Tag Archives: food stories

why I am a lunch lady

20 Feb

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“Scholars – will those of you who are trying tofu for the first time today please raise your hands.”

In a warm, sun-filled lunchroom nearly 100 soft hands popped right up.

With a smile, the teacher said, “Great—give yourselves a pat on the back for trying something new.” Giggles were exchanged and self-kudos dealt where due. “Alright, now will you please put your hand back up if you liked the tofu.”

That is the point at which my heart melted faster than the cheese on the lasagna we served the day before. It seemed that in a room of 100 students, almost every single hand was up, way up.

This—is why I am a lunch lady.

bean-1Butter Beans just opened up in a school that moved into a brand new location in Brooklyn. At the very start of the New Year, teachers and “scholars” (as the students are called), beamed as they entered the building for the first time with a brilliance that rivaled the glimmer of the beautiful new facility.

Serving food here has been truly monumental for both the students and the staff, and I beam with pride and joy every time a teacher recounts another success story about the impression the lunch service is having on the students and the teaching staff alike, and they just keep coming.

One teacher told me that a student said, ‘Ms. A—you have to try the Butter Beans food, it’s so good that even the teachers eat it!” Another time, I overheard a student remark, ‘This milk is so good it tastes like it came straight from the cow!’ Every week since we started serving lunch here, I’ve been amazed to have to increase the amount of vegetables that we order from the kitchen to prep and serve at the cold bar.

Teachers tell me they themselves feel markedly different in their day after being nourished by the well-balanced and love-filled meals prepared by the talented Butter Beans chefs. The principal laughed as he confided in me that one parent said that their child regularly comes home and only wants to talk about how good lunch was that day!

While there are some students who are still adjusting to our foods, like our homemade parfaits (the principal assured me that the students are used to yogurts with higher sugar content) – with a little bit of encouraging, plenty of support from the staff, and with the continuing effort of the Butter Beans team to create meals that are both healthy and tasty, one by one the scholars will come around, and they will undoubtedly feel the difference the taste makes.

This post was contributed by Madison Sheffield, Butter Beans Cooking Instructor, Curriculum Developer & Food Service Supervisor.

Photo courtesy of Andrea Nguyen

flora’s seasonal recipe: pondering persimmons

7 Jan

6290086996_8e25c56234Sitting on the train one day, a father, mother and their two daughters entered my car toting orange shopping bags filled with fresh produce. They were caught up in lively conversations, while each one of them was biting into a ripe persimmon.

It was inspiring to watch a family all enjoying a fresh and unique fruit together on their train ride. The sheer happiness emanating from their faces was a true testament to the importance of sharing family meals and moments.

What also stood out to me was their conscious decision to pick persimmons as their snack. Perhaps the persimmons brought back childhood memories for their parents, and they wanted to share those memories with their children? Maybe their children chose the fruit and enlightened them on how delicious they are? Or maybe they all walked into the store never having tried persimmons, and the shop keeper was giving out tastings?

Whichever way the persimmons made it onto the train with this sweet family, they were in my car for a reason. While I watched them, I was able to reflect on the value of food memories, the ways in which food connects us to place, grounds us in flavor and promotes health and wellness.

Hopefully this sweet family has inspired you to pick up a persimmon or two, and share the experience with someone you love on your very own road to making food memories together.

46422626_c4691b75e5How to eat a persimmon? There are two main types: Fuyu (tomato shaped – eat with peel on) and Hachiya (acorn shaped – remove peel).

Fuyu:

  • Wash it first.
  • Once ripe (should feel soft, not squishy), cut in half then cut into wedges, like you would a tomato.
  • Or simply bite into one like an apple!

Hachiya:

  • Wash it first.
  • Once ripe (should feel squishy in your hand) cut open the top, and spoon out the fruit.
  • Eat with abandon!

For more persimmon recipes and inspirations click here.

Photos courtesy of sleepyneko and Beyond Forgetting

Friday food quote

14 Dec

family together twill close upThe weekend is coming up, leaving more time to spend cooking up delicious meals with your friends and family.

While you are cooking, keep in mind ways that you can reduce food waste in your kitchen, and take pride in knowing that you are connecting your family and friends through food. Sitting down at the table together is a humbling and healthy practice that we should all embrace and take part in.

Laurie David, the author of “The Family Dinner” invites us all to think about dinner-time as an opportunity to reflect on our environmental footprint as home chefs, “Dinner time is perfect to practice and talk about green, sustainable issues with your kids. You know what, I’m going to stop using so much plastic wrap. Or, I’m going to try this composting thing. Cause you know why, it’s so much fun and so rewarding to not throw stuff in the garbage…”

Feel free to share your tips on how to reduce food waste in your kitchen space, as well as any stories that light you up when you think about a shared dining experience you’ve had recently. Happy cooking!

Photo courtesy of clearlyinspired.blogspot.com

Rooftop gardens growing throughout NYC public schools

3 Dec

4127236249_d2d5b01d43All over New York City, farms and gardens are sprouting up on public school roofs, backyard lots and even in their front yards!

Educators and lawmakers alike are beginning to put into practice what many supporters of an edible education have been advocating for years: giving kids an opportunity to plant, grow and harvest during the school day.

In a city where most blocks are lined with a few trees or the occasional flowerbed, schoolyard gardens provide urban students firsthand contact with nature, teaching them how food grows. By getting their hands dirty, they cultivate a more evolved knowledge of what constitutes healthy, natural eating, stressing the importance of fresh produce and the lifecycle of food. The importance of garden-based learning can also be viewed as a potential interactive solution to the ongoing obesity challenge that our country faces.

According to GreenThumb, the number of school-based gardens increased exponentially in the span of two years, from 40 to over 230! GreenThumb has been an excellent source for these initiatives, providing community gardens throughout the city with programming and technical support.

On Avenue B and 5th Street in the East Village, a brand new 2,400-square-foot garden opened at the beginning of the school year. Sitting atop a red-brick building that is home to three separate public schools, the Earth School, Public School 64 and Tompkins Square Middle School, this giant rooftop educational farm was designed by Michael Arad. Arad, also the architect behind the National September 11 Memorial further downtown, was inspired to create the Fifth Street Farm after learning that his own children (former students of the school) were in awe that their crisp and juicy apples once were plucked from trees.

The Horticultural Society of New York has been working with over two dozen schools since 1980, helping them with the design, construction, and education curriculum. The Hort’s mission “is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants” as they help out with the Earth School as well as more recently with four public schools in Queens.

At P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, the school’s newly opened 15,000-square foot garden is more than a source of fresh produce for lunch, but has really become an outdoor classroom. By teaching kids about art, science, and math through the lens of gardening, their school-day routine becomes more of a hands-on experience.

This summer, for our third year, Butter Beans will be holding our Food & Garden Camp. With a similar mindset as these schools, our goal is to give your children a unique farm-to-table experience. From July to August, we will be covering the gamut of the food cycle from sprouting seeds and harvesting fresh food from rooftop gardens, to writing our very own cookbooks. Visit our website for more information.

For another great examples of greening schools, check out this edible schoolyard in East London, where lots of growing is taking place each day (check out their “lessons in loaf” pictures, they are wonderful!), and get to know Leave It Better, an organization that is accomplishing great feats in greening our local school communities as well.

Photos courtesy of kthread and growtolearn.org

what did your ancestors eat?

30 Nov

4494113699_2be84c0750As we embark on the weekend, try keeping Michael Pollan’s advice in mind as you shop for food and sit down to eat:

“Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. There are a great many food-like items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food…stay away from these”  ~Michael Pollan

Happy healthy eating to all!

Photo courtesy of lamoix