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Apr 13, 2006

A Grass Root's approach

Uncooked seeds and nuts are the stars on a restaurant's "live'' menu.

By MICHAEL CANNING
Published April 7, 2006
http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/07/Citytimes/A_Grass_Root_s_approa.shtml

If it sprouts a tail, it's good eating to the folks at Grass Root Organic Restaurant and Culture Shop, which opened March 22 at 2702 N Florida Ave. in Tampa Heights.

In fact, it's as good as it gets. You see, there's vegetarian cuisine, then vegan, then raw, and finally live. As in, alive.

Nothing that can look you in the eye, mind you. But if you've ever eaten a sunflower seed or nut that's been soaking in water and has a sprout coming out of it, you've eaten live food.

"Raw foods create living bodies, and cooked foods create dying bodies,'' said Grass Root co-owner Sabrina Aird. "Once you heat food over 115 degrees, it destroys the enzymes necessary for proper digestion.'' Moreover, when a soaking seed or nut sprouts, its nutritional value goes up.

So uncooked and living, sprouted foods - mainly nuts and seeds - figure prominently on the Grass Root menu. As do vegetarian and vegan meatless food prepared without any sort of animal product dishes. Examples include the sprouted cereal (sprouted sunflower seeds or wheat berries blended with fruit, dates and spices), root sushi (brown rice, avocado, cucumber, carrots and grapefruit), and a vegetarian BLT.

The restaurant itself might prove to be a sprouting seed. Aird and her husband/business partner, Spencer Sterling, picked the site on the corner of Florida and Columbus Drive to bring their long simmering faith in Tampa Heights to a boil.

The couple have owned an old house in the neighborhood for 13 years, though they didn't live in it full time until they moved from Aird's native New York City last April.

As a former mortgage manager with Washington Mutual, Aird caught wind of Tampa Heights' reasonable real estate and urban renewal potential before a lot of people did. Now she owns a business and a home in Tampa's oldest neighborhood, an area clamoring for new businesses as its historic residential stock continues to regentrify.

This is Aird's first restaurant, though her family runs a vegetarian restaurant back home in Brooklyn. The 1,100-square-foot space inside a 1927 building that once housed a bakery is decorated with a tourist's collection of items from exotic and developing nations, all of which are for sale.

The Tampa Raw Food Meet Up Group also meets there the first Thursday of every month.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Grass Root's Web site is www.thegrassrootlife.com.

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Posted: Apr 13, 2006 2:41am
Mar 13, 2006
Type: Tribute (for the living)
To Honor: Individual(s)
Location: , United States
March 10, 2006
Books of The Times | 'American Green'

Why Grass Really Is Always Greener on the Other Side

Many of the approximately 60 million Americans with lawns can understand the feeling. A well-tended yard is not only personal territory, to be defended unto death, but also a work of art. Like a painting, it has form and color. Like a child, it is alive. No wonder feelings run high, and the lawn, as a canvas for personal expression, engages the suburban American male at the deepest possible level. Americans like Jerry Tucker, who turned his yard into a replica of the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club.

The often-crazed love affair between Americans and their lawns is Ted Steinberg's subject in "American Green." Mr. Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, likens this relationship, and the insane pursuit of lawn perfection, to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and he may very well be right. That would at least explain the behavior of a homeowner who clips her entire front yard with a pair of hand shears, or Richard Widmark's reaction on waking up in the hospital after a severe lawn mower accident in 1990. "The question I asked the doctors was not 'Will I ever act again?' " he later recalled, "but 'Will I ever mow again?' "

How did a plant species ill suited to the United States, and the patrician taste for a rolling expanse of green take root from the shores of the Atlantic to the desiccated terrain of Southern California? The short answer is that it didn't, not until after the Civil War. Although Washington and Jefferson had lawns, most citizens did not have the hired labor needed to cut a field of grass with scythes. Average homeowners either raised vegetables in their yards or left them alone. If weeds sprouted, fine. If not, that was fine, too.

Toward the end of the 19th century, suburbs appeared on the American scene, along with the sprinkler, greatly improved lawn mowers, new ideas about landscaping and a shorter work week. A researcher investigating the psychology of suburbanites in 1948 observed shrewdly that the American work ethic coexisted uneasily with free time, and that "intense care of the lawn is an excellent resolution of this tension." At least until the moles arrive.

Mr. Steinberg cannot decide whether he is writing a cultural history, an environmental exposé or a series of Dave Barry columns. As cultural history, "American Green" is relentlessly superficial, a grab bag of airy generalizations and decrepit clichés about the cold war and the conformist 1950's. As environmental exposé, it is confused and poorly explained. It is impossible, reading Mr. Steinberg on lawn-care products, to assess risks. At times, it sounds as if any homeowner spreading the standard lawn fertilizers and herbicides might as well take out a gun and shoot his family. A few pages later, the environmental threat seems trivial.

Sometimes, he simply punts. Building a case against power mowers, which Mr. Steinberg regards as unsafe at any speed, he introduces the story of a "lawn professional" who lost the fingers on both hands while trying to keep a wayward mower from rolling into a lake. This might be a damning piece of evidence if Mr. Steinberg did not then add, sheepishly, that "perhaps this is a suburban legend." Half-serious, intellectually incoherent, "American Green" shambles along like this, scattering bits and pieces of history, sociology and consumer advice as it goes.

There are just enough fascinating bits to keep the pages turning. It is gratifying to learn that grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. An observer looking down at his own lawn sees brown dirt along with green grass blades, but only grass blades next door, because of the angle of vision. It is useful to focus on one of the pet claims of the lawn-care industry, that a lawn 50 feet square produces enough oxygen to satisfy the respiratory needs of a family of four. This is probably true, but, as Mr. Steinberg points out, superfluous, since there is no oxygen shortage on Earth.

Mr. Steinberg does make the case fairly convincingly that the pursuit of the perfect lawn cannot be explained without golf, which has played on the homeowner's weak sense of self-esteem by rubbing his face in fantasy images. Perfection at Augusta requires a team of specialists and a multimillion-dollar investment in infrastructure. The average golf green gets more pampering and primping than Heidi Klum's cheekbones, but that is the lawn that suburbanites want. Companies like Scotts have convinced them that to achieve it, they need to follow a regimen of constant seeding, watering, fertilizing and herbiciding.

The future looks troubled for the American lawn. Some homeowners have given up entirely, paving over their yards to create more parking space. Others are embracing the native-plant movement and turning their lawns into miniature prairies and meadows. Nellie Shriver, of the Fruitarian Network, stopped mowing for moral reasons. "It is impossible to mow the grass without harming it," she said. "We believe grass has some sort of consciousness, that it has feelings."

Even more alarming, for the lawn-care industry, is the kind of post-lawn sensibility exhibited by an Atlanta real estate broker. "When something bores me, I get rid of it," she said. "Lawns bore me."

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Posted: Mar 13, 2006 8:49am

 

 
 
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