Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cooking with What You Have

Today, even though I was standing downtown in the freezing cold for over an hour, I had one of the best, most rewarding experiences I've had in a while.  That's because John & I volunteered today with our local Food Not Bombs chapter to cook and serve free "rescued" food to anyone who wanted some.  The Food Not Bombs movement has independently run local chapters whose purpose is to gather vegan and vegetarian food that would otherwise be thrown away, prepare it, and serve it to the public.  John has always liked volunteering to feed people, and with how much I love to cook, it was a natural fit for me as well, but it was also a heck of a unique experience!

The Worcester group seems to have recently experienced a change in members, so it ended up that John and myself, along with the group leader Julia, were the whole group (at least today).  We showed up at noon to see what we had to cook with.  I sometimes cook at home based on what I have hanging around, especially when making a tofu scramble or a stir fry, but this was definitely my first experience with having such a specific and limited range of ingredients to work from, and my first time to make such a huge serving size.  I'm usually cooking just for two, and maybe making enough for four so I can have leftovers. We had about 8 eggplants, 10 yellow squash, a great deal of baby bok choy, a package of mushrooms, and some tomatoes.  Julia and her housemates also had a great variety of spices and other staples like oil and soy sauce to work with as well.  Based on what we had, we decided to do a stir fry.  I taught John how to chop squash, and he did a great job (seriously, he was a champ!) manning the two stir fry skillets.  We had to use a third pot since we had so many veggies, so I decided to add all the tomatoes to that pot and make a kind of curry soup.  (Sorry, iPhone pics again...)

Veggie Stir Fry - This started in two pans and cooked down to one

Curry Soup

Both dishes plus brown rice - pay no attention to the grilled cheese in the foreground -- not for us!

The curry soup started out as more of a riff on ratatouille, but about halfway through, after looking at the spices, I decided to go Indian instead.  It turned out to be a big hit with John, and I was happy we made a soup since it was so cold, and the people on the street were very excited about it.   The other challenge I didn't mention, which turned out to be my favorite thing of all, is that we cooked all of this on a wood-burning stove!  It was challenging, but so much fun to cook the old-fashioned way!  We also had bags of oranges and some bread that we gave out as well.

At the moment, the main challenge for Food Not Bombs Worcester is to get people out to eat the food.  Although we were able to serve quite a few meals (and we got rid of all our oranges and bread), we still had a good bit of soup and stir fry veggies left over.  However, with the cold today, we still considered it a great success.  John and I will definitely be volunteering again, and hopefully going forward we can get more consistent with when and where we serve food so that we can get more people out to eat.  If anyone in the Worcester area (of like the two of you who read my blog, haha) is interested in volunteering, let me know.  We plan to try to make and serve these meals every other Saturday, more than likely somewhere on Main Street until spring comes.  Next time, I will post as soon as I have more info so any of you who wants to can come on down and eat!


  1. Well, that sounds fun!

    Also, I just "tagged" you on my last blog post.

  2. Kudos to you, Georgia - what an admirable way to spend your day! I was reading a news headline recently that 40% of food is wasted. I don't know if that's a global stat or just an American one, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's both and it's just criminal. What you're doing is such a great way to reduce that senseless waste, provide nutritious meals, and do vegan outreach! Win, win, win, gotta love that. :-)

    I envy you your ability to throw a delicious meal together out of whatever is on hand. Some people have a real knack for that, and you're clearly one of them. I clearly am not. LOL I'm better at it than I used to be, but it's no innate talent, that's for sure! And cooking for lots of people would definitely rattle me, even if I were working from a recipe! So I stand in awe!

    I hope your Food Not Bombs group grows and more people in need of it find out about it! Meanwhile, keep having fun - I applaud you and John! :-)

  3. Hey! Hope you saw ths on VegWorcester: