how food gets produced and consumed than the average person who's going to walk into a non-profit or a restaurant or the food industry and help them figure out how to sell product, how to give people access to good food. So, that's the goal, anyway. [laughter]†
HOLSOPPLE: For today's goal of learning a few lessons while making Brussels sprouts soup - mission accomplished.
FADE in soup tasting under† [Well..
Just drink itÖ
What would you add if you did it again?
It looks greener than the way I do it
It's really good]
For the Allegheny Front, I'm Kara Holsopple.
Brussels Sprout Buttermilk Soup†
Courtesy of Alice Julier
2 Tbp Olive Oil or Ghee
1lb Brussels Sprouts
3 cups Vegetable or Chicken Stock
2 tsp Caraway Seeds
2 cups Buttermilk
1/8 tsp of pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp of curry powder†
Heat a big skillet with oil or ghee
Saute cut up shallots or leeks
When translucent, add Brussels sprouts that have been cut in half and two big peeled chopped up potatoes
SautÈ this mess until the Brussels are soft and falling apart
Add caraway seeds or other spices
Here, you can either put the cooked items in a blender with some stock or water or you can break them up with the immersion blender (one makes a really smooth soup but you can taste the Brussels better in the more chunky version.
Put this mix in a big pot and heat, adding buttermilk slowly as it heats.
When it's warm, season as desired and serve.†