Grant-making has always been my favorite part of our family foundation so when the grant committee needed someone in Seattle to make a site-visit to one of our applicants, I jumped at the chance. FEEST (Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team) is an awesome organization that I’ve written about before. They are doing work that I am deeply passionate about – building community through shared meal experiences.
I was invited to join students, FEEST staff and other community members at Evergreen High School to prepare and eat dinner together. Arriving mid-afternoon at the Home Economics room took me right back to middle school memories. I joined the circle around a table of ingredients as one of the students explained the FEEST community agreements and safety tips. We started with introductions – name, rate of your day from 1-10, and one food you can’t live without for the rest of life. I guessed my day was about a six and offered eggs as my food. Some people were having amazing days, some not so much. Favorite foods around the circle included chocolate and berries – I started to feel I was in the right place! Next we discussed the ingredients in front of us and options for preparing them. And then the meal planning began. Using a method I’m familiar with from grad school called “Yes, and…” we built a menu from the items on the table. One student got us started by naming chicken and pasta as our first dish. The next student built on that with “yes, and… spinach for the chicken and pasta.” The next person in the circle offered “yes, and…smoothies.” The collaboration was inspiring. A few times around the group with contributions from all, we had our dishes:
I got to be on a team with Mariam, to create the stir fry. Everyone got to work chopping, mixing and cooking to a groovy teenage playlist. The space was perfect – plenty of stoves, sinks and counterspace to go around. Staff worked with students to offer tips and creativity filled the room. In about an hour we had a lovely table and more than enough food. We sat down together and I learned about other traditions the FEEST community has developed. Before eating, we shared in several rituals: we each offered one thing we were thankful for, teams introduced their dish and the ingredients used, and finally we took turns serving each other before diving in. What a meal!
After enjoying the fruits of our labor, we all pitched in to clean up. Soon I was in my car on my way home, my day having climbed to a perfect 10. Funny how community and cooking can do that.