Saturday, 29 September 2012

Post-Birthday Cooking

Dark chocolate toasted marshmallow smores cake
On Wednesday, the calendar once again marked yet another year of my life and quite naturally food just had to be a part of it. However, this year I found myself in the unusual (but necessary) mode of fort builder as I've been lately dealing with pesky rodents (#firsttimehomeownerproblems) and coupled with the unusual (but not surprisingly) hectic start to the school year, I eventually decided to save the cooking experiences to after my birthday. And so on Thursday--yeah, it didn't take that long to move onward--I started off my day pairing my fermented cabbage with bratwurst and ending the day with glee (literally) and a chocolate cake I'm definitely ready to make again in the near future!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

FCC: To Be (or Not to Be) Informed about GMOs

As Natural Sciences Liaison Moriana Garcia of the Denison Library prefaced at the start of the fourth in this year's Food and Culture Colloquium, she approached her presentation and personal study of genetically modified organisms from the point of view of an informed consumer. Indeed, knowledge of the pros, cons, success and challenges as they pertain to GMOs aids in helping us all to make the most rational decisions possible when it comes to what we support and what we choose to eat and feed others. So, to be (or not to be) informed about GMOs? That's our question.. what's your answer?

Monday, 24 September 2012

ITKP: "Courageous Cooking Class: Fermented Foods"

With the autumn equinox upon us, the reality of cooler temperatures and gusty winds became evident as folks made their way to our second In the Kitchen Practicum. Co-sponsored by and related to our Spectrum Series's "Courage & Creativity" campus-wide theme, and with support from both the Office of Sustainability and The Open House, our "Courageous Cooking Class: Fermented Foods" program drew in about 25 participants eager to learn and inquisitive enough to try their hand at (and challenge their palates to) the world of fermentation. In actuality, as we learned throughout the practicum, we're already quite familiar with (and some perhaps arguably addicted to) fermented foods-- certainly tea, cheese, chocolate and/or coffee are known to most? But what about such traditionally prepared "staples" as kefir, kombucha and kvass? Teresa Peters, co-owner of The Going Green Store, and Erin Harvey (owner of The Kale Yard and the Going Green Store's first employee) were on site to share their own experiences with fermented foods and then to lead us in the preparation of our own jars of sauerkraut.

First Res Hall Food and Culture Programme (for the Academic Year): De-Stressing Tortillas

About an hour or so after the second In Kitchen Practicum of the academic year ("Courageous Cooking Class: Fermented Foods"), Saturday's foodie day continued with my first residential hall food and culture program of the year. Working with two resident assistants, we aimed for an interactive program that could focus on easily replicable recipes for students (in this case, seniors), and settled on making tortillas by hand-- a rather therapeutic and de-stressing process that requires nothing more than flour, fat, salt and water.

Friday, 21 September 2012

A Wednesday Foodie Kind of Evening

After this past Wednesday's Food and Culture Colloquium, colloquium participant and Denison colleague Maureen and I went to the Charity Happy Hour at the Veranda of The Hills Market which we had learned about at the tail end of Bear Braumoeller's presentation on Slow Food. Every Wednesday, a special guest serves as bartender (in this case, Bear) while a portion of the pizza sales goes to the group raising money (in this case, Central Ohio's support of its nine Terra Madre delegates).

Thursday, 20 September 2012

FCC: Community Food Enterprises in Central Ohio

This week's colloquium presentation also included a sampling, courtesy of Aimée's Blue Ribbon Spices.
This week's Food and Culture Colloquium session brought together a diverse array of experiences and interests in the form of a panel organised by Stephanie Hunt-Theophilus, Program Coordinator of the Burton D. Morgan Liberal Arts & Entrepreneurship Education Program. The panel, which followed a brief overview of this week's readings (linked toward the end of this post), circled back to many consistent themes, of which a very common one is the fact that here in central Ohio, it's all about lifting everyone up wherever they are in the process. These are very pertinent words indeed as we witnessed the convergence of entrepreneurs who had much to share about their trials and successes, lessons learned and wisdom gained, and dreams and hopes, in the shared story of community food enterprises.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

ITKP: "From Scratch Recipes from Farm to Table"

