Sunday, September 21, 2008

Southern Circuit "Ripe for Change" Tour Day 4 Lake Charles, LA

I have not stopped long enough on this whirlwind Ripe for Change film tour of the South to blog on our last two screenings. The first was at the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana is in Lake Charles. The last time I was in Lake Charles was on my honeymoon in 1966 with my first wife, and still good friend, Susan K. When I told the audience this I got a big laugh. I had been traveling the south throughout my childhood with my mother Mary who worked for thirty radio stations in large and small cities. I guess I was raised on the road because my sisters and I traveled with her each summer.

The screening and discussion was in an old but beautiful former elementary school. The well worn steps up to the theater showed the marks of thousands of school kids who climbed these steps daily. Now this great old building is the home of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana. It also houses a Mardi Gras museum filled with colorful costumes of bygone eras.

The folks that attended this screening represented a cross section of the south, Anglos and African Americans. Unfortunately we did not have any representatives of the Latino and Asian immigrants who have migrated in recently.

I was just amazed that so many of the people in the audience had left their flooded homes and businesses to attend this screening. One was the president of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana whose ranch had been spared by Katrina and Rita only to be flooded by the storm surge from Hurricane Ike. A local chef who graduated from the California Culinary Academy a few years before my wife Tina was there too. He and his family had been cleaning up again after their restaurant was flooded by Katrina, Rita and now Ike.I am amazed by how resilient the folks are that live along the Gulf coast. It meant so much to me that they would pause their difficult clean up work to come to the screening and talk with us about agriculture, sustainability and the cuisines of Louisiana.

The discussion after the film focused on whether local farmers could raise a diversity of healthy foods to sustain their population if we break from our dependence on shipping most of our fruits and vegetables 1300-1500 miles. That is the average distance that most food travels before it reaches our local grocery stores. One person said where we will get our citrus, and another replied will we have great citrus from the southwest corner of the state. Some long term residents did not realize that citrus is grown locally.