From Rags to Riches:

Our in classroom presentation is designed to underscore the cliché: “Necessity is the mother of invention”

The impoverished peoples of the world have developed unique cuisines in order to survive. The example we presented was popularized by the Walt Disney World Production of animated film, Ratatouille (a French peasants cuisine).

The cuisine that are prepared by the American poor include popular items like: Gumbo- originating in the Gulf Coasts of the United States by poor white, black and Native Americans. Gumbo is a combination of sea foods (crab, shrimp, crawfish, mussel…) that is captured inside a type of “cage” that is lowered into bodies of water supplied by the Gulf of Mexico. Mixed with chicken, fish, sausage, beef, rice, okra…, to make a soup that can be nutritious, good, and most importantly, plentiful.


Others have found sustenance in green leaves. Remember, “necessity is the mother of invention”. Black slaves in America were denied the resources to purchase food and the freedom to obtain the resources. Consequently, “backyard gardens” became the norm for people of little means.

Ratatouille, is such a peasant cuisine. IMG_9935_edited-1A combination of common, easy to grow, hearty vegetables and herbs such as: garlic, onion, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomato, thyme, and add salt, pepper, water. Bring to a boil, and eat with bread or rice.

The cuisine can feed multitudes at a minimum of costs- rain and sunshine are free!

Each vegetable and herb produces it’s own seed, for an endless supply for continued cultivation.

Please see: (vol. 122, iss. 23)  Culture November 12, 2017

The Fairmount Community Garden was developed to provide fresh vegetables and herbs at no costs to the visitor. The past ten growing seasons have produced a variety of: beans, onion, garlic, radish, tomato, melon, sunflower, mint, greens, carrot, turnip, potato, yam, okra, strawberry, and herbs: (sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary, oregano, basil, lemon grass…),and flowers: (Morning Glory, Moon, Milkweed, Chamomile, Marigold, Dandelion…), 193

Originally the Sweet Potato Pie was a “peasants” dessert. Made from a variety of potatoes that have a naturally sweeter taste than the common potato. And, like Gumbo, Ratatouille, Frog More Stew, Greens…, the affluent consumer will often times discover this peasant cuisine on the menus of fine eating establishments at costs that could be considered expensive. This declarative, seemingly, supports French sociologists, Pierre Bourdieu, and his assertion: “…high status groups tend to value health foods”, (an assertion derived from his surveyed results of French society in the 1960’s).

In the world today, nutritionists have determined that the healthiest food for consumption, is the food that is grown nearest. What can be nearer than your own backyards?

What a wonderful “service learning” opportunity. Service Learning is a philosophical and practical approach to learning, as opposed to a more traditional “classroom only” approach.

For example: As a student of the College of Health Professions, enrolled in a degree bound program called Health Management Community Development (HMCD), I have received an opportunity to promote the development, and maintenance, of the Fairmount Community Garden, afforded through the WSU Career Development Center, the owner/manager of the property to be developed (Fairmount Community Church), whose leadership was my acting supervisor simply because of the inherent interest of a successful venture, and an advisor assigned to the College of Health Professions (who was recipient of a term paper at the end of the term.

I applied a real life experience toward my classroom instruction, and the combination of the two experiences, resulted in a more informed student, and a more (potentially) healthy community and society.

I learned, not so unlike David Ogilvy suggests in his thesis: “there are at least two audiences to distinguish”, that there are two distinguished different types of “community gardeners”/community members for that matter: eagles and turkey’s. Each having the right to exists, essentially, and each requiring a unique approach.

The applied learning approach also increased my awareness of a functionality of secondary learning institutions: a students success is celebrated by each separate community (academic, business, law enforcement, residential, faith-based, pedestrian…) by the same degree. Success is a common denominator, as is a community garden.

Were it not for the application of the applied learning concept, the reality of a students experience is tardy. Instant organic reactions to the development of the Fairmount Community Garden were experienced by the various communities referred to earlier.

The Fairmount Community Church experienced “strangers”, (curiosity emanating from the local residents); local residents realized a venue that induced unlikely conversation among people of differences, public safety is promoted within communication; if chosen, instant savings are realized by the community garden visitor; the student is instantly awarded in knowing his/her anchor institution is invested in collaboration,

To use a gardening metaphor, because of the adoption of “applied learning”, a seed had been planted by the academic community and germinated, and fruit (with additional seeds) is the result.

The Sunflowers shown are referred to as Massive Sunflowers. They produce seeds, and they are good.
The Sunflowers is designated as the Kansas State flower.

Of course there is no packaging involved in the natural world of community/backyard gardens. The appeal toward a particular herb, fruit, vegetable, or flower cannot be explained socially or economically. Branding is not induced by linguistics. There are those who visit the garden with money in their pocket, and those who have no money in their pocket. How fresh is fresh? How free is free? What, in the garden separates the haves from the have not’s in the garden? What is not organic in an organic garden environment?

Gardens are truly common. Yes, there are qualifying differences that relate to positioning. For example: the areas of the garden that are exposed to the morning sunlight produce a larger specimen than those that are ill exposed to the morning sunlight. Prolonged shaded areas resulted in truncated harvest. Too much sunlight can contribute to the suffrage of trauma. Likewise, too much water/overwatering can reduce root depth, and result in a less robust, even weaker, plant and thus a “thin” harvest. There are experiments, as seen in class during video a presentation of a wonderful French chef Alain Pasard, owner of L’ Arpege in Paris France, that transformed his celebrated three Michelin Star rated restaurant of meat, into a vegetable dominated cuisine, that experimenting with soil composition, and planting certain plants next one another, (making neighbors), have yielded interesting outcomes. I enjoyed the description of Chef Pasard’s Smoked Eggplant Pear & Red Cabbage salad.

However, a garden is generally non-discriminating and is true to it’s visitors, (whether an eagle or a turkey), food implicitly, and gardens explicitly, act as common denominators. Indiscriminate. No commercially influenced packaging, or menus, (with lots of choices, / no choices at all), or “waiter language”, ahhh!


The Fairmount Community Garden can boast the authenticity of organic/gourmet foods and a closeness to nature, the highest elevation in Sedgwick County, in the shadows of institutionalized power.. Authentic and exotic, the church that founded WSU, what a collaboration!


Bon Appetite.