Young's hosts "Good Earth, Good Food, Good Future"
In an African village with mud huts and only one water spigot, a young boy of about 6 or 7 sucked on a piece of sugar cane as a man gazed at the scene in awe, a tear in his eye.
"Don't be upset," his tour guide said. "He's better off than you Americans."
"What do you mean?" the man asked.
"It's pure sugar."
And then it hit him.
In America, we process our sugar cane so extensively that it is far from pure. But in Africa - where people have so little - nothing is wasted. Because the continent does not have the abundance of goods that we have in the United States, many of its people are forced to sustain themselves.
Four years ago, Ken Young went to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then, he has gone on many trips, the most recent being to Argentina. Seeing the reality that exists outside of his New England bubble has made Young a different person, he said, and has allowed him to realize that sustainability is important because it preserves our Earth and all the beautiful places in it.
In honor of Earth Day, Young's Restaurant, located at 48 Main St. in Durham, is hosting the "Good Earth, Good Food, Good Future" celebration on April 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It is a chance for members of the local community to network with organizations like Seacoast Eat Local, Seacoast Local and Slow Food UNH, and to hear from knowledgeable speakers including ecogastronomy professor Dan Winans and environmental conservation professor John Carroll.
"This (event) is a reminder for everybody that this is how we should be thinking every day, not just on Earth Day," Young said. "It should be something that is imbedded into us, that we bring to our homes, to our businesses and to our local societies."
Young said that he hopes the audience is like-minded, but also that he welcomes the opportunity to educate those in attendance.
"Hopefully it's a melting pot of education," he said.
Also invited are some of the restaurant's local producers, whose products will be showcased at the event. Samples of items from Young's menu will be provided, including buckwheat pancakes with blueberries, turkey and ham paninis and quesadillas, Young said.
According to Young, the purpose of the celebration is to educate the public about the sustainability movement and specifically what Young's Restaurant is doing to support it. About 40 percent of the restaurant's ingredients are local, and this figure is only expected to rise. Recently, Young's has switched to buying potatoes from Maine instead of the Midwest, which not only reduces fuel emissions but also decreases the price, Young said.
Another sustainable initiative that Young's is undertaking is a 34-by-34 garden that will allow the restaurant to supply much of its own produce, including onions, garlic, tomatoes, squash, carrots and field greens.
As an ardent supporter of local food, Young is a huge believer in Seacoast Local's "10% Shift."
"What they're asking is that you make a conservative effort to take a look at what you spend money on and shift 10 percent of that to buying local goods and services," Young said. "The formula is that our local economy will spurt because that money will stay locally and be invested locally."
The event is free, but there is a suggested donation of $5 to raise money for Seacoast Eat Local's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows recipients of SNAP (the new term for food stamps) to purchase food at farmers' markets using their federal benefits. This not only gives them access to local food but also boosts the local economy.
Another attraction of the event is to see and hear about Young's recent ascent of Aconcagua - the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere - and his firsthand experience with the sustainable food culture of Mendoza, Argentina.
Young said he reveled in Mendoza's diverse landscape, which is home to 1.5 million people, and in its craft markets and the parks that are full of activity. He was entranced by the simple and relaxed manner that constitutes the Argentinean way of life, he said.
"We need to learn to slow ourselves down and live more reasonably," he said.
On all of his trips, Young goes on cultural tours in order to understand how people live in other parts of the world. Because Mendoza is known for its olive oil and its wine (specifically Malbec), he said, he visited two olive oil plants and a vineyard.
The plants employ local people to make some of the most popular olive oil in the world. Employees used to use machines, but when they realized it ruined the olive trees they returned to the traditional technique - by hand. The byproducts, olive skins and stems, are utilized to make soaps and lotions, which are then sold to further boost the local economy. On the wine tour that Young went on, he observed a similar system where the grape stems and skins were ground up and put on the fields as fertilizer, he said.
These closed-loop systems are one of the main things that Young said he admired about the culture, though in a country like Argentina these kinds of sustainable endeavors are more doable.
"It's different in the United States because it's so big. It's easier to do things when you're small," he said.
And even though it may be harder, Young indicated that he will not be deterred. The sustainability movement is continually growing, and he has much hope that the younger generations will pick it up and run with it, he said.
If they do, maybe one day we'll all be eating pure sugar cane.
For more information, go to the Facebook page for the "Good Earth, Good Food, Good Future" celebration: https://www.facebook.com/events/488969007817034/
To RSVP to the event, email Young's Restaurant: firstname.lastname@example.org
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