Who knew Racine was this healthy?
Organizers from the new group Eat Right Racine packed Monument Square with an impressive display of healthy foods, free samples, nutritional advice, children's activities and music. Hundreds of people attended the event, which is the first of its kind in Racine.
"It's amazing," said Amanda DeSonia, one of the founders of Eat Right Racine. "This is more than we expected. It's heart-warming."
Here are some of the highlights I saw at the event:
* Lizz Fabel, a gourmet chef and cooking instructor, demonstrated knife skills at her booth. Her first piece of advice: Use sharp knives. Fabel spent $7 at TJ Maxx for her paring knife, but had the knife sharpened by a professional. She also used a steel to align the metal's molecules to get a clean cut through vegetables.
"It makes cooking enjoyable," Fabel said. "Anyone who says they hate cooking probably has dull knives."
Fabel then offered this nifty trick for cutting onions. Cut the onion into quarters leaving the root end in tact so it doesn't fall apart. With each quarter, slice lengthwise and then turn the onion to its other side and slice again. Then when you cut against the lines, the onion is diced into small pieces.
* Heidi Fannin, one of the lead organizers of Eat Right Racine, had a booth showing the amount of sugar in common items like juice boxes, yogurt and granola bars. All of them had at least four packets. "It's about choices," Fannin said. "I'd rather save my sugar for cake."
Fannin also hopes people become more aware of "food miles," which is the distance food travels to get to Racine. Her hope is people will buy and grow local produce that will save energy, support the local economy and offer more nutritional choices.
* Chipotle set up a booth on the square and offered free food to participants. The corporation backed a documentary on problems in the American food industry. While a surprising move for a fast food company, a third of Chipotle's beans are organically grown and the restaurant uses healthier meats than other chains.
* Olde Madrid, on Sixth St., had a booth and was offering a chicken salad sampler.
* The Racine Urban Garden Network had a great display showing off the group's successes in creating new gardens throughout the city. This summer RUGN has 10 youth employees who are working in various gardens. For more information about RUGN and Racine's gardens, visit: www.rugn.org
* Katie Lafond, a sophomore at The Prairie School, provided music for the event.
* Here's an example of the displays, which were all really well done: Sister Janet Weyker tried to show people how far food traveled to reach Racine's grocery store. Next door, Junior League of Racine showed children how to make a healthy trail mix and Small World Montessori school and Sunshine Mountain Preschool had kids playing with beans.
"It's very impressive," said Jane Finkenbine, a volunteer with Junior League.
Eat Right Racine's next event will be its August monthly meeting. DeSonia said the group was thinking about an outing to Milwaukee to watch the "Food, Inc." documentary. Fanin is also hoping the group can focus on healthy meals and snacks for children.
For more information about Eat Right Racine, visit: www.eatrightracine.org