I recently had the pleasure of leading a food skills workshop with some lovely women at Autumn House in Amherst, NS (http://autumnhouse.ca/). We got together to cook a lunch from scratch and while it may not sound too eventful, it was more than just spending a couple of hours together in the kitchen. It was a relaxing and intimate opportunity to make new connections and to discuss what food means to us.
We started this very informal food skills class by having tea and coffee while looking over the recipes, sharing our thoughts on what we liked and how to express creativity and personal preferences in the dishes we were going to prepare together. We decided on a work flow, duties, and time frame. And then, we got to it. We helped each other along the way, stirring, tasting, chopping, and adjusting flavours. All the while, we chatted and got to know each other a little better. That’s the best part about slow food – we not only get to eat something delicious, but we have time to have some fun in the kitchen! Preparing a meal from scratch allowed us the chance to be part of a team where we could collaborate and be creative. And in no time at all, we were sitting down to a fabulous meal of homemade carbonara sauce on fettucine noodles, followed by warm corn bread fresh out of the oven.
Here is the recipe we used for the tasty corn bread:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (or cream)
1 egg well beaten
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease a square baking pan. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in a different bowl. Combine the two bowls and stir until flour is blended. Spread into greased pan and bake around 20 minutes. Serve hot, with butter or jam.
For some of the women in attendance, the workshop was a chance to eat the first home cooked meal they had had in a long time. Many said they didn’t have the time or energy to cook and might just heat up something in the microwave of walk up to the Tim Horton’s, but that this was noticeably so much more enjoyable and healthy. Several commented that it can be really simple to prepare a meal from scratch and that they felt inspired to do more home cooking and baking in the future.
My connection with Autumn House does not stop at cooking classes. My farm has provided the shelter with a wide range of organic vegetables over the last three years, through the Cumberland County Cost-Share CSA Local Food Box Program (http://cumberlandfoodactionnetwork.ca/cost-share-csa/). Each week during the growing season, Autumn House staff will come to the farm to pick up a large veggie box and will stock their kitchen with fresh, wholesome produce. The weekly food box helps improve access to fresh local veggies for the residents of the women’s shelter and sometimes the staff use it for food skills classes with the residents. Whereas many “good food boxes” are comprised of often cheaply produced food and low quality produce, my farm is honored to participate in the Cumberland Cost-Share CSA, which is filled with entirely local, organic produce. This not only benefits the health of those receiving the food box (as they are not being exposed to toxic chemicals in their food), but it helps our area farms! This approach to subsidized food boxes is also beneficial to our environment, as it decreases the distance food travels. It really is a win-win-win situation.
Staff and residents of Autumn House, along with their children, have also visited our farm for organized tours in the past, which has enabled them to meet the person growing some of their food. For many on the tour, especially the children, this was their first time on a farm and they seemed to really enjoy the experience. We hope to do it again this year. For us, being a part of our local community, is what it’s all about and we cherish this relationship that we are developing with this very important community organization.
Above: Del harvesting beans at Side By Each Farm
To donate to the Cost-Share CSA Local Food Box Program see: https://www.ecologyaction.ca/costshareCSA
Guest blog by: Del Seto. Del is a Food Skills Programmer in Cumberland County and operates Side By Each Farm with her husband Steve in Brookdale, NS.
All photos courtesy of Side By Each Farm