Archive for the ‘food security’ Category

A Taste of Justice

February 22, 2010

Think of agents for change in American eating habits, and Berkeley’s Alice Waters and Michael Pollan come immediately to mind.

Indeed, eat-more-greens advocates can appear as white as Wonder Bread.

On the menu at the local La Pena Cultural Center last night: some much-needed color in the conversation about good food matters.

Read my entire post on the foodcentric performance piece Visceral Feast over at Berkeleyside.

I first learned about the evening from accomplished choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith. (Full disclosure: I’ve taken Amara’s Rhythm & Motion dance class for almost two decades. The girl knows how to inspire joy and shake her booty like nobody’s business. Believe me when I say she raises the roof. There’s a reason I think of dance class as my church.)

Well, turns out, Amara, artistic director of  the Oakland-based Deep Waters Dance Theater, has been investigating edible issues, such as where food comes from and its impact on the community and the environment, in performance pieces that address the soul and spiritual connections to eating and cooking.

Last year she showcased a work in progress, “Our Daily Bread,” as part of an artist in residency at CounterPULSE, a non-profit theater in San Francisco.

Amara describes herself as “mostly vegan” not initially for political reasons but because she doesn’t care for the taste of meat. But she cooks meat for others and acknowledges her roots as a child growing up eating her mother’s gumbo.

She’s planning several food parties as part of her exploration of eating this year. One she’s dubbing Raw Meat, where she hopes raw food folk will dialogue with confirmed carnivores.

Find Amara’s Recession Root Stew recipe, inspired by the times and in the spirit of African American food traditions, right here.

It’s vegan, can feed lots of folks, and includes dinosaur kale, cilantro, and coconut milk. Sounds just the dish for a cold winter’s night.

At last night’s performance the audience was asked to share a favorite food memory.

I listed my sister’s pavlova and family barbecues with the proverbial “shrimp on the barbie” (Aussies call them prawns). And Vegemite on white toast, comfort food when you’re sick. All of these foods remind me of home.

The man seated next to me wrote simply, “I miss my mom’s chai.”

Now it’s your turn.

Photo credit: Alan Kimara Dixon

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Haiti Bakesale Benefit Update

January 25, 2010

Kudos to Samin Nosrat and her crew for raising $22,421.09 at a bakesale for Haiti in the Bay Area last Saturday.

An outpouring of cupcakes and cash came from professional chefs and home cooks in events held at three community-minded food venues: Pizzaiolo in Oakland, Gioia Pizzeria in North Berkeley, and Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco’s Mission District.

On offer: Sweet treats from current and former chefs of local eateries, including Chez Panisse, Pizzaiolo, Dopo, Oliveto, Lalime’s, Cafe Fanny, Bar Jules, Bacar, and Boot & Shoe Service. Their cakes and cookies got snapped up by folks eager to find a way to help Haitian relief efforts in the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquake.

My son and I stopped by Pizzaiolo.

We said hello to familiar faces, met Samin, and did a little sugar shopping for a good cause.

We chose these saffron cardamom beauties by anand confections. Divine.

Also Ici chocolate chip meringues, Tartine Bakery shortbread, and Bakesale Betty cookies.

And (we shared, honestly) brownies with mint-chocolate chips of unknown origin, and vanilla bean creme brulee baked by Kafe Kevo. Allegedly all good, not that I tasted everything, just reporting back, you understand.

In a quick phone chat today, Samin, who had just picked up a check for Partners in Health, a nonprofit medical aid organization long active in Haiti, expressed gratitude for folks’ contributions, both big and small. She made mention of chef-owner Charlie Hallowell at Pizzaiolo, who kicked in $5,000, which included donated tips from restaurant staff. Samin’s Anusara yoga teacher, John Friend, contributed another $5,000.

Buddy Jennie Schacht mobilized a bunch of Bay Area pastry chefs through the group The Bakers Dozen, and cookbook author Romney (Nani) Steele added her trademark granola to the mix.

At the amateur end, the girls JV Soccer Team at Sacred Heart Preparatory School in San Francisco made dozens of cookies, rice crispies, brownies, and cupcakes “all beautifully wrapped,” Samin says, “with lovely little notes that read: ‘made with love.'”

Samin is not new to cooking or fundraising bakesales. She’s held similar events outside Eccolo, a favorite Berkeley restaurant (now closed) where she worked, and netted about $2,000 to help victims of both Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Asia. “I thought they were pretty good takings for a morning’s work,” she says,  “but I’ve been overwhelmed with the display of generosity for the people of Haiti.”

And for Samin, linking fundraising to food is key. “It’s my experience that people really want to help but a lot of people are stuck. They literally don’t know what to do or how to take action,” Samin explains.

“What better way to bring people together than food?  It’s such a natural community builder.”

Do you know of other similar edible fundraisers to help Haiti? Please share your stories below.

Serving People, Serving Food, Days of Service: Help Haiti

January 20, 2010

Seem to have a food-related volunteer theme emerging this week. Not my intention but just going to run with it.

If ever there was a time to ignore the imperative Think Global, Act Local, this is it. Don’t you agree?

As I explained to my son on this week’s MLK Day of Service, we’re thinking and acting globally and locally. How can you not help Haiti?

