Bangali boneless fish fry over pulao
Shompa is making a traditional Bangladeshi fish fry, but made with boneless open ocean white fish. The fish is sauteed with South Asian spices and served over pulao. Its also served with a Shompa original creation, South Asian greens. Continue reading
Bangali boneless fish fry over pulao
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagen
Our new website is ready!! Thanks for sharing this adventure with us…to explore diverse cultures, healthy food, and innovative business ideas! It feels to me as though we’re explorers together searching for something incredible. Our vision for the project includes so many unique ideas: variety of authentic diverse foods, home meal delivery (while not new, I’ve heard of few successes, and those in other US cities), healthy/local grown/allergen aware food (thank goodness, a growing trend!), and most uniquely building community that is helpful and life-giving to ALL its members, including recent immigrants working to find their place.
I was really grateful and encouraged talking with some of you at our recent Peace Dinners focus group and dinner event. Zahra said some things and followed up with an email the next day to encourage me to communicate our needs…not just what we offer. So I thought I’d take a minute to express what I see is at heart of the Peace Dinners project. First, here’s a first try at a ‘mission statement’…a bit dry, but a start… Continue reading
“People should think less about what they ought to do and more about what they ought to be. If only their being were good, their works would shine forth brightly.” – Meister Eckhart
So a few of us are working together to get ready for a ‘rolling’ public launch of Peace Dinners (really a series of little celebrations). I’ve been so encouraged to see you all support the idea and vision of Peace Dinners by inviting friends and freely offering your time, talents, and money. In the process we’re discovering Peace Dinners is a bit of a confusing thought: Continue reading
“The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.” GK Chesterton
Why do I, an entrepreneur, care about post-modernism? I just watched a video of philosopher James KA Smith speaking about it and think it offers market context (and hope) for our vision for Peace Dinners.
“So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you: I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” Martin Luther King
I just saw this UK Mail Newspaper article, “Christians Join Hands to Protect Muslims” and found it very encouraging. I’ve come to believe that world peace is not going to start with a government led program or even some awesome politician with an amazing heart, charisma to spare, and incredible genius. I can only foresee peace emerging when I (and we) choose to love the one in front of us (as Mother Teresa is attributed as saying)…just as these people in Egypt are doing for one another. Continue reading
So lots to update…been a while. Our Dec 5th Dance Nights Celebration dinner was a total success! Over 60 people joined to celebrate the kids, eat healthy diverse food, and have fun together in diverse community!
But just a quick post, b/c I was totally encouraged by an article I just read ‘Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields.”‘ The sentiment expressed in the article feels very familiar based upon my own recent experience working in community with people from very diverse culture and faith traditions. I recognize the desire for life-giving shared community in my friends on this Peace Dinners project all from different faith traditions (Christian, Muslim, Hindu). Continue reading
To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak. ~Hopi Indian Saying
Why choose to spend a few hours with new and old friends at the upcoming Dance Nights Celebration Dinner?
- Social time: Hang out with your friends at Vineyard Community Offerings and Peace Dinners (Paul, Navneet, Asmait(s), Dave, Michael, Stephanie, Christine, Katie, Saba, Jerry, et al) as they celebrate their passion for food, dance, and diverse community!
- Watch kids have fun: Dance Nights kids will show off what they learned.
- Dance a bit: Opportunity to join with others to learn some new dance steps…or just watch others shuffle around to fun ethnic music!
- Good food: Lots of authentic food from different cultures around the world…come and get it!
- Meet friendly people from around the world: We expect between 35 and 60 people to join for a safe low key structured few hours together.
- Help fund Dance Nights program: 1/2 of the cost of the dinner event goes to fund the next session of the Dance Nights program.
Join us for the Dance Nights Finale on Sunday Dec 5th, 5pm – 7:30pm in the Boston Vineyard Church Multi-Purpose Room at 15 Notre Dame Ave, Cambridge, MA [map]. The cost is $15 per person or $25 per couple (or family with young children). Half the price of the ticket is tax deductible and will go to Vineyard Community Offerings to fund the next session of Dance Nights starting in January. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com before Wednesday 12/1 at midnight and just let us know that your coming. You’ll be able to pay with a credit card (via paypal) or check.
Dance Nights have been really really fun! 16 kids have come every week for 8 weeks to learn new dances, learn about healthy eating, and enjoy healthy and good snacks from food traditions around the world! Professional dance instructors helped the kids learn foot and hand movements and feel the rhythm of the music! They were exposed to four different dance styles: salsa, hip hop, and native Bangladeshi and Ethiopian dances.
I’m so excited about the upcoming Dance Nights Finale! Its another event (our largest we hope) where we offer space for people to join together to experience diverse cultures, food, community…and now DANCE too! A key part of our Peace Dinners vision was the idea that my life (and yours) could be better in community…and especially community that includes people from around the world. The Dance Nights Finale is the most full expression of our hope that if we plan the event people will come to join together and EXPERIENCE diverse cultures right here in the Boston area! So I hope you join with us as we continue to experiment!
If you purchased meals last week you noticed that your meal came in packaging that was different than usual. Yes, its still the same plastic microwave safe construction (and YES, we want to replace with disposable soon), but it has two wells instead of 3. We’re testing some new packaging as we prepare to invite a broader audience to try our food.
Two things of note about the change! First, its still our same awesome complete meals that include a protein, starch, and vegetable, but two of the elements are together in a ‘one-dish’ style and the third is separate. Second, there’s slightly less food by volume…the new containers are 30 ounce by volume instead of 32 ounces.
There’s a few reasons for us to consider a change:
1) We’re planning to test delivery of our meals through a few small local retailers. Advice we’ve gotten says to offer individual elements, perhaps single dish meals. So we’re testing by including two of the three meal elements as a single dish. I really like how its going … the food tastes great, lots of creative choices, and seems it could appeal to a ‘grab and go’ audience. Anyway, two-well packaging helps us test this new model.
2) A related advantage to preparing a one-dish meal is that its operationally more efficient. So behind the scenes each cook day are three cooks each preparing three unique meal items. They compete for 8 stove burners and the right-sized pots and pans. Reducing that to 2 meal items per cook significantly improves our operations and costs.
3) We’re preparing to replace our useful(but plastic disposable) packaging with cool awesome-for-the-earth reusable containers. We’re looking at fun stainless steel two box tiffin containers. More on that soon!
4) We’ve heard the amount of food we deliver is ‘over-generous.’ Feedback is that its unexpected and not necessary…meaning Peace Dinners is about food for digestive health and diverse food traditions, not overfull meal portions. So I’d like to right size our portions.
…but all that are just my ideas, its what you think that matters most! …so what DO you think?
I just saw this review of our food (and company concept) posted back in June by some friends (and customers). Its a really cool blog covering a broad range of topics from awesome looking food recipes, to healthy lifestyle commentary, to social justice musings. My friends have an awesome heart (that clearly shows through in the blog)…and a very diverse background!
Thanks, guys, for the positive review… “If you’re in the Boston area, [Peace Dinners] are an awesome option for eating healthy food at home when you’re not up to cooking!”
“You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” Plutarch
Peace Dinners has partnered with Vineyard Community Offerings, Federal Management, and Imagine School of Dance to sponsor Dance Nights! Dance Nights is a weekly multi-cultural dance class for kids in North Cambridge that celebrates physical activity, diverse cultures, and healthy living. Each night consists of team building exercises, dance instruction in diverse styles from around the world, and a nutritious snack and lesson on healthy living.
On the final night a communal dinner is planned to celebrate the kids and what they’ve learned about themselves and the world. They will be joined by their parents and people from the broader community (including you, our Peace Dinners customers). Peace Dinners will provide healthy meals from diverse food traditions, the kids will show off their dancing style, everyone can enjoy native music and dance from around the world, and enjoy getting to know new and old friends more intimately. As soon as the date and location for the celebration dinner is finalized I’ll let everyone know. I hope you can join…I’m imagining it to be really fun.
This past Tuesday night was the first night of the Dance Nights program and was open to everyone to create awareness of this brand new program. 18 kids and 3 adults came to check it out. It was really fun and I was honored to be a part. The night started with Hip Hop instruction, really energizing, then native Bangladeshi dance, amazingly intricate and beautiful, and ended with Ethiopian, very fun and simple. The music for all the styles was really beautiful! After the dancing Chef Michael from Peace Dinners shared a brief message about healthy eating and the value of buying local food…then the snack: low fat organic yogurt with local apples (Dowse Orchard, Natick, MA), blueberries (previously frozen from Sunshine Farm, VT) and maple syrup (Eastman Long, VT).