This past Saturday, three students joined me for easily the longest pre-planned In the Kitchen practicum program of the entire Food and Culture Colloquium, the length of time--3.5 hours, which eventually stretched to 4--being attributed to the fact that the first major component of the program was spent at the Granville Farmers Market. Transferred to the parking lot of St. Edward's Catholic Church in Granville (as opposed to its usual location in relatively much closer proximity to The Open House, there seemed to be something magical (and arguably larger) about this farmers market more than any other I've been to in the village. Perhaps it was because all of the vendors were centralized into two compact rows as opposed to the more spread out layout of previous markets, or maybe it was the fact that we came to the market with a heightened sense of purpose: a menu, roughly pre-planned, but entirely at the mercy of whatever was being sold that day. In many respects, our second FCC module set the stage for what will also be the closest we could come to replicating a "Slow Food"-style meal within the structure of the colloquium. Following our voyage to the market (in which we could have been willingly lost were it not for the fact that we were getting hungry just thinking about our menu), we drove back to The Open House to create, from scratch, truly hands-on dishes. For this week's practicum, and armed with a strict market budget of $20 (though prepared for as much as $27) our menu included: homemade whole wheat pasta with kale pesto; potato pancakes with microwave apple sauce; baked onion with roasted bell pepper, roma tomato, thyme and balsamic; and pawpaw chocolate chip bread. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

FCC: Slow Food Columbus and People Endorsing Agricultural Sustainability

Last Wednesday, and after having met two of our guests on Saturday, I'd say the stage was perfectly set for our second module which continued our overall September theme of the "Introduction to the Study of Food and Culture at Denison University." 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Columbus Convivium: Slow Food Columbus Dinner at Flying J Farm

In practice, I've been familiar for quite some time with farmers markets and home cooked meals, recipes from scratch and communal dining. But it was only through my grad school searches that I first learned about the concept of "slow food" and the accompanying international movement, a response to the fast food trend of the late 80s/early 90s by Carlo Petrini in Bra, Italy, site of the University of Gastronomic Sciences which opened in 2004. Now with over 1,300 convivia (local chapters) throughout the world, the Slow Food Movement continues to grow and remain committed to its founding principles: to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Recently, I found that Columbus has its own convivium (as do many major cities; in the U.S. alone, there are 225) and have been meaning to get more involved with the group. And so, when I received a particular call on Friday afternoon, I was wicked excited for what was to come the following day. The call came from one of my Food and Culture Colloquium participants, Susan Kaiser, founder and owner of Faire La Cuisine, based here in Granville, and who was first introduced to me by Denison colleague and colloquium participant, Maureen; essentially, Susan asked if I might be available and interested to help her out at Slow Food Columbus's much-anticipated annual dinner, "Shake the Hand that Feeds You". I had first heard about the dinner via the group's e-mail list serv which noted that last year's dinner sold out in 16 minutes. I'm not sure how else to emphasize this meal's popularity other than to share that from what I've heard, the tickets this year sold out in a record eight minutes! As the aforementioned web link shares, in addition to the great atmosphere and community, the proceeds of the dinner's ticket sales help fund central Ohio's nine delegates to go to Slow Food International's biennial Terra Madre conference in Torino, Italy. (The first conference, held in 2004, welcomed 5,000 delegates from 130 countries.) These nine competitively selected (by Slow Food USA's, from over 600 applicants) delegates will join others from the U.S. and those from around the world in late October. Indeed, this was an opportunity that I absolutely couldn't pass up!

Friday, 7 September 2012


Following the start of yesterday's Food and Culture Colloquium, my food ventures continued as I grocery shopped and began preparations for the first multi-course group dinner of the academic year coming from my house on Mulberry. An annual dinner meeting for our Paving the Way Ambassadors, this year's menu included: mixed greens with berries, toasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese; baked vegetables; Italian herb chicken with long grain and wild rice; mint lemonade granita; and dark chocolate salted caramel bacon brownies.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

FCC: Kicking off the Colloquium

After months of preparation and countless e-mails, Wednesday, September 5th and the official start to Denison's first-ever Food and Culture Colloquium finally arrived. Organised as a series of 24 lecture-style modules and a coordinated series of "In the Kitchen" practicums (read: cooking classes) to provide practical experience, the FCC has five aims en route to preparing participants for a field study trip to Cincinnati next April. By the end of the colloquium, it's my hope that those participating will have been: 1) exposed to a variety of themes that intersect with food, culturally or otherwise; 2) grounded in the introduction to the general field of food studies, as rooted in a liberal arts tradition and format; 3) knowledgeable of contemporary issues regarding food and foodways; 4) able to articulate food identity from a variety of lenses and complementary identities; and 5) comfortable in explaining and (ideally) preparing food. Certainly a tall order indeed! But with over three dozen individuals representing more than 24 different areas of the college and area communities, I'm confident we'll get there.