Reflections on Our First Dinner

It went well, really well. All the ingredients made it to the kitchen, most of them made it into the food… except the sage, which I forgot and is still sitting in the fridge. The food all came out the right temperature at the right time, and people had fun.

But I’m a perfectionist on a mission – I want my ingredients to be 100% local, and after 2 full weeks of hunting down ingredients like it was my full time job (because well, it sort of is), I only managed to get 26% of my ingredients from a source that was within 100 miles of where the meal is being prepared and served. Our average ingredient traveled ~760 miles. That feels like a huge failure.

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Legacy Gardens

I met Toni on Noreen Thomas’s Mystery Food Tour (totally worth checking out if you haven’t!). Sometime between quietly touring an Amish Homestead and impulse buying an apple tree, I learned that Toni was a farmer. I asked if she happened to have any Kale for a dinner I was planning and she said “sure!” and quickly rattled off all the other produce she had available.

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What’s in season?

Years ago I was wandering through a grocery store chain with an Italian friend, muttering “are raspberries in season?” She was shocked that an American would be thinking about seasonality in produce. Though I accepted her praise, (like you do) it made me feel a little guilty – I still had no idea if they were in season and wouldn’t until years later, when I lived in a cabin in the woods surrounded by wild raspberry bushes.

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Fargo Family Dinner: Summer 2016

Documenting my 9-week journey to create a local, sustainable, affordable, balanced, satisfying and tasty meal in Fargo, ND

There are a lot of reasons to eat local. When I lived in Vermont, I found myself doing so almost by accident. I’d poke into the farmer’s market to pick up Melissa’s honey, or drive out to Laurie’s farmstand for some raw milk. Local eggs were everywhere and I could even sign up for a yearly consignment of local pork chops from Jill.

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Can a food market bring a fragmented community together?

“I was studying abroad in Argentina,” says Caroline Myers, Communications Coordinator for Marketshare. “My Spanish skills weren’t very strong and my host mother made a big dinner for me for my birthday. I was really homesick. I was turning 21. I didn’t have many friends.

“My host family had a house out in the country and they took me there and prepared the most delicious meal, an Argentine Asado (barbecue), for me. It was the best meal I had while I was there. The best part had to be the dulce de leche ice cream covered with bananas.

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What Makes a Good Host Anyway? Part 2

In Part 1 of What Makes a Good Host Anyway?, Carolyn and I laid out the broad strokes of event planning … but I’m never going to throw a gala (… god, I hope I’m never going to throw a gala) so how can I scale this down to the kind of event I find most challenging: A well-facilitated collaborative conversation?

Annie Swank of Drink Tank does this professionally, working at “the overlap between design thinking and dinner parties”.

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Michelle Eats World

So I guess it’s possible that you’re reading this blog but don’t have any idea who I am or what I’m doing this year… which is crazy because I feel like I must have told everyone on the planet by now.

Top Level: I’m spending the year studying how to build resilient communities (and as of late, that exploration has drifted into the food world, yay!) while designing my own education at Experience Institute (now accepting applications for 2016!)

More: If you want to know a little bit more about me and why I’m tiptoe-ing into the food world as I explore community, I wrote the following article for my program.

For almost 4 years, I lived in rural Southern Vermont.

There, I had the unexpected pleasures of being able to grow my own food and of having friends who owned small farms. It was easy to make my husband a plate of pasta and know that the tomatoes and basil were from my garden, that I’d made the cheese from milk from Laurie’s farm and that the eggs in the noodles were a gift from Ellen Stimson’s  chickens. I knew that the plate of food was made with love at every stage.

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