April 24th, 2012 at 12:03 pm (Culinary News)
As a relatively new Les Dames d’Escoffier member, I am delighted to share my experience at a gathering we had at Oakhurst Community Gardens in Decatur, GA last evening, (recently named, The Wylde Center, see below). I am inspired to move forward with our own herb garden at Carl House, excited for our wonderful Executive Chef, Max Teich to use the sweet and savory herbs in his dishes and to garnish his pretty platters as well. (I can smell the fresh rosemary and lavender as I write)!
Les Dames d’Escoffier is comprised of some rather talented ladies; I am in awe, meeting ladies from the culinary world, food stylists, television hosts of food shows, authors of cookbooks, chefs, event owners such as myself, culinary entrepreneurs, seasoned and talented women. These women have made huge strides in the culinary field: creating new trends, inventing, collaborating and generally WOW-ing their public through creativity, innovation and clear passion for what they do.
Last evening we visited Oakhurst Community Gardens in Decatur, now the Wylde Center. Read their inspiring story below… a brief history of this amazing sanctuary:
A Grass Roots Success Story!
In 1996, Sally Wylde and Louise Jackson, both residents of Decatur’s Oakhurst neighborhood, had a life-changing conversation. Neither of them had any idea that one little nuisance would transform their community. What they knew was that every afternoon, children leaving the nearby elementary school cut through Mrs. Jackson’s yard and trampled her beloved garden.
A single decision, however, made all the difference. Instead of involving the police, Sally and Mrs. Jackson partnered with a group of neighbors to invite the children to become caretakers of the garden. Working together, they restored Mrs. Jackson’s garden and added a beautiful, hand-painted fence. The children watched with delight and amazement as their plantings took root and flourished, and something ordinary turned into something special — a process they had never noticed or understood before.
With their newfound enthusiasm and knowledge, the group moved on to create a garden in the median strip of the street in front of Mrs. Jackson’s house. The children took tremendous pride in their work, which was honored at a ceremony with the city’s mayor, who presented each child with a certificate of appreciation. Faster than kudzu, word spread about how much fun it was to dig and plant, and suddenly, more children were lining up to work in Mrs. Jackson’s garden.
The following year, a nearby, undeveloped half-acre lot became available. The property, which had been used as a commercial basil farm, was at risk for development in the rapidly gentrifying Oakhurst community of Decatur. Instead, Sally and her husband, Britt Dean, acquired it, and the Oakhurst Community Garden Project was born. Through her enthusiasm, creative spirit, and a mission to create a space where children could come for hands-on environmental education, Sally encouraged a decade’s worth of youth who are our next generation of environmental stewards.
Long before I became owner and steward of Carl House, I had an itinerate career as an actress and playwright. Before going into theatre, I actually started college studying horticulture. Since I was 12 I LOVED growing plants, creating gardens, (my mother gave me a hand plow on my 13th birthday….it’s true), I loved making things GROW!
I also had a fond interest in herbs and especially their medicinal qualities, considering that good health should come from the food we put in our bodies, natural medicine to perform our best.
When I learned that a horticulture degree demanded a keen knowledge of science and chemistry, I sadly went to my college advisor and told him, with considerable tears, ‘numbers are just NOT my thing….at ALL!’ (ask my CFO)….I didn’t know then that I was a big picture, creative sort, one more adept at being on stage and leading troupes into new terrains of thinking and living. Theatre instead held that needed ground for me.
But last evening, surrounded by gorgeous gardens, incubators for tender plants, bee hives and happy chickens, who looked as contented as I was nibbling fresh honey and goat cheese on crispy flatbread, sipping a tangy fruit drink garnished with fresh thyme, I knew I was in heaven and at home, for sure.
And to be surrounded with women who love creating the ambiance, the fragrance of a memorable experience with not just culinary skills, but the art of setting a table creatively with candles and fresh blooms in simple jars, little seed packets which looked like matchbooks tucked away as a special take away prize in our napkins…..I was reminded at how MUCH I appreciate attention to detail and the care taken to creating such a setting and experience!
And I, as the designated interviewer for our new segment, ‘Dame in the Limelight’, had the distinct pleasure of interviewing amazing Angie Mosier. She began as a Dame at the inception of our chapter in 90′s, then a celebrated, (self taught) cake baker, she has worked with the ‘best of the best’ in the culinary field.
Her work has been seen in Food & Wine, Town and Country, The New York Times, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, and Garden and Gun magazines. Her essays on Southern cakes, pies and traditional meals can be read in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.
She has collaborated with cookbook and craft authors such as John T. Edge, Matt Lee and Ted Lee, Virginia Willis, Natalie Chanin, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Angie has completed photography for John T. Edge’s upcoming book, Truck Food Nation and Chef Kevin Gillespie’s book, Fire in My Belly to be published in the fall of 2012. Angie is also honored to have worked as co-author and photographer on Chef Eric Ripert’s most recent book, Avec Eric.
I left last evening inspired to create an herb garden for our Executive Chef Max Teich at Carl House and at home, well, I might buy a few chickens….they looked so darn happy and there is just NOTHING like fresh herbs in an omlette made from farm grown eggs! And if my friend Janice can grow chickens at her Inman Park home in Atlanta, I certainly can out in the country in Auburn, Georgia!
Here’s to eating better, thinking good thoughts and REALLY enjoying your life.
Enjoy a brief photo montage of our event Les Dames Oakhurst