What do you think about joining the planned celebration dinner to experience diverse community: meet new friends, eat healthy food, and watch kids explore who they are through dance! Expect price to be $9 – $12 per person. Interested or a pass?
Our Peace Dinners team (now about a dozen of us part time) have a few common interests that motivate us to stay together. Of course, we all love healthy food and cooking, and celebrating diverse culture, but there was one aspect that is less obvious for building a business or diverse community that I’d hoped to see us share…and that is a wonderment in the value of prayer.
We are from very diverse backgrounds: born in the US, central Asia, and Africa; raised as Hindu, Jew, Muslim and Christian; and seek personal fulfillment through vocation, calling, finances, life balance, family and more. We’re all very different, but we all of us (maybe surprisingly) share a belief that prayer to the divine makes our lives better. We prayed together when we first met for business vision, we prayed on our first day in the kitchen for business success, we’ve prayed for each others health, encouragement…and peace!
Last week Navneet called and said she’d just fallen down concrete stairs (hitting her forehead and temple near her eye) and wouldn’t be able to join our team meeting. She offered her home so we gathered there instead. A few of us early arrivals prayed for her. She said she had felt shaken and cold after falling, shivering under a blanket before we arrived. After praying with her a few minutes she said she felt a warmth inside that felt good and she felt better…she no longer felt pain around her eyes. The folks at the hospital she visited with her husband later that night thought she’d likely be back to normal in a few days.
Then yesterday Asmait arrived to the kitchen not feeling well (not virus or flu related, btw). She said there was no one to cook her meal so she felt she had to come in to help (she’s amazing that way)! So a few of us who were there offered to pray for her. She said after we prayed that she felt something lift off of her back and she felt much better. She felt great the rest of the work day and created a wonderful complete meal that included: Kofta, Fasolya ma batata, and broccoli!
So is there a role for prayer in business? Does prayer ‘work’ or lead to success? I’m not sure, but based on my experience it makes my life (and my friend’s lives…as best as I can tell) way better! And that seems good enough for me this week!
Please let us know what you think of Asmait’s tasty Kofta, Shompa’s wonderful Turkey Curry and David’s Goat Stew (had it last night after work and thought it was awesome!)
“To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.” Cardinal Suhard
Whew! Its been a long season of foundation building. Peace Dinners now feels more real and solid than vision…versus back in May when I last posted. Just a quick update on what we’re doing…and how we’re doing.
First the what we’ve been doing:
- Serving our delicious meals to my personal friends (and now, their friends too)…mostly from my church community at the Greater Boston Vineyard.
- Creating a food services company: establishing ourselves in a commercial kitchen, acquiring equipment, establishing procedures, completing government forms, accounting systems, blah, blah, blah.
- Community organizing: building a core team of employees and a framework for life giving relationship within the context of a for-profit enterprise, context for and invitation to join something bigger than ourselves that offers hope for our city…to any and all like-minded people in Greater Boston.
And how we’re doing:
- Create, cook, and serve 40 – 60 meals nearly every week (September will be our first month of successful weekly delivery…woo hoo!). We’re grateful to our community of regular supporters for giving us the opportunity (ie revenue and grace) to create tasty meals, make mistakes, learn the food business, make mistakes, and build a solid foundation upon which to grow!!
- A foundation that’s mostly complete…a few more items to complete (like a website with online ordering!!), but we’ve a wonderful and solid group of awesome cooks, a history of operational data (costs, revenue, etc), and systems in place for payments, accounting, payroll, purchasing and cooking operations, etc.
- Partnerships with some really awesome communities with opportunity to build diverse life-giving community and for selling diverse and healthy meals. More on this in another post!
One of the communities we’re a part is Crop Circle Kitchen, a non-profit shared commercial kitchen in Jamaica Plain. Its where we cook our awesome meals and is a vibrant community of fellow foodies! Check out this TV spot recently aired on Channel 5 about Crop Circle Kitchen…and you can see me (nervously) talk about Peace Dinners!
Finally, Peace Dinners is trying something new in the food business. We don’t have a store front in Boston, we don’t have a defined menu, and we’re not merely focused on a revenue bottomline. We ARE focused on healthy local grown food, delicious meals from world food traditions, new variety of meals every week, and building a community that seeks life through diverse relationships. Honestly, I’m not sure how this experiment will work out…its still a mystery…but I’m VERY encouraged to see people stirred and motivated to join with us during our initial season of business!!
“Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. That is how the light gets in!” – Leonard Cohen
If you’re visiting for the first time…WELCOME! We prepared and distributed healthy meals for the first time…Indian, Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, and Mediterranean this week! You may have tried our food at one of two events on Thursday or Friday this past week in which we provided our healthy authentic food from diverse traditions. If interested to stay up to date on what we’re doing or want to try home delivery of healthy meals supporting diverse food traditions please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll add you to our newsletter distribution list.
So we’re not perfect in that we’re not quite ready for broad distribution of prepared meals and yet took advantage of some opportunities to make people aware of our beloved project and to try our wonderful food. We hope to be ready for online purchase of healthy meals and broader access to home delivered meals in the next two weeks (Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, Medford areas, or possibly your town, please ask)…so let us keep you updated! And if you sampled food this week please let us know what you think…leave a comment here!
We made about 100 meals for both individuals and 2 catered events…amazing first week. Our goal was to start small as a test: figuring out our new ‘shared’ commercial kitchen, figuring out how to buy local/organic ingredients, working together as a team, when and how to deliver meals, etc, etc. Well being the hope-filled people that we are, in the end we challenged ourselves with more than a small test…and were blessed with success!
We really did intend to only practice delivery to just a few close friends…and we did do that, but serendipitously friends in my church hosted events in which they wanted to both support us and our vision…and share authentic food from diverse traditions with their guests…so we decided to try our hand at catering as well. Early feedback has been very very positive! People LOVED the food…here’s some unsolicited comments I’ve gotten so far:
“Awesome, really good! Its amazing how a few simple ingredients mixed with spices by an authentic Indian cook can make food special and delicious.” – A chef sharing our kitchen space after trying our Choley Bhuture
“Absolutely delicious!!! Very good balance of flavors, a little sweet, a little spicy, a little complex; the rice was moist and the goat was tender.” – A customer talking about the Goat Biryani.
“Supper was yummy. Spicing was good for me – not too hot, but interesting. I would like other such items. Indian type food is my favorite.” – Another customer in reference to the Goat Biryani.
“Samosa was fantastic! Everybody loved them. And the Choley Bhuture went fast…I didn’t even get a chance to try it” Attendee at catered event.
Next Monday at 10am there is a public hearing at 100 Cambridge St, Conf Room A, Boston, MA to provide feedback to Massachusetts regulators who are considering outlawing raw milk buying clubs. I plan to be there. Currently its legal in Mass to buy raw milk directly from the farm. Buying clubs are a way for groups of families to pool their resources so that only one member travels to the farm, fills up their family car with containers of milk, and delivers to their neighbors, saving time, gas and expense. This commonsensical approach to distribution of locally produced raw milk is now under attack.
There’s a great article in The Huffington Post by David E. Gumpert, author, The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Struggle Over Food Rights, that lays out the broader picture of politics around local versus big diary.
From the NOFA Massachusetts Raw Milk Network Website: People around the world have milked animals (cows, sheep, goats, camels, etc.) for thousands of years-consuming the raw milk directly and preserving it in the form of dairy products.
Pasteurized milk (heated to over 160 °F) is a relatively new product. Pasteurization came about less than a century ago, as a reaction to milk produced in urban dairies from cows kept in confinement and fed industrial waste-largely from distilleries. Contamination of such milk was controlled by heating it (“pasteurizing” it) to kill all bacteria, both the good and the bad.
Eventually the urban dairies disappeared, but pasteurization remained. Now a growing number of people are learning that fresh milk from nearby dairy farms-where cows still graze outside and are managed using organic and sustainable practices-does not need pasteurization. It tastes better, is more beneficial to human health and the health of the environment, and directly supports local farmers and communities. In Massachusetts there are more than 24 farms that pass rigorous inspections and are certified to sell raw milk from their farm stores. Visit one of these farms to learn more about this vital and healthy product.
What’s interesting to me in all this is here is a great opportunity to advocate for a healthful product available from local farmers right here in Massachusetts. I’ve only done a little research on the risks and benefits of raw milk, but clearly the 40 year long battle has created well entrenched positions. I really like how the NOFA website summarized the issue. Yes, it seems all agree there is a potential health risk in consuming raw milk, but the government seems to propose a nuclear-level strategic solution, when perhaps rather than nuking all milk, a focus to regulate animal health at the local farm might provide a more finessed and effective approach. Maybe farmer oversight would give us the necessary health protection AND access for people that claim healthful benefits of raw milk, even though the health benefits may be disputed (part of the beauty of science is that we continue to learn…and relearn…about what’s good for us).
