Monday, February 27, 2017

Table-top Diplomacy & American Style

If the White House is supposed to be, among other things, a showcase for American hospitality, then it would seem food and flowers produced in America would be at the heart of every party. That didn't appear to be the case last week at the Governors Ball.

Call me picky, but I'm a Californian and prickly as an artichoke when it comes to where table grapes are produced in February in the U.S. Likewise, cut flowers and foliage in the varieties showcased on the nation's dinner table for U.S. governors. The varieties I see didn't grow in winter snow and rain. Most likely the table-top decor highlighted at the new administration's first major social occasion came straight off a plane from South America.

Sec. of State Rex Tillerson at the White House Governors Ball
in February. The table-top decor featured imported
table grapes and flowers. 
Truth is, regardless of the season, there's always food and flowers grown in the U.S. worthy of gracing the most important occasions, as well as the humblest family gatherings -- domestic fruit, flowers and greenery abound.

The Californian Table Grape Commission notes the state's farmers have been cultivating grapes for two centuries and offers this brief history: 

"Grapes have been around a long, long time.  In fact, the first grape varieties might date as far back as 6000 B.C.
But for California, the fresh grape boom hit in 1839 when a former trapper from Kentucky, William Wolfskill, planted the state’s first table grape vineyard in the Mexican colonial pueblo now known as Los Angeles.  An agricultural entrepreneur, Wolfskill was the first farmer to ship fresh grapes to Northern California.  R.B. Blowers expanded the idea and sent the first 22-pound box of California grapes to Chicago via the new transcontinental railroad in 1869.
The gold rush may have ended, but the grape rush continues.  Today, over 99 percent of grapes commercially grown in the United States come from California.  With over 85 varieties grown, California grapes come in three colors – green, red and black – and are available May through January.  
During the 2015-16 season, California's table grape growers harvested their third largest crop ever, sending 110.5 million boxes of grapes to more than 55 countries around the world, and setting a new record for crop value at $1.83 billion."


The commission's website offers creative ways to decorate table tops with grapes at

So, if the intent of the new administration is to make "America Great -- Again," starting at ground level makes sense by using the products actually produced in America. There has long been complaint by U.S. flower growers that in international trade deals low tariffs on flower imports have put them at an extreme disadvantage. Perhaps in negotiations, flowers have been seen as a minor sacrifice to good trade deals. But for hardworking Americans who make a living producing them, it's about economic survival -- jobs, innovation and growth.

Flower farmers have been fighting back, however, emphasizing the importance of their products through the "American Grown Movement." In recent years growers around the U.S. have been hosting "Farm to Vase" dinners in their greenhouses and on their farms, featuring locally grown food by top local chefs and floral arrangements by leading designers. Pre-dinner, floral design professionals offer guests workshops on arrangement techniques, as well as tours and entertainment. The dinners have all been sell-outs The list of dinner dates and locations is online at:

Campaign organizers say the American Grown Flowers brand symbolizes a unified and diverse coalition of U.S. flower farms representing small and large entities across the country. Together, they want to give consumers confidence in the source of their flowers and assure them that the bouquets and bunches they purchase come from a domestic flower farm. 

ith less than a month to go until the first stop on the 2017 American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour, F2V announced the lineup of the all-star floral designers who will lend their talents to the tablescapes and other floral designs at each of the upcoming seven dinner tour locations.

Photo courtesy of F2V. Design by Carly Cylinder of Flour LA, Inc.
and author of
 “The Flower Chef: A Modern Guide to Do-It-Yourself Floral Arrangements” (named to Best Books of 2016), 
All the F2V designers are acclaimed in the floral design community and organizers say consumers have seen their work in magazines, on television shows, at celebrity weddings and all over social media. The Field to Vase Dinner Tours offer a chance to experience their work first-hand.
Sorry, couldn't resist these floral purse and shoes by Francoise Weeks of European Floral Design
John Jay Chapman (born March 2, 1862New York, died November 4, 1933) was an American poet, dramatist, and critic who attacked the get-rich-quick morality of the post-Civil War “Gilded Age” in political action and in his writings. Ancestors on both sides of his family had distinguished themselves in antislavery and other causes, and he sought to continue that tradition among the upper middle classes, whose integrity he felt had been eroded by the upsurge of big business. He wrote:

"If you are to reach masses of people in this world, you must do it by a sign language. Whether your vehicle be commerce, literature, or politics, you can do nothing but raise signals, and make motions to the people." 

Food and flowers are the signs and symbols of  style, culture, art, prosperity, dignity, humility and diplomatic acumen.
If we are to make America gracious again, it's best to start from the ground up, embracing American grown food and flowers to showcase our nation's regional diversity and seasonal bounty!

Thoughts? Comments? Share? Thanks for visiting the garden.