The Hunger Games – Chelsea LakePosted by in The YES blog
On March 9th, The YES staff team rushed around grabbing knives, and pots and cutting boards eager to get started on their dish. It was Staff Retreat Weekend and the Hunger Games had begun. Herbs were flying, onions tears were rolling down cheeks, and people looked with puzzlement at their ‘secret’ ingredients.
The theme was Mexican, and four teams were created to make a meal for the 20 or so staff present. Each team was allowed to bring whatever ingredients and recipes they wanted, but had to be ready for the 4-5 ‘secret’ ingredients that I would provide them. These ingredients had to be both present, and prominent in their dishes.
The Entrée District had been given a pineapple, limes, cilantro and a whole Red Snapper as their secret ingredients. Cody was busy stuffing an apple in the snapper’s mouth, and decorating it with lime slices.
Team Insulin (Desserts), already having shown up with a recipe for Mexican donuts was trying to figure out how to incorporate Mascarpone cheese, cinnamon sticks, husked coconuts and passion fruits into the dish.
Sides started boiling their wild rice, chopping their mangoes and shallots, and forgot about their oyster mushrooms for the time being, while appetizers began to construct an avocado fruit salad and chipotle salsa.
I was traveling around between the groups, offering help, chopping fruits, and answering questions. “How do you know when the fish is done?”, “What’s a passion fruit and how do you use it?”, “How much jalapeno is too much?”
I grew up in a family that highly valued food. Dinner each night included a healthy meal, cooked with whole foods, and with love. My parents, sister and I would sit down together, discuss our days, and eat a variety of vegetables, proteins and salad. Always salad.
Beyond our meals together, my education in food came from our ever-present garden. We always had rows of lettuce, beets, carrots, peas, beans, broccoli, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and more.
My mom was also always very interested and knowledgeable about the healing and nutritional properties of food. I grew up knowing that beets are high in iron, bananas contain potassium, and yogourt is full of healthy bacteria.
I think that it was these three components: our family dinner table, our garden, and nutritional health that began my passion for food and cooking.
I have worked in a few kitchens. Most notably at Radha, a vegan and raw-food restaurant in Vancouver’s China Town area. It was there that I started to learn more chef skills, like how to handle a knife, and what ‘julienning’ meant. Also, during my time living on Maui I had the pleasure of catering a yoga retreat for 18 people. It was there that I got to practice ‘plating’, and really honed my skills for cooking multiple dishes, for multiple diets. This job was particularly hard, and also rewarding seeing as we were working in an outdoor kitchen, on a cliff overlooking the ocean in one of Hawaii’s most remote locations.
It was there that I got to pick beans in Woody Harrelson’s biodynamic garden, and get herbs from Laulima – the farm collective across the road, where smoothies are made with a bicycle blender.
I really get excited about cooking. It’s something that I do in my own life as a creative outlet, and also as a way to build community, and friendships. It’s a way of spreading love as an Act of Service (one of the five love languages), helping to nourish people, offering comfort, creating art, cooperating, and having fun. It is because of all of these things that I love to get others cooking, trying out new ingredients, overcoming challenges, being creative together, and feeding each other.
The world is in a food crisis, and yet in North America we waste 50% of all of our food. Some gets wasted before it has even been distributed, tons gets thrown away at the grocery store, more gets wasted in our kitchens, and then more again gets tossed from our plates into the trash.
I believe that we have become disconnected from our food. When we don’t understand where our food comes from, we don’t know the path it takes to our tables, and we don’t pay attention to where it goes when it’s wasted, how can we make good decisions?
In the developed world, we have 20% of the world’s population, but we are responsible for 80% of the resource consumption, and much of those resources are being wasted
At camp we have a saying, “Take what you need, and eat what you take.” I would like to continue that food waste challenge, forever, but I’d also like to propose a new challenge: make and eat a meal with the people you love. It’s that simple.
If you do this, please send a picture, and a short paragraph to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post them in an upcoming blog.
The YES Staff made the most amazing, nutritious, delicious and creative Mexican Meal I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Red Snapper avec pomme, four kinds of Guacamole (using 20 avocados), avocado fruit salad, mango salsa, raspberry salsa, chipotle salsa, fresh tomato salsa, two kinds of Spanish rice, beans, beef, 3 kinds of tortillas, oyster mushrooms with caramelized onions and salad. Always salad.
The Hunger Games were a complete success, and we ate together as a staff family.
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