Will you join the discussion Monday 10am at 100 Cambridge St, Conf Room A, Boston, MA?
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. – M. Scott Peck
A brief word about passion. Last night I went to the Brewing the American Dream event hosted by Sam Adams Brewery and Accion USA, a non-profit focused on economic improvement through microfinance loans. (btw – I’m a fan of Accion, they’re very active in the Boston area. If you are a member of Sam’s Club vote for Accion to receive a $1 million grant.) I was encouraged to more freely revel in my passion for the Peace Dinners project. Passion, of course, is the energy that fuels new enterprise. It is the balance to risk and fear. Human wisdom may say ‘that’s crazy,’ to any new enterprise, but passion and perhaps the ‘wind’ that sways the reed, provides the motivation to overcome obstacles, both real and emotional. So I remain vulnerable as we pursue this project, standing in hope to see rich community…and peace (love the quote above!!) Having fun…look forward to offering you opportunity to join soon!
Home Delivered produce starting June 1st-ish: Edible Boston, a friend on Facebook, posted a link yesterday to a Publisher Weekly article, “Cookbook Publishers Jump on the Local Train.” Another indicator of the ‘eat local’ trend. And yet another indicator is that farms all around Boston have sold out their CSAs. We are working towards offering home delivered organic produce and locally raised antibiotic hormone free (and Halal) meats at the start of the summer season…so don’t despair if you don’t find, are unable to pick-up at the farm, or can’t make it work due to size, etc a CSA share. We hope to serve you!
Update on meal delivery launch schedule: So we’re still working to overcome impact of a recent staff change. There’s obviously lots of upfront work required to prepare for launching a food business and I’m hopeful we’ll fill in the missing pieces soon and have clearer vision for a launch schedule. Will keep you posted…thanks for your continued encouragement!
Have you seen that Youtube video “Where the Hell is Matt?” It has almost 29 million views! I saw it a while ago, but I just saw it referenced in an email distro I’m on and the author said “Isn’t it what we are trying to do? To get other people to dance with us, engage on many different levels…Don’t view if you’re strictly looking for farming or political news – it is inspiration.”
Its ridiculous! A video of some average white guy dancing all over the world. So why is it so stirring … I cried watching it (full disclosure…I’m sensitive, my daughter would say I cry a lot watching movies). I think the reason it stirs me is because I long for that kind of connection. Being free to have fun with people … even people that are way different than me.
But really, what can be cooler than that … inviting people to just have fun together (in a low bar, safe sorta way)? So we’re planning Peace Dinner Events as a way for people to connect. Food and music from around the world, people from around the world … maybe dancing, but probably not ;-) And best of all … we can connect right here in Greater Boston … no passport nor vacation time required!
Would you be interested to join a Peace Dinner … buffet style? We’re thinking of offering the opportunity for you to pay one price and you’d be able to select from an assortment of meal items from around the world … and have dinner with people from around the world?
I live right near Natick Organic Community Farm (NOCF) and was just there last weekend. I was mountain biking with a friend on the aqueduct and stopped in…things are getting started! It was muddy…yes, I felt way adventurous all covered in mud…and bloody from bushwhacking through prickers :-) My visit to the farm got me to thinking about the huge value that community farms offer. There are a few farms I’m aware of in Boston area located on public owned land. They are such a great resource … and I’m grateful to forward thinking town fathers/mothers for their willingness to experiment with public resources in this way.
Here’s some fun stuff happening at the community farms that I know and love:
Natick Community Organic Farm, Natick, MA
- Organic vegetable and flower seedlings now on sale through 5/1 (for pick-up on 5/12)
- Spring Spectacular on Saturday 5/15 10am – 3pm.
- Summer Dance on Friday 6/4 at 7pm.
- Summer Youth programs for kids 4 – 18.
- Summer farm stand – NCOF does not offer CSA, but does have a farm stand with seasonal products including: vegetables, honey, maple syrup, goats milk, and meat (from animals raised right there on the farm). I bought a rabbit last year it was good – first time cooking wabbit.
Land’s Sake Farm, Weston, MA
- CSA shares are already closed, but the farm stand opens on 6/8.
- Lots of pick your own products including flowers, vegetables and strawberries (opening day is 6/8)
- Gourmet dinners throughout the summer (don’t seem any on their calendar yet)
- Educational programs – Green Power Spring youth classes start Mon 4/12. My daughter and I joined an overnight ‘Work Song’ program a few years ago. Wow, it was really really fun, the food was great, people friendly, and we actually got some work done…just a wonderful weekend!
Waltham Fields Community Farm, Waltham, MA
- CSAs are sold out, and their farm stand is available to low income families in Waltham as part of their food access programming!
- Spring into Gardening Festival and seedling sale on Saturday 4/17 1pm – 5pm
- Volunteer work programs can be scheduled or drop-in Tuesday – Saturdays 9am – 12pm.
- Lots of events: Breakfast on the Farm, Saturday 7/10; and Children’s Learning Gardening program throughout the Summer.
Newton Community Farm, Newton, MA
- CSAs are sold out, but farm stand is open Tues – Fri 3pm – 7pm and Saturday 10am – 2pm. Fruit and flower shares are still available!
- Events and classes include: Seedling sale Sunday 5/16; Bread from Scratch Wed 4/14
Codman Farm, Lincoln, MA
- Farm store is open 7 days a week selling fresh eggs and meat from their own cows, lamb, goats and pigs.
- Community garden plots for private harvest are available and farm visits are $3 for adults.
- Upcoming events include: Sheep shearing on Sat 4/17; Backyard Chicken class on Sat 5/8; Barn dance Sat 5/15; and camp out on Sat 6/19
Any other community farms you know about doing fun stuff?
- Oh friends, not these tones!
- Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing
- And more joyful sounds!
- Joy! Joy!
- Glad, as His suns fly
- Through the Heaven’s glorious design,
- Run, brothers, your path,
- Joyful, as a hero to victory.
- – Selected lyrics from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony “Ode to Joy”
This last week has felt like the recent weather…moments dreary and cold and other moments bright and joyful! The most brilliant day was the day of our recent tasting event. Between 60 and 100 people joined for a really fun and tasty time together. I hung out with people from all over the world: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Guyana, Pakistan, and the US…and really enjoyed introducing new and old friends to one another!
We just hung out for an hour or so in the Community Room at the Rindge Towers eating food prepared by Shampa and Muntaz. Our cooks created ‘home style’ food that they know and love from their own cultural traditions using healthy ingredients! They used locally grown and/or organic ingredients and fresh Halal certified meat. Halal meat is Islamic kosher meeting very strict requirements for raising and slaughtering animals. For full disclosure the meat was sourced in the northeast, but not New England. We’re working on developing relationship with a Massachusetts based farm and slaughterhouse so expect to be even more local soon.
The atmosphere in the room was really joyful…people seemed to love the food, asked for recipes, made suggestions, and encouraged us to continue in our plans for home delivery for local grown grocery and healthy meals supporting diverse traditions. Kids were playing together…the older ones helping translate conversations for their parents…and lots of people stayed and gabbed for quite a while.
Feedback on the food and our vision for the project was really encouraging:
I like the Indian food, its delicious…and the Bangali food too! Roasted Chicken, Spring rolls and Kalakand – Haijza
Very good idea Hope you succeed! – Karim
I love the variety of ethnic foods! I’ve lived in a foreign country and love the diversity of foods! – Patricia and George
The food is very delicious and everything is very well organized. The Samosas were the best! – Mahnaz
The dishes were absolutely amazing. What I had today surpassed my previous Indian food experiences (It’s one of my favorites and I’ve been to a number of Indian restaurants around Boston)! – Jennifer
Its really good! I like it…especially good for Asian people [like me] – Supinah
Great idea! Have you seen [the new TV show] ‘Food Revolution?’ This is a food revolution of your own. – Elizabeth
I like what I tasted and would love to sample a full dinner delivered! – Scott
Check out more of the pictures from the event at our new Peace Dinners Flickr site.
Peace Dinners first EVER public Tasting Event is planned for tomorrow (Saturday) 5pm – 6pm. I hope it to be a really fun cross cultural event with people from lots of backgrounds coming together to have fun and try FREE food (while supplies last) from different traditions including: Bangladeshi, Gujarati (a state in India), Ethiopian, and American. The event is located at 364 Rindge Ave (the middle of 3 high rise towers across the street from Alewife T Station), Cambridge in the Community Room (to the right at the end of the hall as you enter the foyer). Visitor parking is to the right along the fence as you come in the driveway. Remember your license plate # and bring your driver’s license to register your car at the entrance.
