Boulder Food Rescue

Feast of Fermentation 2017

It’s been a busy summer, people. I got back from Oregon and hit the ground running with work, a book project (stay tuned!) and digging in on preparations for the 5th Annual Feast of Fermentation for the Boulder Food Rescue. It’s happening on September 23rd, at the Avalon Ballroom. Last year was my first time cheffing the FoF, and it was such an amazing time, I’m doing it again. (And honestly, for as many years as they’ll let me.)

In addition to some great local beers from the likes of Nighthawk Brewery and Montucky Cold Snacks, a homebrew competition sponsored by Boulder Fermentation Supply, a silent auction full of great items to bid on for any budget, and some highly danceable tunes from The New Family Recipe, my super talented (and a lot more organized than me) sous chef Elizabeth and I are developing taco bar and noodle bowl menus that are going to make your facehole so very happy. We’ll utilize not only a TON of delicious fermented product like kim chi, sauerkraut, salsas and hot sauces from the excellent folks at Ozuke and McCauley Family Farm, but also bring in other products grown and produced by companies in and around the Boulder, Colorado area. Also, the  Boulder County Farmer’s Market has hooked us up with market dollars to round out the menu with gorgeous, local, farm fresh produce. You guys, if you’ve never gone on a full blown farmer’s market shopping spree, let me tell you, it’s 100% some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my pants on. And getting to turn all that lovely produce into yummies for hundreds of members of my community? Pinch me! So cool!

If you live in the Denver/Boulder area, please come join us! I promise you’ll have a good time, and you’ll support an organization that is passionate about reducing food waste and bringing nutritious food to low income residents in Boulder and Broomfield counties. Win-Win, right? Tickets are $45 for an all you can eat, all you can (safely) drink, dance your face off evening of fun. But, if you can round up 5 friends to go with you, the individual ticket price for each person in the group of six is $35.

If you don’t live nearby, I’m not going to leave you empty handed. Behold! Instructions on how to put together your own quick, easy, and tasty noodle bowls. This should make enough for four large bowls.

Equipment:
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cups & measuring spoons
Blender or food processor
Large pot for boiling water or broth
Tongs for portioning everything into bowls
Small serving bowl and spoon for the sauce

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup peanut, almond, or cashew butter
3 tablespoons fresh ginger (the stuff in the tube is fine)
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup Mirin (rice wine vinegar)
A healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Additional salt to taste, if the soy sauce alone doesn’t work for you

Puree everything together in a blender or food processor until all the ingredients are incorporated.

For the Noodles:
1 14oz box rice noodles
10 oz boiling water or broth, for extra flavor (veggie, chicken, mushroom, beef… whatever floats your boat)
3 peeled and crushed garlic cloves
Healthy pinch of salt

Bring the water or broth to a boil. Add the crushed garlic and the salt, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the garlic “steep” in the liquid for about 5 minutes, then remove. Add the noodles to the hot liquid and cover. They’ll be soft enough to eat in 5-7 minutes.

The toppings:
Literally any combination of fresh veggies will work here, plus about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of your preferred protein, pre-cooked. If you’re drawing a blank, here are some ideas:

Proteins:
Poached shrimp
Baked or grilled chicken, sliced
Sliced steak
Firm tofu, cubed or cut into matchsticks and sauteed
Tempeh
Seitan

Veggies:
Julienne bell peppers
Sliced mushrooms
Bean Sprouts
Thinly sliced carrots
Snow peas
Sliced cabbage
Bamboo shoots
Sliced celery
Sliced jalapenos
Sliced greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, beet greens)

Garnishes:
Thin sliced green onions
Cilantro
Chopped nuts
Chow mein noodles
Crispy roasted chickpeas

I don’t think there’s a bad combination here, so go crazy kids!

A Feast of Fermentation

Credit for BFR event photos: Ainslie O’Neil

Sometimes, The Universe conspires to give you a really great opportunity. Typically, it’s not some random chance, but happens as the result of something you yourself put into motion long ago. Maybe you forgot about it, but The Universe didn’t. I guess you could say this post is about the power of intention, and the momentum that can be created simply by saying a thing out loud.

