Lessons Learned

Tonight was our last Food & Sustainability class — the very thing that inspired this blog!  In honor of our last formal meeting as a group we were asked to bring a dish that summed up what we learned over the past 7 weeks.

I couldn’t make up my mind, so I brought two dishes: black beans & wheatberries and brussels sprout & cashew salad.

First, the black beans & wheatberries.  There’s a bit of a story behind this dish.  This past year I decided to hunt down some local fixin’s beyond farmer’s market produce.  I researched some Illinois farms, came up with a recipe of all ‘local fixin’s’, filled a ton of jars, and created a unique Christmas gift for my friends, family and other folks!

To prep my ingredients for tonight, I soaked a jar of dried black beans and wheatberries (together) overnight.

This morning before work, I put the beans, grains and dried herbs into the crock pot with water, garlic, salt and a diced onion.

Why this dish?

One of the major takeaways for us from this class has been an awareness of what others around the world eat, and the luxury that it is for us to cook and eat whatever we want every night of the week (even though we consider ourselves to be on a tight budget!).  This meal is pretty basic, but also nutritionally dense and cheap to make. 

About 10 minutes before we left tonight I decided to make a second dish which has become one of my favorites — shredded brussels sprouts with maple syrup and cashews.  This recipe is easy and the end result is really flavorful.

First, I sauteed shredded burssels sprouts in olive oil.

Once it began to turn golden I added cashews and about 2 T of maple syrup.

Why this dish?

One exercise that we did as a group that Craig and I loved  was a conscious eating practice.  (Check out this previous post that describes that experience in depth.)  I made this meal thinking of each ingredient, how it is grown, what the nutritional benefits are, and the hands that harvested each plant and prepared it to be sold.

Combined these two dishes might seem like an odd pair, but the flavors actually complemented each other well and the thought behind each dish was meaningful.

People in our group brought a wide variety of potluck items — fresh cherries, beet salad, buckwheat, chickpea salad, homemade spicy hummus, corn relish, greek salad, and others that I know I’m forgetting.  It was fun to hear each person’s item or recipe along with the major lessons that they’ve learned over the last 7 weeks.

Our last activity was to list 3 action items — things that we’d like to change or work on in the upcoming 6 months.  It was inspiring to hear people’s goals, so I thought I’d pass on the inspiration and share a few:

  • Invite someone over for dinner once a week.
  • Purchase only fair trade coffee & bananas.
  • Eat less processed foods.
  • Accept hospitality.
  • Be more aware of homeless people in my neighborhood and offer food in thoughtful ways.
  • Read a book about food justice.
  • Volunteer at an urban garden.
  • Go to an ethnic grocery store and ask for advice about preparing unique ingredients.
  • Compost.
  • Get to know a farmer at my local farmer’s market.
  • Eat lunch away from my computer.

Do any of you have practices that you’d like to adopt or things you’d like to change regarding food, cooking, or hospitality?

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