We invited the 3,000 or so residents of that diverse community…and we invite you too! I expect dozens…not thousands😉 to join together! Please come and meet all of us actively laboring together on the project, try some great home cooked food, listen to popular music from around the world and meet some new friends. I expect: Navneet, Ben, Shampa, Misa, Mohammed, Izzie (my daughter) and I (Paul) to be there to serve you and to ask lots of questions!!
I’ve discovered recently a few businesses offering a ‘subscription’ for home delivery of healthy meals. The way the model works is one signs up to receive meals supporting a specific diet plan for the week. One chooses up to 3 meals per day for each family member. The way I see these offerings is that one is choosing to buy convenient access to improved health…rather than just ‘a good (or even a healthy) meal.’ I really like this model…it encourages a consistent approach to healthy eating (after all the experts say it takes 21 days of consistent behavior change to break a habit…or form a new one).
The Fresh Diet offers three meals a day plus 2 snacks as part of their ‘subscription’ plans. Their website says that their meal plans are based on Dr Sears ‘The Zone Diet.’ One chooses the number of meals per month to be delivered. The more days purchased the lower the price per serving. They have two plans: a Premium Plan priced between $45 (for 31 days of meals per month) and $60 per day (for 7 days of meals per month) that includes menu choice for each meal and ability to define an unlimited number of ‘dislikes;’ the Chef’s Plan is priced between $35 and $50 per serving, but it offers less choice (only 8 pre-defined ‘dislikes’).
My assessment: I only have a few thoughts about their business model as described on their website as I’ve not tried the meals (quality, taste, or quantity). I really like the model of delivering ‘health’ instead of a dining experience. The subscription model perfectly supports those customers that seek health and weight loss … rather than just a quality meal. There may, however, be restricted meal choice, but a ‘meal’ is not what’s being sold (that’s what’s delivered, but not what the customer is buying…if you understand what I mean). The product is loss of weight and health…not meal choice. Its an interesting model. I read The Zone Diet a few years ago and remember thinking it was the first diet book I’d read that seemed common sensical. The Fresh Diet seems a bit pricey, but perhaps they offer more than just the meals in the subscription price. The website alludes to ‘access’ to a nutritionist.
What do you like and not like about a subscription model for meal purchase? Do you like the idea of a nutritionist creating weekly healthy meal plans for you and your family that are then delivered hot right to your home?
I can feel emotion (read: fear) in the debate over immigration…and what to do about immigrants that are already here (illegally or otherwise, it seems). I received an email yesterday full of outrage over actions by students at Montebello High School in California. I could easily be offended by someone invited to this country (my home) who disrespects my flag. I wonder what that young man was thinking. Does he hate America or me? Does he want to take something from us (or me)? Is he a selfish or untrustworthy citizen?
Two questions come to mind for me, when I read and consider the emotional arguments around immigration: 1) Do relationship with people unlike me offer ME any value; and 2) Can America afford to share with people coming from other parts of the world? I don’t know the answer, but I’d like to tell you about my day earlier this week.
I met a new friend that afternoon, who I hope will join the Peace Dinners project. Misa is from Ethiopia and loves her cultural traditions and food. She wonders if American’s image of Ethiopia is one of a people too poor for a valued communal identity. She hopes to share a glimpse of the joy in community that she experienced as a girl growing up.
I was surprised and delighted when she said that she’d like to invite me into a ceremony important to community life in her home country. She roasted the whole coffee beans on the stove and lit little charcoals that she placed in a uniquely designed clay holder. When we were ready to sit down she spooned incense into the clay holder and aromatic smoke poured out. She handed me a large plate with a flat bread, two kinds of meat sauces, and a fresh stuffed chili pepper. We both ate together off the plate and it was delicious!! I’d heard Ethiopian food was really hot…and the pepper, of course, was, but not the meat and everything had rich flavor! After eating Misa poured me coffee from a traditional clay Ethiopian coffee pot, in which the fresh ground beans and water had been placed earlier. It reminded me of espresso I drank while visiting my father’s family in Italy.
It was an unexpected and charming afternoon! She shared with me stories about her home and the intimate community and trust she enjoyed, the importance of the coffee ceremony for life in her community, and the flavorful food one eats without utensils…using a wonderful flat bread and fingers! Misa graciously invited me to become a part of her life for an afternoon…I felt a joy, honored, and can’t think of a better way for me to have spent my workday late lunch!
So do I think my life is made better by having immigrants from around the world be a part? Yes! Can I/we ‘afford’ to welcome people from around the world to America? I don’t know for sure, but in a simplistic way perhaps there’s a universal truth that says there’s more of everything through growing community. For example, there is more wealth today than 100 years ago, than 1000 years ago…and I suspect that business (business in the most fundamental sense) between and among more people is at the root of it.
How would you answer those questions about immigration?
Check out this really informative video (about 9 mins) describing in a clear and simple way the existing worldwide food value chain…and the impact on the world’s people groups. It says that 1 out 6 people in the world are undernourished. The reason? Globalization, but not from the viewpoint that globalization is evil, but merely that’s an outcome of the way things work today. The answer? Local grown food that feeds a regional population…and delivers all the additional value we’ve talked about here previously: use of crop rotation to reduce harmful chemicals and outsize use of resources and food that’s better for us and aligned with traditional diets eaten throughout the world.
The final point in the video about local grown offering food that is better for us doesn’t seem to me to be made so well. Having a dramatic improvement in my experience of life through a change in diet allows me to receive the recommendation made in the video as not only good for sustainability of the planet, but for me personally too. The personal change recommended in the video…reduce meat consumption seems a burden and even shaming. A more hopeful offer is available, while still supporting the spirit of the proposed solution. A diet incorporating lessons from ancient food traditions (or ‘Real Food’ as Nina Planck calls it in her book that I’m reading, Real Food, What to Eat and Why) offers a much healthier approach to eating than modern western diets that include lots of processed foods, fast food, ‘fat-free’ foods, and big portions of meat. I’m discovering that a traditional food diet with local grown ingredients offers a healthy alternative for me personally…and from what I learned in the video for the planet too!! Seems a win-win!
What do you think? Is the information believable, oversimplied, or motivational?
Additional thought 3/14: So the point at the end of the video is to remind us that we influence others in the world through our decisions. Our decisions have a much broader impact than just choosing to not eat meat. We are the wealthiest people in the world. If you make more than $100,000 income you are in the top 1% of all wage earners world wide (check out Global Rich List). So where we choose to spend our money impacts the world, including if and how we empower Bob the trader. So my own conclusion? Buy locally grown food! It can improve my personal health (if part of a common sense traditional food diet), reduces the power of Bob the trader (and all his colleagues), reduces use of harmful chemicals used in big agribusiness (mono-crop), and offers opportunity to the rest of the world to choose to use its own farmland in a way that feeds its own population.
The three of us were talking in Navneet’s apartment, me only in English, Shampa and Navneet in both English and Bangladeshi. The gifts each of us share through the Peace Dinners project are so awesome and valuable, but barriers can limit what the world is willing to receive from us. In community we are each able to offer our best gifts to one another (and through the Peace Dinners project to you too). So rather than a fast food job due to language constraints, Shampa is able to offer her creativity, love of her own food traditions and cooking, and entrepreneurial spirit to others…where all who join in community can benefit. It’s been amazing to me, I’m really enjoying making new friends from other parts of the world. I’m seeing the value of diverse community…to me personally, to Greater Boston (through new business, food, culture), and the world (ok, another plug for world peace, but I’m believing it more and more).
You’re invited!! We’re hosting a Peace Dinners’ event at Rindge Towers Community Room (364 Rindge Ave, Cambridge) on Saturday March 27th 5pm – 6pm. Come celebrate Indian, Bangladeshi, Ethiopian and American food traditions, answer a few survey questions, and meet us…6 of 9 of us now laboring together on the Peace Dinners project plan to be there. This is not a full meal, but merely a tasting of about 10 different items celebrating different food traditions…think of it as a worldwide snack excursion (without the plane fare)!!
NEW Launch date!! Finally, the new launch date for our test market of home delivered meals is scheduled for the week of March 29th…in just over two weeks. I’m sorry for this further delay, but we are doing an effective job of one skill I’d hope we’d have as a company…namely failing fast and recovering quickly. Although feels a bit more painful in reality than it did in theory!
