in search of an inconsistent product – for the love of craft, and chocolate

24 May

As we prepare for our Food & Garden camp this summer, we are highlighting innovative leaders that are stepping into sustainable practices, and opening their doors for the rest of us to learn from. Mast Brothers Chocolate – is a great example. Two brothers from Iowa, that came to New York a decade ago to study culinary arts and film, decided to make their passion and committment to creat something sustainable and beautiful – for the sheer adventure of it, by opening a chocolate factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Their story, that includes sail boats and sustainable farming and equal exchange, is a beautiful one. But one of the things I most love about them, is their wrapping. They individually wrap each bar in butcher type paper, covered in designs made by themselves, their friends and their families that they print in-house. While much of  the world focuses on perfection and mass quantities of a sellable something, the Mast brothers focus on creating a high quality product, with a human touch. The beauty, and the inconsistency, is part of the craft they actually seek.

Today at Butter Beans, as we reviewed some feedback from students in one of our student food committees (these groups are set up for interested students to talk about lunch – about the menu, about our sourcing, our recipes, about growing – all things relating to our food chain – students have wonderful curiosity!). and one student posed the question that touched on this very topic of craft: “Why don’t your lemon bars (we serve dessert on Fridays) all look exactly the same like they do in a store?

I loved this question. It reminds me of our purpose, it reminds me of our connection to this idea of craft. In the case of Butter Beans, our purpose is to serve delicious school food made from scratch with love and sensibility about the balance of flavors, color, nutrition, accessibility, and seasonality. Our purpose is to help create a link between school communities and the food we eat, and we do this by first and foremost, serving delicious food.

If you’ve made a tray of cornbread or brownies at home – you have probably experienced an edge that came out thinner than an opposing edge. This kind of irregularity, happens sometimes when left to human hands, and we believe this human touch is worthwhile. We want our kids to get their hands dirty, to experiment with flavors and colors for the sake of doing so. We want to encourage curiosity about how things work, get created, grow, taste, and transform. We want children (of all ages) to feel inspired by their casserole, even if it didn’t come out quite as expected, to feel pride when serving up their homemade tomato sauce they learned to make from scratch, and to celebrate their growing carrot – whether it grew straight and strong, or whether it bumped into a few stones below the ground and grew curvy to get around them. And, we want children to ask questions about why their cornbread slice, or lemon bar slice, was thinner than their neighbors. The more questions, the better. It allows for added curiosity, for understanding and appreciation of all that goes into creation.

We are excited to be partnering with the Mast brothers this summer where our campers will get their own behind the scenes tour and tasting of the only chocolate factory in the city dedicated to an old world chocolate making process that takes 37 days to complete. Check them out! And if you know any 7-12 year olds who would like to join us on our summer adventures through our food chain, send them our way. We’ll be sure to send them back to you with tasty samplings to share.

One Response to “in search of an inconsistent product – for the love of craft, and chocolate”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Happy Holidays! (and last minute gift ideas) « ButterBeansKitchen's Blog - December 22, 2011

    […] anytime to splurge, it’s the holidays. Luckily Mast Brothers, located in Brooklyn (another Butter Beans Camp favorite!), makes it easy.  They use organically farmed cacao beans for their craft chocolates.  Our […]

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