Remember way back in May, when I attended the Forward Food Summit? During our lunch break, I signed up to be available as a volunteer for the Boulder Food Rescue. I didn’t have any real idea how I could be helpful, but, of course, when the form asked me about special skills I wrote down things like cooking and menu planning. Maybe I could teach a cooking class or something? I very firmly believe that community food rescues like the ones in Boulder and Denver are the key to solving our hunger crisis in this country. Being involved in this critical solution has been pretty high on my priority list for a long time now.

Fast forward to July 13th, when an email popped into my inbox with the subject line, “Seeking cook [Boulder Food Rescue].” They asked if I might be interested in helping them out with their annual fundraiser, Feast of Fermentation. I went thinking they were just looking for a volunteer to help cook some food, but after a quick meeting with Hana, the executive director of the BFR, I was officially the head chef of the whole shebang. *GULP*

The event took place on my 41st birthday– September 9th. Our menu included a baked potato bar, taco bar, sourdough waffle bar, and a brats & sauerkraut station. We had tons of great fermented food like kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented firecracker onions donated by local producers on the menu, along with my own fermented peaches and pickled grapes, fermented Bloody Mary ketchup, and beer cheese sauce, to name just a few of the yummy toppings we created.

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We were expecting somewhere between 180 and 200 people to show up, but ended up with about 240. Thanks to some kind of crazy “loaves and fishes” type of miracle, everyone was well fed and happy. I guess when you’re doing good things, stuff just works out, yeah?

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Along with all that great food, attendees sampled offerings from competitors in a home brew beer competition, as well as local breweries and distilleries. They also bid on a bunch of cool items and experiences, donated by local merchants. in a silent auction. The grand total raised that night? $10,700! That money will go towards continuing the amazing programs the BFR has in place to rescue food from local grocery stores, restaurants, and community farms and gardens, and redistribute it to those in need.

I’m so proud of what we all accomplished that night, and blown away by all the amazing volunteer help we had to prep the food, serve it, set up the event space, and clean it all up at the end of the night. Seeing what a small group of very determined people can do with just a few resources and whole lot of passion has me convinced that the issues of hunger and food insecurity CAN be solved.

On a personal note, I also believe that this type of work is exactly what I’m meant to be doing. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling to find my place in this movement. Writing about it never seemed like it would ever be enough. Now that I’ve got this event under my belt, I’m ready for what’s next!

What’s that, you ask? At the end of this month, I’ll be headed to Portland, Oregon to join fellow members of a group called Kitchen Warfare in serving breakfast to residents of the Right2DreamToo Unhoused Community rest site. This is the second such meal our group has been involved with at the R2DToo site. I had to organize the last one from here in Colorado, but this time I actually get to be on the ground. I’m so excited!

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We’re looking for just a little bit of financial help to make sure we can cover the cost of food. If you’re able to help, please visit our GoFundMe page. Even $5 helps– but of course, so do prayers, good vibes, and messages of support. We’re hoping this is an effort we can continue at similar camps around the country, so our success in Portland will help provide the momentum we need to keep the love coming.

If you’re looking for a way to help out in your community, just shoot me a message at gonnacookthat@gmail.com, and I’ll help you do the research and provide suggestions. Get on board this love train, folks! There’s plenty of room.

 

 

Hungry at Home: What is Food Justice?

It’s 8am on a Saturday morning, and organizers of the Forward Food Summit in Denver are setting up tables, audio equipment, and projectors at the Mercury Cafe for a day of conversation focused on issues of food and economic justice.

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It’s snowing outside, fulfillment of a promised spring snowstorm for the Denver metro, but attendees all received an email the day before letting us know that even Mother Nature wouldn’t keep the summit from happening. Last minute arrangements were made for those who couldn’t make it in on snowy roads to participate remotely, and that was about as much acknowledgement as the weather would receive. As people start to trickle in, the energy and excitement build and soon what’s happening outside becomes inconsequential.