We plan to send out menus on Wednesday 3/24 via email (and here online too) and ask that you respond with your orders and payment by 5pm on Friday 3/26. We plan to deliver the meals hot by dinner time on Monday 3/29. Here’s to building joyful community through diverse relationships…and good food!! Please send me an email or call (508) 318-8010 if interested to receive delivery. We plan to deliver in Cambridge area, JP area, and Natick area.
I recently saw an article online about a multi-year project sponsored by Winrock International, a nonprofit organization that works with people in the US and around the world to empower the disadvantaged, and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Michael H. Shuman wrote Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace in the Huffington Post about the project to collect case studies on “a growing number of profitable and competitive locally owned food businesses, here and abroad, that provide exciting models for communities becoming more food secure.”
“A study done two years ago found that a 20% shift of retail food spending in Detroit redirected to locally grown foods would create 5,000 jobs and increase local output by half a billion dollars. A similar shift to Detroit-grown food by those living in the five surrounding counties would create 35,000 jobs – far more than ever will come out of the multibillion-dollar bailout of the auto industry.”
He came to some surprising conclusions about local food and its economic potential:
- “Local food is not just about the proximity of production and short supply chains. Equally important is local ownership of the enterprises involved, which stimulates local income, wealth, jobs, taxes, charitable contributions, tourism, and entrepreneurship.
- “Many CFEs take characteristics that were once regarded as liabilities, such as limited capital or a dedication to high social standards, and turn them into competitive assets.
- “One way CFEs have become more competitive is through scale. Local does not necessary mean small. Many CFEs also export only once they’ve met local demand.
- “CFEs are in operation on every continent – including the developing world.
“Local food, by the way, also increasingly means cheaper food. Few economists appreciate how inefficient traditional global food production has become. Some 73 cents of every U.S. dollar spent on food goes to distribution, including advertising, trucking, packaging, refrigeration, middle people, and so forth. Seven cents goes to the farmer. A local food business, like the Oklahoma Food Cooperative we studied, has reduced distribution costs to 20 cents on the dollar, which means lower prices for consumers and more income for farmers.”
Do you find this information about locally grown food businesses driving economic growth in the community encouraging? Do you find it believable? Does this pique your curiosity…what additional information could further influence your thinking in this direction?
US Government Subsidies!
I should say that the Federal Nutrition Recommendation is not worthy of unstudied acceptance either. I’m reading Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto. He writes, “As I write, the FDA has just signed off on a new health claim for Frito-Lay chips on the grounds that eating chips fried in polyunsaturated fats can help you reduce your consumption of saturated fats, thereby conferring blessings on your cardiovascular system. So can a notorious junk food pass through the needle eye of nutritionists logic and come out the other side looking like a health food.”
The book is written like an investigative article so one can easily be stirred up by the ‘collusion’ of big government and big corporate food manufacturers, but point taken…common sense and a bit of education are required for healthy eating!!
A new friend I met at our recent Peace Dinner, Rosalind, let me know recently about the Food Literacy Project sponsored by Harvard University Dining Services. Its focus is educating Harvard students, but its information and events are accessible to the public. Its mission is very much aligned with our hope to offer information about the value of healthy eating and community. “The Food Literacy Project cultivates an understanding of food from the ground up. Education focuses on four integrated areas of food and society: agriculture, nutrition, food preparation and community.” They are hosting some movie screenings: Julie & Julia (Mar 30th) and The Garden (a documentary about an urban farming project in LA) on Apr 14th.
Other opportunities abound in the area. Here’s one more: Waltham Fields Community Farm events:
o LIBRARY PROGRAM SERIES, March 9th and 16th, 3:30-4:30pm: Join farm educator Paula Jordan for farm activities and stories at The Waltham Public Library!
o AMANDA’S ORGANIC GARDENING WORKSHOP, March 9th and 16th, 6:00-7:30pm: Join farmer Amanda and help get your garden ready for 2010!
o SPRING INTO GARDENING: Festival and Seedling Sale!, April 17th, 1:00-5:00pm
o SPROUT 2010, Sat, May 8 at the Charles River Museum of Industry
I just found out about a cool documentary, called Fresh. It seems to offer hope that personal action can lead to an improved food system supporting healthy eating. “FRESH is more than a movie, it’s a gateway to action. Our aim is to help grow FRESH food, ideas, and become active participant in an exciting, vibrant, and fast-growing movement.” Its NOT scheduled to be shown locally, but I’m willing to arrange a local screening if anyone else is interested. There is a cost to host the movie, but maybe we can share the cost (like $5-ish per person)…and Peace Dinners might prepare some healthy snacks / light dinner fare for every one.
What do you think…would you be interested to join a showing of the movie Fresh and snack out? Are you aware of other cool upcoming events locally that you’d recommend?
On Monday we hosted a ‘light’ dinner for a few new (and old) friends in Cambridge. Our goal (as usual) was to create space for people to come together to enjoy each other and food. But we also had another goal…a more intentional goal to discuss if and how Peace Dinners can play a role in building diverse community. This, of course, has been one of the goals all along, but this was our next step to ‘get real.’
Our friend (and co-laborer on the Peace Dinners project) Navneet invited together 8 ladies all born in different parts of central Asia (on very short notice, btw – she has such a relational gift). There was lots of energy in the room with kids, conversation and eating…it was great! Our new friends were gracious enough to answer my many questions and share bits of their life story with us! Well we got to know our new friends more intimately…the mom’s love (and find satisfaction in) cooking the evening meal; interestingly some of the women only enjoy food from their own tradition, while others enjoy exploring food from different traditions; and finally (perhaps not so surprisingly) the kids LOVE ‘traditional’ American food (meatloaf, hamburgers, mac-n-cheese…I hesitate to mention McD’s too).
So we were able to get to know more intimately people in diverse community…an obvious important step to understand how we can be a helpful member of the community. And equally exciting to me was meeting a new friend, who may join the Peace Dinners project in hopes to share her native meals and recipes with others. Part of our vision has been to celebrate authentic food traditions from around the world…and what better way than to give people who love their native food traditions and love to cook the means to share that with a broader community!!
So its been interesting to me as I pursue my own joy: healthy good tasting food…and living and loving in diverse community…that others see personal benefit and want to join ‘the dance.’ I saw this ‘Dancing Guy’ video on a friend’s blog site and so loved how it communicates my hope for my own role in the Peace Dinners project: to have fun working on the project every day, be open to others joining, and embrace them if they do (sharing joy).
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Woo hoo! I’m very excited to see all the many many details come together for us to launch prepared meal delivery on Monday March 8th…just over a week from now! I’ll be introducing the folks who have helped to make the test market of prepared meals possible in upcoming posts, because the people who have joined are very cool, fun…and have big vision and hope for Peace Dinners! My life is way better for knowing them…its been amazing to me!
I said in past blog posts and mentioned at the Peace Dinner on Monday that we’d hoped to start this next Monday, 3/1, but even though lots of people worked really hard, we just weren’t able to line up all the pieces to make that happen. As is usually the case (I’ve found) there’s good news in all circumstances…so this does give us more time to better prepare…like getting fun insulated bags for delivery, maybe give opportunity for a few more folks to join, buy pots and pans (yes, there’s lots of details to launching a business!)…and I won’t bore you with the rest.
If you’d like to receive menu, pricing and other information regarding the market test please contact me: email@example.com or (508) 318-8010. Appreciate your past prayers and encouragement…consider leaving more here in a comment!
Monday was our inaugural Peace Dinner together…woo hoo! Not to take ourselves too seriously, but I wonder if communal dinners comprised of people from different backgrounds meeting in support of a common cause may not have been the source of great movements in the past. Of course, our hopes may not be as significant as abolition, but peaceful community and healthy food systems seem really big and impossible to change from where I’m sitting.
So on Monday ten of us from different backgrounds (most only knew one or two others) came together for good food and fun connection…and to support a common cause. Potluck dinners are awesome; one is able to sample eclectic food at a single sitting. And this dinner was all that…the food was great! Lots of allergen free choices, anti-biotic hormone free meats, low glycemic food options…and all really tasty!!
We talked about our individual perceptions of different ‘values’ that we might consider pursuing in community together. Values like ‘communal dinners in diverse community,’ ‘locally grown food,’ ‘role of convenience in food shopping,’ and ‘peaceful community…even world peace.’ It was interesting to see unique ‘segments’ emerge in even a small roomful of people. There was the ‘skeptic’ and the ‘rabid locally grown proponent.’ Maybe not so surprisingly since we each had some idea of the ’cause’ we were meeting to discuss, but I sensed a common agreement on the value of diverse community…meaning a safe opportunity for people from different backgrounds to gather over a meal to get to know the other more intimately. There seemed agreement that to experience that is just plain ‘ol surprisingly fun.
