This growing season I had the pleasure to take part in the CFAN (Cumberland Food Action Network) Farm to Food Bank Project. A total of 8 free sessions were planned, partly designed by the availability of seasonal local produce, affordability, simplicity of execution, and, the use of pulses (accessible, nutritious, and cheap).
Four cooking sessions took place in the kitchen of *Maggie’s Place, a busy family resource centre in the heart of Amherst, along with four food sampling sessions hosted at the Amherst Food Bank. The themes were divided as such: Starters, Salads, Vegetarian Main, and Soups. Keeping in mind the use of beans, several recipes were made including them such as: hummus, black bean dip quesadillas, tabouleh, curried red lentil & squash soup, vegetarian chilli and lentil shepherd’s pie.
Maggie’s Place was a fantastic location to host the workshops. With a clientele of (mostly) mother’s of young children, Maggie’s Place offers a secure, welcoming haven where children are looked after while participants can take part in the workshops. Each workshop was designed to be hands-on. All participants took full part in the making of each dish. Ingredients and instructions were laid out, each station equipped with cutting boards and knifes. As the participants worked away, the conversation rolled, tips were exchanged, stories shared. It was a lovely atmosphere. Karen Leblanc, long time worker at Maggie’s Place, knows everyone. She has been resourceful all her life, knows how to stretch a dollar, and turn a box of Stove Top and a can of tuna into tasty fish cakes. Her presence is precious and so is her knowledge. Her heart is as big as it gets.
Same story goes at the Food Bank where everyone knows Karen. She likes food to be moved. No need for it to sit on shelves. She is quick to arrange bags to go from what sits on the take away shelves. The day we served salads it so happened that bags of pasta, loads of sweet red peppers, garbanzo beans, and croutons were up for grabs. In no time Karen had ready to go pasta salad bags, recipe included. How timely to be serving pasta salad that day!
Back at Maggie’s Place for the last cooking workshop, I had the pleasure to work alongside chef Mandy da Costa (above). She demonstrated to the participants how to make broth from scratch; deboning a chicken, adding onion, carrots, celery, thyme to the pot. No need to peel the carrot or remove onion skin. Start it off with cold water and only bring to a simmer. Everyone was attentive and appreciated her skills. A hamburger soup and a curried lentil squash soup were made that day. One participant was eating lentils and squash for the first time. One was delighted by the taste of freshly squeezed lemon juice on top of the soup. More tips exchanged, food shared, skills enhanced.
I have been told a few times now that one way to food sustainability is to learn how to cook. By cooking our own meals we not only know what goes into our dish but we may control its source. Using fresh local ingredients, maybe growing them ourselves, learning how to use all that is available such as the carcass of a chicken and whole vegetables, making the most of a thin budget while getting a balanced diet creatively using various pulses, is certainly a way to put our energy the right place. By sharing our knowledge, techniques, tips, and resources, we empower each other onto a healthier and more sustainable path. We take control of our health, the health of our community, and the sustainability of our local resources.
Maggie’s Place : http://www.cumberland.maggiesplace.ca/
Guest Blog by Catherine Bussiere
Catherine is a local artist, film maker and fabulously talented foodie in Cumberland.
You can visit her website at: www.catherinebussiere.com
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