Hunger, food insecurity, and food justice are complex issues. While I understood this on an intellectual, “Oh, I read an article about that,” level, it wasn’t until I found myself in this room full of people on the front lines of the fight that I began to really feel the full depth and breadth of what’s at stake. Even my own experience didn’t prepare me for just how enormous a topic we were about to tackle. The day, designed through cooperative effort of the Denver and Boulder Food Rescues, would leave us all wondering how we could learn more, say more, be more, do more, to bring light and resolution to these often overwhelming issues.

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Our discussions that day started with an introduction to the Community Language Cooperative, whose volunteer translators helped make sure both English and Spanish speaking participants could be included in the conversation. That was lesson one—the recognition that people from every background, socioeconomic status, and country of origin have a role to play, and that means a multilingual approach is absolutely vital. Not every hungry person speaks English, and in order to help them, to have the best perspective on their experience, we have to make sure that we can understand them, and they can understand us.

This discussion flowed naturally into the topic of privilege. What advantages do you have that make your access to even the most basic necessities less challenging? Access to food—nutritious food to fuel your mind and body to learn and grow… to education—quality education that will prepare you for a future that gives you options, and even greater access to jobs that pay well enough to support you and your family in a way that helps foster a cycle of greater access to the next generation. The advantages or disadvantages of each generation is what sets up the next one for success or struggle. By recognizing what privilege is, and how it becomes a living, breathing character in the story of a life, we start to see how the deck can be stacked against entire groups of people—your neighbors, your friends, your kid’s classmates, your colleagues.

Throughout the rest of the day, we would talk about and dispel many of the myths surrounding living wage legislation. “It’s will raise the price of everything!” some say. But what if, instead, it gave more people the wage needed to not just subsist, but to thrive? Economists will tell you that more people buying more new things—new TVs, computers, cars, and homes, is what allows for economic growth, job creation, and better investment in education and infrastructure. What if, by raising the minimum wage, we were giving another entire population of people the ability to contribute to their local, regional, and national economies?  Living wage panelist Maggie Gomez from 9 to 5 Colorado summed it up best when she said, “If you work 40 hours a week, you should be able to feed yourself.” A living wage provides dignity to every job, simple as that.

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We would talk about food deserts—entire neighborhoods without access to a grocery store, farm stand, farmer’s market, or community farm. For those without cars, this means a long, physically demanding trip to and from the nearest food source, which could be as much as an hour away by bus. Or, it might mean it’s just easier to go to the fast food restaurant up the street, where, thanks to cheap, low quality ingredients, dinner for a family of four can be had for about 20 bucks. All of us can understand the snowball effect rolling from that scenario—health problems due to poor diet that aren’t addressed due to lack of access to proper healthcare and nutrition education, no time off from work to go to the doctor anyway, and children who are going to school under-nourished, making it harder for them to pay attention in class and retain what they’ve learned. This is how a cycle is perpetuated.

We would talk about the successes, too. An entire Denver neighborhood full of families who helped teach each other how to grow their own food.  They’re now in the process of opening a local food cooperative called Re:Vision Co-op. Or, a group of women from the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhood in Denver who are working together to start several food related micro-businesses. They’ve spent weeks and months taking advantage of every bit of training and education they could get their hands on to learn about topics from nutrition, to sanitation, to how to start a business. One woman dreams of owning a fleet of food trucks, serving healthy Latin cuisine. Another wants to open her own bakery, utilizing fresh fruits to help make traditional Latin American pastries lighter and more nutritious. Looking around during this panel discussion, there didn’t seem to be a single one of us in the audience who wasn’t inspired and moved by these women, who, despite a pile of disadvantages, understood the value of what they could do for their neighborhood with just a little help.

“We need help to make these businesses successful. What we offer in return is our hard work, and job creation…To dream is a beautiful thing, and together, I know we will achieve our dreams.”

This is the first of a four part series on hunger and food insecurity, as told through the experiences of the authors. We’ll share their personal stories, and find out that hunger is exactly where you think you’d find it, and in many places you wouldn’t. In the meantime, please join in the discussion here, on Facebook, or Twitter. What’s happening in your town to help fight hunger, and create food justice?