For ideas with a food focus, check out my friend Nani Steele’s blog here or Kim Severson at the New York Times. Or learn more below.

But first, some background. Not a fan of government-initiated calls to duty. It’s my rebellious spirit. Still, the Day of Service I can get behind.

Last year, the event got a huge, historic turnout, fueled by almost-Prez Obama. But we arrived home from a trip Down Under that day, jet-lagged, discombobulated, and, basically, no use to anyone.

This year, I vowed, things would be different. We’d step up and do good.

I’m not new to volunteering. I used to read to kids in hospital when I first landed here. One child, David, was in a coma following a car accident.

Notes above his bed instructed his “book buddies” to read Dr. Seuss, his favorite author. At first it felt odd reading to a kid who couldn’t respond or move. But nonetheless every Monday night I read to that beautiful little boy, even though I doubted he would get better.

Well, of course, he did. I got to enjoy his sweet smile when I tickled him, by request, with a peacock feather. And I was, frankly, a teensy bit devastated when he was moved to a rehab hospital. I never knew what happened to him. He’d be 24 now.

Years later, following another major life change, this time back across the pond to my homeland, I took on another volunteer gig.

I lived in Sydney and taught English to a new mom, who happened to be a former art critic for a Korean daily paper.

I don’t know if her English improved but I know she appreciated contact with a local, chats about journalism, cultural differences, and where to find food from home.

Upon our return to the States I began volunteering in Berkeley public schools, including, as noted previously, at the Edible Schoolyard.

For the record: I’m not some charity groupie with too much time on my hands and no need to, you know, earn a living. On the contrary.

I’m a self-employed writer; code for often anxious, underemployed and underpaid. Major plus: flexible schedule. Mostly works. Except the anxious part, due to under bits.

And honestly folks, it’s not a huge time investment. Less time than most people watch TV in one day. Ninety minutes at Edible; two hours tops if I stay to help with clean up.

This may be my last year in my child’s classroom. What middle school kid wants his parent hanging around? SO EMBARRASSING. And so I am savoring the task assigned by his teacher, a departure from previous years, when I’ve helped small groups of kids with the 3 Rs.

I’m working one-on-one with a child to help improve her comprehension and reading and raise her confidence so she believes she can do both these things. Small success last week had us both jazzed. When it works well, giving feels good on both sides of the equation.

While I know I’m modeling worthwhile values that I hope my son will pursue, I also want him to directly participate in charitable acts.

Back to: What to do on this year’s Day of Service? I got inspiration from an unlikely source, none other than George Bush Jr. Finally heard something come out of his mouth I could agree with: “Lots of people want to send supplies to Haiti. They need money. Just send money.”

So we did. We did the text thing. Took barely a minute, hurt a little (there goes the allowance), and that was our global contribution.

Then we bagged up pantry goods to take to a local food bank, along with a bag of Meyer lemons from our abundant tree. You know that many food banks will take fresh produce, right?

This Saturday, we’ll combine global & local at a bakesale benefit for Haiti, organized by chef Samin Nosrat and hosted at Oakland restaurant Pizzaiolo, which, as you might imagine, makes a mean pizza but also divine donuts. (Two other participating Bay Area locations: Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco and Gioia Pizzeria in North Berkeley. All $$$ goes to Partners in Health.)

Because when all is said and done, it is money that matters most to the people of Haiti right now. Much of that for critical medical care to stave off death. But, equally important, for sustenance to live.

So what better way to funnel money where it’s so urgently needed than connecting cash to another basic human need. To eat. Food.

What say you?

Menu for Hope

December 16, 2009

Here’s a shout out for a worthy cause sponsored by food bloggers around the globe during this season of giving, getting, and overeating.

Menu for Hope is an annual, above board, fair dinkum, fundraising campaign to help feed hungry people worldwide. The devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia provided inspiration for the first campaign, which raises funds for the UN World Food Programme.

In the past three years alone the event has collected nearly a cool quarter of a million. This year the money goes to help local farmers in countries of need through a program called Purchase for Progress.

What is Menu for Hope? It’s essentially a virtual raffle. You plonk down 10 bucks a bid on a delicious donated item, or two or three. Could make a great holiday gift for family, friends, or, you know, maybe even your good self. Just purchase tickets by December 25. That’s next Friday.

Browse the array of prizes on the award-winning blog Chez Pim.  And kudos to Pim Techamuanvivit for kicking off this campaign six years ago.

I’m eyeing a bunch of tempting prizes up for grabs on the West Coast including foraging excursions, photography workshops, artisanal goodies and cookbooks signed by celeb chefs. Hmmm…what to choose?

Scroll below for a list of prizes in your neck of the woods hosted by five fab food bloggers & an in-the-know wine guy (high fives to you folks):

US: West Coast: Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl.

US: East Coast:  Helen Dujardin of Tartelette

Europe *and* the UK: David Lebovitz

Canada: Tara of Seven Spoons

Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand: Ed Charles of Tomato

Wine Blog Host: Alder Yarrow of Vinography

You might get lucky.  You’ll definitely do good. And feel good.

Winners announced January 18 on Chez Pim.

Let the bidding begin.