Renee, our chef, and I then shared our plans and hopes for Peace Dinners (the project). There wasn’t time for discussion, but I sensed excitement (if perhaps some skepticism too) for possibilities. I challenged the group: my hope for Peace Dinners has been to be a vehicle for building peaceful community around healthy food…and so my invitation was to join in! It’d been just four of us (Renee, Mohammed, Ben and I)…and now there was opportunity for each to consider how Peace Dinners could be personally fun…and helpful to achieving personal dreams: exploring healthy eating, building hopeful diverse community, experience communal dinners, improve existing food systems, use how we spend to make a difference in the world, or influence our friends to participate in something bigger than any of us individually.
We also announced that next Monday we plan to start home delivery of prepared meals (not grocery, just healthy meals created from diverse food traditions) to a ‘limited’ audience…those dozen or so of you that are aware of our vision…and want to try out (and provide helpful feedback on) really tasty and convenient meals. I expect the price to be between $5.50 and $7.50 per individual serving.
Would you be interested to learn more about our test marketing plans for home delivery of prepared meals? To see a menu of meal options/pricing and more details on delivery and project goals, please drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (508) 318-8010.
All great change in America begins at the dinner table. – Ronald Reagan
Just a quick post to say you’re invited to join our first ever Peace Dinner planned for next Monday February 22 at 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Our vision for Peace Dinners (events…not the project) are communal potluck events with people you know, know only a little, or don’t know, and who are like you or very different from exotic locales around the world…all mixed together for a fun evening! So our first event will be a potluck dinner (please bring a favorite family dish that will serve 4 – 6) in the Greater Boston Vineyard Ministry Center dining room on the first floor at 15 Notre Dame Ave, Cambridge.
We plan for this first event to be informal, but with a bit of an agenda. We’ll have a relaxing dinner then a few of us will present our hopes for Peace Dinners (the project…not events), ask a few questions to inspire some lively discussion, than offer an invitation to participate in a test market of our prepared meals (we’ll only offer that night, but we will specify a deadline later in the week to sign up…delivery starts Mon 3/1). Our hope is that you’ll have a fun evening, meet some people you may not know, get excited about some new (or familiar ideas), and hear what a few of us have been up to the last few months! I expect about a dozen people (give or take a 1/2 dozen).
Please join us! And just to help with planning let me know if you plan to join at email@example.com or call me at (508) 318-8010. Hope to see you there!
The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston’s Local Food Committee is doing some really cool stuff. A friend of mine, Ben, who has already helped on the Peace Dinners project, just sent me a link today alerting me what these guys are up to. “The Local Food Committee works to transform the local food system of Eastern MASS by organizing events and programs that bring together individuals and local food organizations that are committed to promoting the eating of local food.”
They hope to increase consumption of locally grown food in Eastern Massachusetts. “The SBN Local Food Committee has developed a list of Seven Initiatives that are in various stages of development:
- Producing the first Boston Local Food Festival
- Encouraging local restaurants to include local food
- Mapping the local food system and growing the local food network
- Supporting the local food incubator kitchens
- Growing food production in urban areas
- Grow retail and distribution of local food
- Initiate the Eastern MASS Local Food Network
All the initiatives are very cool, but I really love the idea of local food festivals as a fun means to bring people together and increase awareness. I so think that fun relationships are key to transforming the world…and you likely get that sense if you’ve read a few of my past blog posts!! I look forward to Peace Dinners helping and participating in the Local Food Committee projects…its a no brainer since many of their goals are aligned with our own.
The first event is coming up on March 15 in Union Square in Somerville…check out the website for additional information and to sign up for email alerts with more information on this event and others later in the year. Their biggest event appears to be their Local Food Festival 2010 planned for Fall of this year!
What do you think about promoting locally grown food…is the timing right…what are the challenges to increasing consumption of locally grown food by Bostonians? Would you join in a local food festival? Do you think this is a helpful way to promote new businesses or causes?
So we’re ready to test market one aspect of the Peace Dinners project: prepared meals. We’ve tentatively set a date of Monday February 22 to have potluck dinner with a small group of like-minded friends to get feedback on the overall project vision/plans … are you interested? We also plan to invite folks to take part in our planned market test of home delivery of prepared meals…to start delivery about a week later.
A friend who is a professional chef and serves affluent clients in the Boston area as a personal chef has joined the project. Our plan is that she will create meals based on recipes that our friends from around the world now living in Cambridge and Boston will share with us. We plan to offer meals with locally grown ingredients and from diverse food traditions. We are focused on digestive health … so allergen aware (but not ALL meals are free of gluten, sugar, dairy, nut), seasonal vegetable rich, antibiotic and hormone free meats, and seafood open ocean caught only.
The test will last for a few weeks and include weekly home delivery of tasty hot meals. The meals can be eaten hot or stored in the refrigerator or freezer for up to a week’s worth of meals.
Are you interested in eating prepared meals at home occasionally, at least once a week, or more than once a week? Would you like to join a community of people dedicated to eating well, convenient access to affordable healthy meals and ingredients, and exploring diverse food traditions? Please let me know right away if you are interested and/or plan to join the dinner on 2/22.
Last week I bought a groupon for a discount off of Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley. They are one of those meal assembly places. You know, one of the many that sprung up all over the place in the Boston area a few years ago. While many of those places have gone out of business these guys are still around. The owner told me they’ve been in business for 2 years…so they’re doing something right in a challenging market.
I really just wanted to better understand how the meal assembly model worked and to try the food…which was really good! First, I was surprised to find out that in addition to the on-site meal prep kitchen they also have pre-assembled meals for pick-up for an extra $1 (out of their ground floor facility in an office building in Wellesley Farms near Paparazzi) and home delivery (with a $10-ish charge). Secondly, I was pleased that they focus on nutritious healthy ingredients for their meals. The label on the package says “whole foods, with little or no artificial chemicals” (the ground meat in the meal I ordered is hormone and antibiotic free) and “locally purchased fresh fruits and vegetables.” The owner said they’ve started to market at winter farmers markets and found that helpful.
Finally, the meal I ate last night, called Picadillo, was very tasty! It was a complete meal with individually packaged components together in a single box. The components came in plastic containers with raw ground meat, pre-cut raw vegetables, and mixed sauce all frozen, and it included rice too. The meal was maybe a little sweet for my own personal taste, but tasted fresh and was a delight to eat! I ordered a ‘half’ portion made to serve two with ‘hearty’ appetite and 3 with ‘healthy’ appetite. I was hungry by late dinner time when I ate and finished about 2/3 of the meal myself.
Overall my experience was great and I recommend it. There were two very minor downsides. One is that they are just a skoosh pricey for the smaller portions (which is what I’d want to order)…$18 – $20 for half portion (or $9 – $10 per individual meal) vs $26 – $30 (or $6.50 – $7.50 per individual meal). The other is that it was a bit challenging to find meals within my restrictive diet via their online ordering site. Now this is not unique (and why I don’t go to restaurants very often), but since they did provide nutrition information and a partial ingredient list for every meal why not just include a full ingredient list and allergen alerts for every meal! And unlike most restaurants I was able to find meals in this months menu that honored my restrictions, but many are on the sweet side (and include some kind of sugar or fruit juice). Those are pretty minor downsides to the great food and experience (both offline and online) that Healthy Habits Kitchen provide!
Do you currently buy meals this way (from here or another place)…if so, how often? What do you like and dislike about this model for serving your family meals?
“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled… away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.” -Etienne de La Boétie
Since I was diagnosed a year ago with a digestive illness I’ve discovered the benefits to eating locally grown food. There’s, of course, the obvious benefit that food grown locally using organic and sustainable farming practices just plain ol’ tastes better! Its harvested when mature and travels short distances…and no funky engineering or processes as are likely to be used on large mono-crop corporate farms, eg pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers, radiation, genetic modification, etc. Its better for the planet: less transportation impact and industrial toxins due to large scale production. Economically better: between 70% and 80% of every food dollar goes to distribution…rather than the farmer (only 7%) or lower cost to us, the consumer. And fair wages to farm workers are more likely here on local farms than on corporate owned farms in other countries.
I found a really cool community website called, boston localvore. It has lots of basic info on eating locally grown foods, like why do it, but also has really rich resources about options here in the Boston area. It has links to local farms offering CSA’s (all kinds, not just summer produce), farmers markets, restaurants that use locally grown ingredients, small retailers that offer locally grown products, and coolest of all are hosted events where localvores can meet and celebrate local food! There’s also a really fun blog!
