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Norman Rockwell Dinner for the VP Debate

October 13, 2012

After last week’s disaster of a presidential debate (disaster for me since I’m a FrObama supporter), all I can say is that at nearly 70 years old, Joe Biden was refreshing. I invited some of my girlfriends over for dinner before the debate; one of them had the foresight to bring a huge bottle of wine in case we needed it, which given how the last debate went and given how all our weeks were going, the wine would come in handy. 

In typical “me” fashion, I planned most of the dinner about a week before. I got 3.5 pounds of potatoes in my last CSA share and I wanted to make something delicious and comforting since the weather decided to drop about 20 degrees. The change from summer to fall always reminds me of fall in New Haven, where I experienced seasons for the first time in my life (I’m from California). About this time three years ago, a few friends and I made truffled mashed potatoes in their tiny cramped kitchen and we ate it sitting around the floor.

That was my last fall in New Haven and I’ve been a little nostalgic, so I decided to make truffle mashed potatoes as an homage for the debate, featuring Fightin’ Joe and P. Ryan. I also decided to finally try a recipe I found a while ago for baked honey mustard chicken tenders and they turned out surprisingly well thanks to the garlic powder and dried thyme I mixed into the honey-mustard “dredge.” The key is to use Japanese panko breadcrumbs for crispiness if you’re baking them vs. frying. And if you don’t have a baking rack, just be sure that you cook them on a greased baking sheet and let each side crisp up before flipping, about 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees.  

For the potatoes (Serves 4-6 sides)

1. Peel and boil 4-5 medium potatoes until soft. 2. Mince 2 cloves of garlic and bring one cup of skim milk to a simmer; add the garlic. 3. Mash the potatoes and incorporate the garlic-infused milk. Salt to taste. 4. Stir in truffle butter or truffle oil while the potatoes are still warm. 

For the chicken (we bought pre-sliced raw tenders for ~5)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. 1. Mix together 2 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp dried thyme. 2. Coat the chicken in the honey mustard mixture and let marinate for 20 minutes. 3. Coat the tenders with Japanese panko crumbs, preseasoned. 4. If you have a baking rack, place the tenders on the rack and bake for 25-30 minutes. If you don’t have one, grease a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping in between. 

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We’ve Moved!

June 28, 2011

You might have noticed that things have been a little quiet around here lately. That’s because we’ve packed up and moved on over to a brand new blog! We’ll still be maintaining this space, posting students’ long form academic work once school starts, so do check back regularly– for updates on everything else food and farming in New Haven and around the world, go see what’s going on over at the Tumblr!

Good Food Jobs

February 12, 2011

Taylor Cocalis’s motivation for founding goodfoodjobs.com with her friend Dorothy Neagle was a simple one. “We wanted to change the world before the world changed us,” Taylor told a group of undergraduates at Thursday afternoon’s Good Food Jobs event, sponsored by the YSFP with the help of Undergraduate Career Services. In their hour-long presentation, Taylor and Dorothy outlined a set of simple and practical tips for finding your place in the food movement, both over the summer and after graduation. Suggestions included making a 5-year plan, joining the food community through whatever avenues are available, being assertive, and working for free (if you have to). They emphasized the food world’s low barrier of entry, encouraging interested undergrads to try everything — cook, farm, volunteer, research, intern, read and contribute to blogs, make connections, facebook stalk, follow up. Specifically tailored to the student audience was the encouragement to make use of winter and spring breaks and reach out to Yale alumni in the field.

After Taylor and Dorothy finished, the YSFP’s own Jacquie Lewin and a few other students shared their experiences with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), through which travelers are given room and board on a farm in exchange for work. Zan Romanoff was also on hand to discuss the YSFP’s Summer Farm Internship and leading Harvest pre-orientation trips, both of which are now accepting applications.

