Prince Charles and Camilla, after a cozy visit to Washington, are now in the San Francisco area doing what the monarch-in-waiting likes best: getting back to his roots. Organic roots and other produce.
It's 14 years since he told an audience at the Royal Agricultural Society of England he was surprised that so many farmers still regarded organic farming "as some kind of drop-out option for superannuated hippies."
His California program plotters have given the comfy couple a stroll around a farmers' market, lunch at an organic farm, and a visit to Alice Waters' organic garden planted at a Berkeley school and run by its students.
He may not know how pertinent is this opportunity to observe children with the food they have grown and to learn how they view what they eat.
A just-published survey by the British Heart Foundation has found, according to The Times of London, that one-third of British children don't know what french fries are made of. A good many of them apparently believe they're manufactured from flour or eggs. Some even think they come from apples.
If we can fairly assume that California student Jennifer Obakhume is representative of other young people, they're really not particularly interested in improving what they put into their mouths.
Obakhume is a senior at Los Angeles' Inglewood High School and reported Monday on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," in a story produced by Youth Radio, that the removal of soda machines and unhealthy menu options in school cafeterias has spawned a vibrant black-market trade among California students in junk food.
Behind the backs of teachers they deal in candy bars, bags of chips and even burgers and fries that they buy in bulk on the way to class. Some even have the audacity to phone out for pizzas delivered to school gates and then sold profitably by the slice.
This would all be deeply saddening to the prince, who has a thriving business making organic food products.
Duchy Originals is a multimillion-dollar business whose profits are given away to charity. Its ingredients are grown on Home Farm at Highgrove, his country estate near Tebury, Gloucestershire, which switched over to full organic farming in 1985.
Home Farm supports a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle for beef, 130 dairy Ayshire cows for milk, 550 breeding ewes, organic wheat and oats used to make the Duchy Original cookies, long-strawed wheat for thatching cottage roofs, and vegetables that are available for purchase in a local box scheme.
At Britain's Organic Food Awards in 1998, he declared, "It is now 14 years since I first suggested that organic farming might have some benefits, and ought to be taken seriously. I shall never forget the vehemence of the reaction -- much of it coming from the sort of people who regard agriculture as an industrial process, with production as the sole yardstick of success. The only difference today is that they see genetically modified crops as the means of achieving their aims. ... Organic farming delivers the highest-quality, best-tasting food, produced without artificial chemicals or genetic modification and with respect for animal welfare and the environment, while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities."
Nigella Lawson, fellow sensible foodist, has a recipe from "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" (John Wiley & Sons) for a savory cookie that might well have been made by Duchy Originals and is good under a spread or with cheese.
-- 8 ounces medium oatmeal or porridge oats
-- pinch of salt
-- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-- 1 tablespoon lard or butter, melted
-- 5 tablespoons to 1/3 pint hot water from a recently boiled kettle
-- Preheat oven to 400 F.
-- Put the oatmeal in a bowl and add the salt and baking soda. Make a well, pour in the fat and, stirring with a wooden spoon, enough hot water to mix to a stiff dough. If you're using oatmeal, you should need about 75 ml; with porridge oats you may need as much as 200 ml.
-- Knead it for a while to make it come smoothly together, then roll out as thinly as you can.
-- Cut into triangles or rounds, and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are turning golden-brown and the oatcakes themselves are firm (they'll crisp up on cooling). Remove to a wire rack to cool.
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