Are you aware of the locavore or localvore movement? Do you eat locally grown food…and if so why? Do you make food purchasing decisions based on where the food is grown (how about the last time you went shopping)?
I’m researching businesses aligned with my goals for a food business here in Greater Boston. I suspect there is growing percentage of the population that has awareness of benefits of digestive health and value of local food sources. And I wonder if there are ways that growing segment of the population could be better served than is currently done by traditional grocery. I’ve found some really cool new grocery concepts. One is FreshDirect in New York City. They deliver locally grown produce…and meat, bread, deli/cheese, coffee and seafood…via home delivery. They focus on a subset of traditional grocery products (mostly high margin, but competitively priced) all food/meal related and charge a modest delivery fee of $6-ish to residential areas.
Another is Unpackaged with a retail location in London. They ‘believe packaging is unnecessary [and]… are doing something about it.’ They sell organic fair trade, wholefoods and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, including: grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dried fruit, vinegar, coffee/tea, herbs/spices, bakery goods, dairy, and a few other sundries.
As you may know the grocery supermarket became established in the US in the 1930’s around the concept of low margins and high volume. Its evolved some since as you see in the history link, but food has historically been a commodity business so he who has the lowest margins wins. If that were the only market dynamic in operation today than its easy to predict that Walmart will ‘win.’ Conventional groceries face a formidable competitor. However, as I said above I’m seeing some differentiation in food products, eg organic, fair trade, locally grown, ethnic, so by definition food is no longer a commodity. Also home meal replacement market continues to grow and that clearly is differentiated product. So as food buyers’ needs change there seems to be room for retailers to better serve emerging customer segments, as is being done by Trader Joe’s, Patel Bros (Indian ethnic grocery chain), and now FreshDirect and Unpackaged!
What do you think? What do you hate about grocery shopping? What’s one thing that’s important to you that your local grocery store just doesn’t get?
What vegetables did people in New England eat before global business? I mean one can get tomatoes in the dead of winter today. I had no idea what people ate in the olden days around here, and honestly wondered if they were at risk for scurvy in winter. I used to praise ‘modern globalization’ for bringing me ‘regular’ fruits and vegetables consistently all year long. I’m now discovering a new and more peaceful life through a seasonal lifestyle including New England winter crops for meal ingredients.
I also just learned about local Winter farmers markets. I totally get summer farmers markets and locally grown: fruits and vegetables fresher and riper (versus use of chemical preservatives and irradiation), low carbon footprint (food transported dozens of miles vs thousands of miles), support for farm workers under US law vs who knows what kind of labor practices in other countries, knowing with confidence that the farm is using healthy farming practices (versus lots of potentially less healthy possibilities like use of genetically modified seeds/plants, etc), and sustainable farming practices reducing need for pesticides and soil fertilization. I’m now learning the value of locally grown winter crops too…check out the list of awesome winter crops available at a recent Natick Winter farmers market!!
From a recent Boston Globe article, “Shoppers warm up to Winter Farmers Markets“: “Shoppers found the same sorts of seasonal produce that would have been available to their great-grandparents in the era before food was regularly flown around the world regardless of season; root vegetables like turnips, butternut squash, Brussels spouts, carrots, beets, and onions that were harvested in late fall, and stored in root cellars before coming to market.
“Several area suburbs were interested in bringing their municipal summer markets inside this winter, but only Natick has managed to line up the vendors and indoor space to do it, according to the state Department of Agricultural Re sources, though a privately sponsored market is also debuting this season at Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland.”
Do you eat different foods in different seasons? If so, is that an intentional choice? How is it going for you either way?
I just heard about a cool new website that has nutrition and allergen information for over 30,000 grocery products. Check it out at www.zeer.com. At no cost one can search for items by product category, brand name or product name, view the nutrition label, and participate in online communities related to gluten-free, organic foods and a handful of others.
For $4.95 per month one can access gluten-free status for all 30,000 products in their database. They assess a products gluten-free status by both checking the product label and by reviewing the ingredient list. I signed up for a free 30-day access…look forward to checking it out!
Here’s how they think about gluten in their analysis:
Strictly speaking, “gluten” is a protein found ONLY in wheat. Our goal at Zeer goal is to give you the information you need to make better decisions AND to make that information understandable. One of the ways we accomplish this on our website is to always use the term “gluten” to refer to any protein that is toxic to those who have Celiac Disease. The actual names of the toxic proteins you need to avoid are: gliadin and glutenin (found in wheat), hordein (found in barley), and secalin (found in rye).
And here’s how they evaluate ingredients:
We maintain a detailed database of tens of thousands of food ingredients used in packaged foods. This includes hundreds of ingredients that either contain gluten (like barley), that may contain gluten (like dextrin), that appear to be gluten free (like rice flour, which is gluten free as long as it isn’t cross contaminated, and doesn’t contain any gluten-containing additives), or that are gluten free.
In addition to keeping track of ingredients, we also track their synonyms. For example, “barley malt” can also be referred to as “malted barley” or “malt barley” in packaging.
Identifying these is a key part of what Zeer does to serve people living gluten free, and all of these synonyms will take you to the same centralized page. We track dozens of synonyms just for the ingredients “wheat” and “flour” to help you make better, more informed decisions about the food you eat.
What online resources have you found helpful to pursuing digestive health?
As I’ve said recently I’ve chosen to limit my diet and because of that I don’t eat out as often as I used to. I was at a friend’s place on a really cold evening recently. He’s just recently decided to eat ‘in’ more often so has a bunch of new equipment, but doesn’t keep much food around yet. So we started digging through his cabinets and refrigerator and threw what we found into a big skillet. What came out was a really tasty and filling comfort food. It was a relaxing and comfortable night of good food and conversation!
I’ve allowed myself these days to experiment while cooking throwing together what I instinctual sense will taste good (I’m definitely not a trained chef). I’ll find stuff in my fridge, mix and match in a pan or two and viola! I LOVE doing that…its fun and I’ve discovered some really great tasting dishes! And I think ANYONE can do it!
Thought I’d include the recipe my friend and I came up with here…its vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, and optionally dairy free.
Hearty Vegetarian Chili (serves 2 – 4) … aka Tuck’s Empty Cupboard Chili
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 zucchini
- 1 medium onion
- 1 14.5 oz can black beans
- 1/4 cup (-ish) olive oil
- 4 tbsp capers w/ liquid
- 4 medium tomatoes
- Salt to taste (but beware caper brine is salty)
- Cholula (or your fav hot sauce) to taste.
- 3/4 cup Quinoa (cooked in 1 1/2 cups water)
- 1 or 2 good friends
Chop onion and sauté with olive oil in large skillet. In a separate pot cook Quinoa (bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes). Peel eggplant (my personal preference) and cut into 1/4″ cube size. Cut up zucchini and tomatoes into similar size pieces. Once onions are clear add eggplant, zucchini, black beans (drained), and capers into the large skillet. When mixture is hot and tender (10 – 15 mins) add tomato and hot sauce and cook another 2 – 5 minutes.
Spoon Quinoa into large bowls (1 for you and each friend) then ladle the Chili over the top of each. Add salt and more hot sauce to taste. And for those free to indulge in dairy cravings throw in some sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese too! Get comfortable around a dinner table and liberally enjoy friendship!
I’ll explain in more detail in an upcoming post the ‘Elimination diet’ I’ve mentioned previously, but briefly the goal is to eliminate foods that have a likelihood of unhealthy chemicals, toxins, antibiotics or hormones…anything potentially inhibiting the body’s natural immune and digestive systems. Beef including hamburger is NOT on the list. If you want to eat healthy and love a good steak, or a loaded up hamburger don’t despair, I’ve discovered healthy options to eat beef (the key is know where it comes from), but buying hamburger from your local fast food joint, or your corner grocer is not the way. Check out this recent article, “Safety of Beef Processing Method is Questioned” in the New York Times…
“…an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia. The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated.”
Are you concerned about safety of foods available in your local grocery store? How do you get information to stay informed and make healthy choices?
So I’ve been focusing my time on tasks that I see can lead to either revenue as quickly as possible or helpful relationships. I’ve told friends recently that my experience of working on this project has been 20% terror and 80% over the top joy. As with other projects I’ve worked in the past I feel confident in certain areas and totally ignorant in others. My hope is to partner with friends who have skills and talents where I don’t.
My top goal from the beginning has been to gather friends (new or old) who are enthusiastic about the Peace Dinners’ core vision early on in the journey. I hope each of us brings our own gifts, passions and dreams to the table to flesh out the vision together. Well I’m really excited to say that two really awesome guys have recently joined. I use the term ‘join’ loosely because at this point we’re merely a project, but that’s why its so cool what these guys have decided. They are each choosing to spend time to pursue a loosely defined dream…in community with others. This is my core hope for Peace Dinners, that it would provide a space for people from different backgrounds to enter and stay in relationship in pursuit of a common vision!
Next on the agenda is have FUN! Maybe Peace Dinners has a different goal then the Three Stooges, but dang they were fun to watch…and I’ll bet they had fun working together! I want that for us!
I’m in the 80% over-the-top-joy space right now!
Do you have any tips or books you’d recommend to define project goals in community?
One of my favorite restaurants in all of Greater Boston is just a stone’s throw from my Natick home. I’ve been known to eat at Big Fresh Cafe, located between Rt 9 and Rt 30 in Framingham (near the post office and Walmart), more than once a week with friends! As I mentioned in my last post I’m choosing to limit my diet and feel great because of it, but finding restaurants that honor my restrictions has been really challenging. The first thing that I’ll say about this place is that I can eat everything on the menu…if you choose to limit your diet you know how awesome that is!
Big Fresh serves only healthy ingredients, such as ‘natural’ chicken (hormone free, antibiotic free), Wild Alaskan Cod or Salmon (not farm raised), brown rice, and locally grown produce (in season) from Landsake Farm in Weston and Heirloom Harvest in Westboro. The menu is a mix of Asian and Middle Eastern, and while that may seem an odd combination it works and tastes great! I love love love their hummus and falafel! The hummus comes with their middle eastern dishes and they spread it on the plate like Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and gravy, but instead of gravy there’s a pool of runny Tahini in the middle and spicy harif on the side…amazing combination! And that’s just the side, the main event is chicken in either a Taboli or sweet Moroccan sauce.
They have wraps, salads and stir fries…check out the full menu! While I haven’t tried everything on the menu I need to say something about the Thai Curry…its beautiful. Coconut curry sauce over jasmine rice (or brown rice if asked) and broccoli and salmon (chicken and tofu are also available). And affordable prices make it an extra easy decision for dinner out more regularly.
I’m late for dinner and thinking about this is making me even more hungry…so gotta go!
What are your favorite restaurants in Greater Boston that serve healthy meals?
Maybe the importance of diet to health is a no brainer for you, but it wasn’t for me. It made sense that diet impacted my overall health, but I always ate whatever I craved…fast food, whatever. And honestly I judged people who said they couldn’t eat some thingee (gluten, sugar, lactose, fat, whatever). After all hadn’t we as a people been eating the same stuff for centuries or millennium and here we are…still eating and most of us doing fine. I couldn’t decide if ‘those’ people’s lives were out of balance, if they were weak (or without discipline), or just anal.
Now as we consider together how to address a national ‘health care crisis,’ diet and nutrition seem a logical place for attention. It isn’t careful study and analysis that brings me to that conclusion, but personal experience. I started experiencing seemingly disconnected symptoms about 10 years ago. Nothing serious, but annoying…like acne/rosacea, athlete’s foot, dizziness/vertigo, stomach aches, irritability, memory loss…maybe middle age related…just odd little things. I went to a few doctors and one said it might be hypoglycemia, but that didn’t seem to fit exactly.
A friend who is a doctor recommended a year ago that I try the Marino Center for Integrative Health. What an enlightening experience! Dr Lantsman determined I had Candida. The doctor suggested I try an ‘elimination diet,’ a few weeks use of an anti-fungal prescription drug, long-term use of herbal medicines, and exercise. In a short time I felt GREAT…I mean a truly amazing change in my experience of life!! Acne/red face, athlete’s foot, warts, dizziness, irritability…all gone…along with a dramatic change in body shape (love handles, zing), a drop in weight and positive change in bowel movements…all while eating as much as I wanted.
This experience inspires me to advocate for healthy eating…but also shows me that transition is difficult. The problem? First, I didn’t have an awareness that I COULD actually feel better, since I felt fine. Also there’s lots of diet and nutrition information out there, but it’s either hyperbole or confusing (even conflicting). Once I ‘got it’ it took me a long time to find a suitable menu selection to replace my old diet. Finally, finding stuff I could eat and that I wanted to eat was a challenge.
Oddly (to me) I’ve found few helpful resources, so I’ve been inspired to start the Peace Dinners’ project to provide just that: a trustworthy community for healthy eating advice, easy access to recipes, food, and prepared meals that are good tasting healthy choices (including allergen free), community of healthy lifestyle vendors, and a simple affordable and fast shopping experience with convenient access.
What vendors or communities have you’ve found to get healthy medical advice, healthy eating / nutrution information, and healthy foods and restaurants?
Christopher asked yesterday in a comment he made if I’d seen an Anna Deavere Smith performance. I hadn’t, but I found some on Youtube. What a powerful voice…she has something to say. She uses the words of others she’s personally interviewed from around the country to weave an exciting tapestry, one thread in one voice and another thread in another. While I didn’t find a complete performance I could glimpse the humanity in the picture. What a huge subject, humanity. She seems to say that to be human necessarily means being part of a culture, a family while being individual too.
She seems to see and love her characters, each based on a real person she’s interviewed and the words she speaks are word for word what they spoke to her. Listening to her characters, they don’t fit into a neat trim ‘package.’ They each are a mix of grace, beauty, fear, love, sensitivity, anger, hurt, confusion, wonder, joy, humor and uniquely more. They each have something to say…and at the same time question. I’m realizing as I write this that its only through the multiple voices that one can glimpse hope. Hope in the midst of life and death, suffering and joy…living in community, each of us unique…humanity!
Perhaps this gives away too much of the punchline, but a commencement address at Bates College summarizes for me stories in the few recorded performances I viewed. Her parting advice? Be new and be you…the former more important than the latter.
Over dinner last night at one of my favorite restaurants I mentioned to a friend this idea of starting a business supporting intentional community with hope for world peace. He wondered aloud if that was too big a dream. He said jokingly that it sounded like something a prospective Miss America might say was her life goal. Right…I hear that, it IS a big dream and perhaps its not the right market message to pursue, but let me explain how I’m thinking about it.
For a season in my life I had many difficult relationships…had no idea why ‘they’ were warring with me. Then through some new relationships (including one with God) and healing programs I’m discovering more of who I am, including previously unseen pain, lies, gifting, and desires. As I continue to know myself more intimately (authentically) I have more freedom to just BE with others…and to see and celebrate the uniqueness of who they are. It offers me hope for peaceful relationships in my life!
I’ve also seen this concept of personal healing lead to peaceful community. I belong to a diverse community that meets regularly in Cambridge, MA that encourages personal healing and has very simple expectations for itself as a community. The expectations are: contribute to the community, don’t gossip, join with a small group of people that meet regularly…and an unwritten one is pursue your own big dream. Its the most amazingly supportive, authentic, and peaceful community I’ve ever been a part. Its around 1000 people.
So I’m merely wondering out loud: what could be the outcome of a grass roots focus on diverse local community that sees and honors all its members, including those from diverse cultures even from places that we are currently at war? I get that diverse community is really hard: right, look at the history of the US, there are many examples where cultures and traditions are undervalued or hurt. What if there were intentional spaces where each can discover personal value in friendships, personal healing, community networks and achieving mutual goals rather than isolating from or hurting another in the midst of momentary fear or misunderstanding.
I don’t see clearly this minute how diverse community can lead to world peace, but hope something good can come from it. I sense that even as we’re at war there are many individuals who wonder if there isn’t a peaceful alternative and seek ways they can personally be heard. Perhaps the only results of this effort are fair wages for a group of immigrants, ability for immigrants to spend more time with their kids, supportive community that encourages and enables an immigrant community to find fulfilling vocation, fun surprising friendships and communal dinners, and successful business partnerships…but hey, amazing things are possible when a people’s passion is stirred against injustice!
What do you think…is world peace even worth pursuing as an individual? Is there a role for local diverse community and a ‘grass roots’ approach in pursuing world peace? Lastly, please help me hone market messages for this Peace Dinners project…does a goal of ‘world peace through local community’ feel like a big vision worth getting behind or does it sound too unrealistic?
Potato gnocci with mushrooms covered in herb butter sauce
served with fresh seasonal local vegetable
Steve is cooking home-made Gnocci, a potato dumpling that’s been pan seared, and mushrooms with an herb butter sauce (thyme, rosemary and parsley). The gnocchi is gluten-free and home-made with rice flour and egg. The gnocci is served with fresh seasonal vegetables (depending on what’s best locally available at time of prep).
Allergen: cooked dairy, egg.
Ingredients: Rice flour, mushrooms, butter, egg, seasonal vegetable (fresh local grown), fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and parsley).