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by Kate Justen with Patrick Keeler

On September 24th the first FEAST (Fresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable, Tasty) cooking course of the new school year was held at Asheville Middle School. Over the course of the day, we worked with two 7th grade classes, two 8th grade classes and the FEAST cooking club. Capitalizing upon the local bounty of the season our agenda was simple: salsa and tortillas!

The produce was donated from Flying Cloud Farm and Pisgah View Peace Garden, and preparation was made possible thanks to the generous cookware donation from Anolon. We christened our new skillets with the tortilla batter, and our paring knives by chopping veggies.

Many of the students had never cut a fresh tomato before, and had only eaten store-bought salsa. We discussed knife safety, different ways to cut vegetables, how to seed a tomato, how to use a garlic press, how to safely cut a hot pepper.

The taste testing part of the class was the most fun to watch. One girl “HATES tomatoes” and did not want to try the salsa, but with some positive peer pressure she caved. She closed her eyes, opened her mouth and dropped a tortilla loaded with homemade salsa into her mouth. She came back for seconds, no longer a “hater.”

Feedback from these courses has been overwhelmingly positive. Out of over seventy students we have worked with this semester, 50 students stated they wanted to make this at home. Even students who said they would not bother preparing this at home said they liked the cooking activity, and enjoyed the food. By year’s end we hope to see their confidence go up alongside their interest in preparing food at home.

The FEAST garden-to-table cooking program is a joint initiative of Slow Food Asheville leadership and the efforts of the course’s educators. The concept behind FEAST is simple – teach children and their families ways to cook affordably and sustainably on fixed income.

If your local chapter has a similar garden-to-table project and is in need of in-kind cookware support, Anolon might be able to provide assistance through our Creating A Delicious Future partnership. Please contact Patrick@slowfoodusa.org for more info.