New Haven Public Schools to Get Salad Bars

February 7, 2011

The United States Department of Agriculture unveiled its plan Thursday to award two salad bars to New Haven Public Schools as part of the the Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which will provide up to 6,000 salad bars in public schools over the next three years. Executive Director of New Haven Public School Food Services, Chef Timothy Cipriano, who has worked tirelessly in the past on programs to put healthier foods like local fruits and vegetables into school cafeterias, was one of the major proponents of the initiative.

Supermarket coming to New Haven

February 3, 2011

After nearly year without a major grocer, New Haven residents will get a full-service supermarket. Stop & Shop announced yesterday that it would open a new store in the derelict 150 Whalley Avenue space in the near future. According to the New Haven Independent, the company is “very committed” to bringing affordable groceries to the underserved New Haven community. Let’s thank the tireless work of community activists for this triumph for the Elm City.

Terra Madre: Where Local Meets Global

November 8, 2010

YSFP Program Coordinator Zan Romanoff reports on her first trip to the four-day conference:

Terra Madre, a meeting of farmers and food activists from around the globe that takes place biennially in Turin, Italy, is Slow Food’s answer to that mundane grind that is the modern conference. Instead of days packed with Powerpoints and buzzwords and long lines for bad food, Terra Madre is a four day feast of conversations, presentations, and artisanal edibles that aims to engage the senses as well as the intellect. Combined with its sister event, a market cum fairground called the Salone del Gutso, it does Slow Food’s emphasis on ethical pleasure proud, providing a forum in which one daily gets to learn by tasting.

Panels and speeches take place in the Oval, an enormous domed structure divided into makeshift rooms for the occasion. Because the conference is so resolutely global, small portable radios and headphones are handed out as you enter each talk, allowing attendees to tune into simultaneous translation of the proceedings in their native languages. This year, Vandana Shiva spoke on scarcity and hunger in a wealthy, productive world; Raj Patel called on American delegates to consider the population that grows and harvests most of the food consumed in our country, joking that the national meeting in 2012 might well be held in Spanish. I heard stories from small farmers scattered across South America in the Q&A that followed a session on Indigenous Peoples in Agriculture and listened in on a reindeer herder being interviewed by the local press.

It is, however, difficult to cultivate conversation with headphones on, waving around a tiny radio and searching for reception, and so perhaps the most vibrant part of the Terra Madre experience happens just outside these rooms, in waiting lines and workshops. The redheaded young man sitting next to me in a Salone-run tasting of port and Parmigiano Reggiano turned out to be a Canadian chef celebrating his birthday; the German brewer drawing us drafts when we went out afterwards insisted that they be gratis. I met a friend of a friend, a girl whose name I knew but who I’d never met, who was there with a project that brings gardens to AIDs patients in Rwanda. The sense of community is raucous, vibrant, deeply joyful. Despite language barriers, everyone is eager to talk.

And also, of course, to eat. The Oval is the schoolroom to the Salone del Gusto’s insane cafeteria, a series of enormous warehouse-style spaces fitted out with rows upon rows upon rows of booths offering samples of traditional, native products. Most present are Italian producers, organized by region, but there is also an international section replete with French pastries, Guatemalan coffee and Mexican vanilla, as well as lesser known fare. Many are products championed by Slow Food’s Presidia program, which helps those who make “unique, traditional or rare” foods market their product and preserve their cultural heritage.

The Salone, though modeled after a market, calls itself a fair, which is perhaps a better name—“market” doesn’t quite capture the bustling conviviality of the place, the sense that everyone has come on holiday and doesn’t mind a bit if it is occasionally too crowded to walk. You can just stand still and spear another sample of prosciutto, lardo, shepherd’s cheese and dense, delicious traditional breads.

It’s easy to imagine Terra Madre as a festival of self-indulgence, foodies from around the world gathering to gobble up rare bites from exotic lands. What makes the consumption aspect interesting is Slow Food’s insistence on the cultural value of food; stories, both historical and personal accompany the tastes. To wander through the Salone silently is to miss its essential convivial purpose; the marketplace has long been a nexus for cross-cultural human connection, and this aims to reestablish that vibrancy. Going to the supermarket is a basically mute task, an opportunity to make and then burn through a to-do list efficiently, certain of what you need and what will be available. It is a chore to perform, rote. You cannot shop the Salone in the same way; you never know what will be offered at the next table or around the corner, or what connection you will make with the person offering it.

“Responsibility without pleasure is drudgery; pleasure without responsibility is gluttony,” Slow Food USA president Josh Viertel noted in a speech to the assembled US delegates. Terra Madre and the Salone del Gusto support and inform one another, the one providing a tangible reminder of the results of the conversations taking place in the other. After a long day of simultrans, nothing is more welcome than a chat with vendors, a couple of samples, and the universal language of mmhmms that accompany good food. Inevitably, you walk home at night stunned and dizzy, far too full. In this, Terra Madre perhaps does resemble its corporate counterparts: no matter how early the next morning is coming, you always end up stretching out the day, waking exhausted and somehow still enthusiastic; yesterday has passed, and now you are hungry for more.

Fall Festivities at the Farm

October 18, 2010

The eerily ominous New Haven clouds and ever-sharper wind gusts were no match for my enthusiasm, which propelled me up the Hill. Even my Texas-blooded aversion to New England chilliness couldn’t slow me down. For today was a special day: the YSFP’s annual Harvest Festival, a day to celebrate all of the crisp weather and crisp produce a New England fall brings.

Today, my skills as an Events Intern (read: maker of delectable brick-oven farm pizza) needed to shine. While I was certain that we interns possessed the skills to make a labor-intensive farm festival look like a simple walk in the park (or a stroll through the plant beds, as it were), the public need not be fooled by our cool, collected demeanor. But perhaps they could not ever be so duped. One look at our pizza makers’ flour-dusted jeans, ash-streaked forearms, if not faces, and beet-stained “Murderer hands”—as Zan likes to call them—and anyone could see through our benevolent deceit.

As Jasmine and I got down to stretching and forming pizza-dough, Jacque got the fire started in the brick oven. The smell of wood roasting in a fire (what I like to call “The Christmas Smell”) filled the air and my mind began to wander, conjuring up romantic images of an activity we really didn’t get the chance to do much during the Texas “winters” of my childhood, when a drop in temperature to, say, 50 to 60 degrees on Christmas Eve gave us enough excuse to break out the Yule logs. The addition of birch bark made the fire just as pleasant to hear as it was to smell. We chatted casually about the beauty of the bright oranges and vibrant yellows that had begun to break forth from New Haven’s trees, especially when set against the gray that was the typical fall New Haven sky.

Ah, fall. Despite what your lack of heat did to the elasticity and rising power of my pizza dough, I will inevitably find myself waxing poetic about your finer qualities. A smile spread across my face as I realized that this Year’s Harvest Festival was providing me the perfect opportunity to do so.

In our pizza making world, fall had brought about an exciting array of new ingredients—Pesto prepared earlier in the summer and saved for such sparser produce seasons, Asian eggplants, leeks, green tomatoes, candy-stripe beets, and best of all, an abundance of butternut squash, which we sprinkled with olive-oil and coarse salt before roasting to coax out its autumnal sweetness. In addition to making pizzas, we also roasted whole cashews, hazelnuts, and almonds (to which Josh ingeniously added olive oil and rosemary) and set up a makeshift stove to heat fresh apple cider.

The crowds began to arrive around 3pm, and after 5 hours of pizza prep, we were ready to celebrate. We baked a few potato-leek-ricotta and tomato-parmesan-pesto pies, and continued to invite our visitors to take a stab at their own delicious fall creations. The apple cider warmed hands while the pizza warmed bellies, and the music of Plume Giant and other Yale student acoustic bands filled the air with a certain lightness and gaiety. The Harvest Festival successfully brought the Yale Community and many volunteers from the New Haven community together in celebration of the flavors of fall. Feelings of satiety were all around—not just of appetite, but also of spirit. -Jordan Zimmerman, ’12

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