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At the outset of a new year, healthy eating has taken on new prominence as the prevailing focus of the most realistic and attainable resolutions, which is positively great news for grocers. With the majority of shoppers now accustomed to trimming their household budgets, it stands to reason that a logical extension of their economizing ways will also be aimed at trimming their waistlines.
To that end, it’s encouraging to see that the nation’s most progressive grocers have gotten out of the gate with vigor to help guide resolution-seeking shoppers to shift the focus of foods they need to avoid to foods they can enjoy, particularly those around the nutrient-rich perimeter’s meat, seafood and produce departments, the last of which holds the most promising opportunities for incremental purchases.
Helping to play up the beauty of both healthy eating and fresh produce, The Food Network recently aired a two-hour special episode of “Iron Chef America” featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, who challenged the celebrity chefs to use anything in the White House’s kitchen garden as the special ingredient. The celebrity chefs — Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and a newcomer, White House executive chef Cristeta “Cris” Comerford — were split into two teams: Flay and Comerford vs. Batali and Lagasse. After a tour of the garden, the chefs were tasked with harvesting their ingredients, instead of having the items laid out for them, prior to producing five dishes that showcase ingredients representative of the ultimate American meal.
Team Flay/Comerford won the food fray by defeating their fellow chefs by just five points with a winning dish of Japanese eggplant and sweet potatoes.
Declaring it a “very tough battle” on CBS’s “Early Show” on Monday, Flay called the challenge “terrific, because it really created lots of conversation about what the garden really means to the White House,” while also giving the First Lady a chance to talk about her desire to get Americans – especially children – interested in growing and, at the very least, eating fresh vegetables.
Installed in the spring of 2009 under the Obama Administration, The White House Kitchen Garden measures roughly 1,100 square feet and is located on the west side of the South Lawn. The four-season herb, fruit and vegetable garden features 75 varieties of seeds planted in slightly raised beds using succession-planting methods. Cultivated by White House staff and volunteers, produce from the garden and honey from the adjacent beehives are available to White House chefs preparing meals for the First Family and official functions.
While it remains to be seen whether the culinary competition will serve to inspire more folks to grow their own fresh produce, the attention paid to furthering consumers’ interest in eating fresh, local and organic “secret ingredients” for main meals is certainly worth celebrating.
Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy new year full of wonderful secret ingredients of your own!