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Slow Food East Bay Vegetarian Potluck, Jan 2013

“Big Pig Roast.” That’s the kind of announcement I’m used to seeing for Slow Food East Bay. Or “Meat CSA” or “Sources for your Heritage Turkey.” There is nothing wrong with these events – unless you happen to be a vegetarian. So when I saw “Vegetarian Winters Potluck” as part of a “Winter Warmers” evening of potlucks to be held in the East Bay, I jumped at the chance to go. In addition to gathering people to help celebrate the New Year with a focus on the winter season, these potlucks would also be a chance to raise money and awareness about the People’s Community Market in West Oakland.

The coordination for the potluck took place with ease. There were a few emails back and forth amongst the hosts and member participants, which included Slow Food potluck guidelines that spelled out how to do things right. Our menu came together as each person emailed what they intended to bring. The dishes were inventive and at the same time reflected our winter season. Someone asked, “Should we bring beer or wine?” The answer was a resounding “Yes!” Especially after one of the participants acknowledged she works in the wine business.

The end result was awe-inspiring. Our host, a seasoned potluck organizer, had his kitchen well prepared for hungry Slow Fooders. He timed things right and allowed for schmoozing before we dug into our amazing feast, which included: homemade bread, squash soup, roasted vegetables with white bean garlic dip, raw kale sesame salad, farro with arugula, spicy green beans, local cheeses and fruit, gluten-free pizza topped with butternut squash, home-grown dried ground chilies to sprinkle on everything if desired, spicy pickled brussels sprouts, home brew, local and international wines, and homemade aged noccino (green walnut liquor). Having just returned from a year living abroad in tropical El Salvador, I was struck by the complexity and variety of the meal. The Bay Area is so very blessed with great food choices and these people knew what they were doing!

Not that everyone at the party was a practicing vegetarian. Some of us, yes, but for those who weren’t, it was understood that it was OK to do without meat, at least for the night. More than OK, it was a pause worth taking. There’s nothing like eliminating something to appreciate it more.

After eating and getting to know one another, we all listened intently to Brahm Ahmadi, founder of the People’s Community Market. He gave us his thoughtful and thorough pitch to help raise funds to build a neighborhood grocery store in an underserved community. We asked questions and also shared some of our own experiences with the People’s Grocery, the organization that led to the creation of the People’s Community Market.

When it was time to head home, we left with full bellies, new connections, and the feeling that we are all part of something bigger – the Slow Food Movement. Together, in our own special way, we each did our part to help create community, an ongoing and joyous process.

Lauren Zaira, Slow Food Member
Just back from El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.