People were spilling out of the Big Bear Cafe onto the sidewalks at 1st and R streets NW last night. You might have thought it was just another wild party night in the nation’s capitol. But the drinks were all donated, the long line of food on the bar was made from ingredients gleaned earlier in the day from local farmers markets and a nearby urban farm. So what were we celebrating?
The occasion is a new blog in town–DC Food for All–that aims to shine a light on our own food movement here in the District of Columbia, and especially all those people working to make wholesome, nutritious food available to everyone who needs it. The idea is the product of several food groups that have banded together under the name Healthy Affordable Food for All, but I think you have to give the lion’s share of credit for pulling this project together to Greg Bloom and Joni Podschun at Bread for the City.
Bread for the City is an amazing organization, providing not only food but badly needed medical, social and housing services all over town as well as crucial leadership on policy issues that affect the poor and underserved. Lately I’ve written about the tons of food they bring to the city by organizing volunteers to glean produce from local farms.
Over the summer, Greg approached me about helping with the new blog. It had always been my ambition to create a source for news about the food gardening activities in the District. So much good work is being done that flies under the radar. I was never able to make that blog work. But my job with DC Food for All offers the same kind of opportunity: I’ll be acting as editor for bloggers of all kinds involved in growing food in the city, from community gardeners with individual plots to teachers heading school gardens to our thriving urban farms.
Mine is just one segment of the blog. There will also be plenty of news and analysis on issues of food access and nutrition, all of it focused on what’s happening right here in our own city. Do you know of another city with a blog like that? I can’t think of one.
The blog is still in its formative stages Expect it to be up and running soon. And if you have ambitions to blog about food in D.C., do give us a ring.
The challenge yesterday was to drop by the Bread for the City offices around 1 p.m. and collect gleaned ingredients, then turn them into something fabulous to eat by 5:30. Originally the gleaning was going to be for broccoli on a farm outside the city. But because of rain, that trip was cancelled and we got more of a grab-bag of ingredients. I had decided to make a broccoli frittata. What I got was a bag of broccoli and kohlrabi.
Ever heard of a kohlrabi frittata?
Well, kohlrabi just happens to be one of our favorite vegetables, highly underrated. These were the biggest kohlrabi I’d ever seen. After peeling them and removing the tough parts, I cut them into large dice and cooked them very simply in salted water. Same with the broccoli florets. From there, it was simply a matter of making frittatas as usual, each with a dozen eggs in a non-stick skillet, some kohlrabi and broccoli, sauteed red onion, then topped with pieces of goat cheese before going under the broiler.
While we’re donating food, though, why not just clean out the pantry? Since we stopped eating starchy foods, we have hardly any use for all the bulk grains and legumes we store in glass jars. Thus was born an impromptuy multi-grain and legume salad with fresh greens from the garden. The recipe for this could hardly be less precise. I simply cooked what we had: quinoa, millet, wheat berries, wild rice, then lentils, red beans, adzuki beans, black-eyed peas. I tossed everything together in a bus tub with mizuna leaves and baby red mustard greens from the garden, some diced red onion, then seasoned with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
The result was at least 20 pounds of salad. Would you believe every last grain was devoured before the night was through?
Meanwhile, my wife, the baker, was assembling two large ceramic ovals of beautiful apple crisp. It came hot out of the oven just in time to be driven down to Big Bear Cafe for the buffet, where it joined all sorts of dishes from other contributors, including stir fry from the chef at Thai X-Ing down the street.
It was a great start for a worthy project.