Saturday, July 11, 2009

Locally Grown, Organic and Mouse-Friendly

I'm sitting in a cooking class with Yvonne, watching as Chef Lynn prepares Toasted Crostini, Marinated Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Salad, Sauteed Vegetables and Mojo Criollo Shrimp. It's all organic, fresh and bought from local farmers. We are sitting on comfortable barstools at Whole Foods' Lifestyle store where other classes like yoga and Samba lessons are taught.

Chef Lynn, a young and healthy looking native Floridian starts the evening by asking if we know why we should buy locally grown food. Our group of six gourmands respond with the right answers: It's healthier and cheaper because there are no transportation costs and leaves no environmental footprint. It's also much more delicious because it's fresh and it supports local farmers. We munch on the crostini as she continues to tell us that all of Florida is considered local.

This is my first cooking class and I'm amazed that she prepares everything so simply. Nothing is prepared with salt or pepper, but they are available on the bar. Everything is served with seltzer water or plain mineral water. We dive into each dish and I am full in short order. The flavors of each dish are detectable and delectable. After the class, Chef Lynn tells us she'll take us next door to the store to show us the label used for all the foods that are locally grown. I'm amazed that prices are lower than at other non-organic stores I shop in. I pay my $10 which includes the class and the meal then purchase grapes and strawberries.

We sit at tables outside eating the grapes and strawberries grown in California. Next to us, I notice some life form darting in and out of the bushes. This thicket of bushes is between the sidewalk we are sitting on and the parking lot with lots of cars. No one but me notices the little shape. I tell Yvonne to slowly turn her head and she sees it. It isn't a lizard, it's a very tiny mouse. It's eating something in the sand, but it doesn't look like much is in the ground. I look at my grapes and strawberries and look back at Yvonne. 

"What do you think?"

"Go for it."

As soon as I get to the spot near the doorway to its little house, Mousie runs away. I take three red and three green grapes and throw them directly on the small space where the mouse had been before, wondering if it was even going to want to eat grapes.

I sit back down and we both wait. Mousie is not coming out to investigate. Ten minutes later, the little shape appears slowly and runs off with one of the grapes. We wait. And wait. And wait. Is the grape too big to eat? Does Mousie not like it? Does she recognize it isn't locally grown? Afterall, Mousie is a Whole Foods mouse. Her plush and comfortable apartment lies directly in front of tables where food is left at day's end, and a rather large smorgasbord of delicious, organic and healthy food at that. Best of all, Mousie has customers who like mice. Mousie is working it. This part of Fort Lauderdale is her home. 

Suddenly there's movement across the sidewalk. Mousie is back for another one. The grape is not huge, but big enough to cause trouble in transporting it back to the den.

We wait.

But soon it's time to leave. I'm tempted to leave a bunch of grapes to last for awhile, but consider if Mousie is anything like me, she doesn't know when to stop. I'll be stopping by now and then to see how she's doing and keep everyone posted. Might even start another blog dedicated to Mousie. But since I don't like tragedies, if anything bad happens I won't be writing about it.

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