Community Food Leaders: Kitchen Conversations…

Hello there, I’m Mandy and I’m going to chat about the CFL again. Let me be the first to clarify, the CFL I’m referring to is not the football league here in Canada, but a much more important group. I’m writing about the Community Food Leader Program, in which I was once a participant, and now I find myself the facilitator of said program for Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.

Taking over this position was bittersweet. As a chef, I feel that food is super important, to everyone. While I was happy to have this important position, the only reason I have this job is because Su Morin, my CFL facilitator, passed away, far too young and far too soon. She was taken before her time, and we lost a brilliant star here in Cumberland County. Su was always an advocate for food security, the community garden, and brought 110% to everything else she was involved in. When I heard the position was available, I knew I had to apply, as I believed the CFL program was very important and needed to continue here in Cumberland County. 

Fast-forward to now, and here I am, writing my second blog for the Adventures in Local Food, now as the CFL facilitator for Cumberland County.  We’re halfway done this year’s program and, well I may be biased, but I think it’s gone pretty well so far. The first session, I was nervous. First time jitters, you know, that kinda thing… I had my agenda, and was pretty prepared. Of course, I ended up not having the right attachments for my computer to the projector, electronics and me are so-so, so that didn’t work, but otherwise, it went pretty well. I followed the meeting plan, we had great discussions, a good meal, more discussions, and then it was over. 

For the next session, I wanted to do something different, so I tried to think outside the box (CSA box that is)…  I scheduled a trip to Broadfork Farm in River Hebert, where farmers Bryan Dyck and Shannon Jones gave us a tour. The mosquitos were absolutely relentless, so not only did we farm tour, we fed some of the local insects while we were there. After the tour, we had a Q&A session back at the farmhouse and we purchased a CSA style bag of veggies, which we were to use in our collaborative-cook lunch. Shannon and Bryan grow a lot of heritage types of veggies, so we had a very interesting mix, including but not limited to UFO shaped squash and little white turnips. 

We made our way back to the kitchen and proceeded to go through the bags. I had brought some Asian- themed ingredients with me, rice wrappers, vermicelli noodles, rice wine vinegar, chilli paste, and some chicken. We worked together to figure out what the veggies were and what we should do with them. The menu ended up being Spring rolls in rice wrappers with noc cham dipping sauce, roasted root vegetables, and mixed green salad with chicken and Asian dressing. While we ate, everyone made their own spring rolls, and we chatted about food, and everything that related to food. The session in the kitchen was well received by everyone, which led us to decide as a group to continue with the kitchen meetings and collaboratively cooked lunch. 

Last week, we met again in the kitchen for 9am, and after a quick recap the agenda, we set out to make our meal, while going over project updates and check-ins. There was free flowing conversation in the kitchen, and people worked away at the chosen recipes. Indian food was our chosen theme for the cook, and the menu was Butter Chicken, Dal Makhani, and naan bread.


We opted to make everything from scratch, hence us starting to cook first thing in the morning. The naan dough needed time to rise, everything needed to soak or reduce, so the kitchen was the best place for us to have our session conversations, while we all collaborated on the recipes. The food was amazing, and again, I felt the location worked well with everyone. Maybe it’s just me, but I think everyone seems more at home sitting at a kitchen table. Maybe I just have a good group, who can always chat about the issue at hand, but I feel like being in the kitchen helps.  

I have a few more CFL sessions to plan, and aside from field trips or something that may take us on adventures outside of usual location, I foresee us hanging out in the kitchen more often than not. The collaborative cooks have been a good way for us to make lunch, try new cuisines, learn new techniques, and have more food-related discussions as we work our way through recipes together. 

In closing, the more we meet in the kitchen, the more I feel like it’s the best place for our group. I wouldn’t discount the idea of having your next board meeting in a kitchen. Based on some of the great discussions we’ve had at our CFL sessions, it wouldn’t surprise me if the next great idea, solution, or invention, came from a discussion around a kitchen table.

Thanks for reading,  

Mandy da Costa,

Community Food Leader Program Facilitator, Cumberland County

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