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Food, Glorious Food

11/29/2012

It’s now a week after the big feast of Thanksgiving: Your leftovers are probably long gone, and perhaps you’re thinking it might be a while before you are craving any turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce or pie. Fair warning to those who are still stuffed: We’re about to talk about food. But it’s not the overindulgence of gluttonous holiday goodies we’ll be talking about, it’s something a bit more gastro-cerebral that’s been on the minds of Brooksians this fall.

Sixth-formers Patrick Gordon and Nick Gates, along with faculty members Brian Palm and Kathy Crowley, organized a two-part culinary event that focused the benefits of eating local food.

“I wanted to put on this type of event to give my peers more information about the food they are eating and to inspire them to be more proactive and attentive to the fact that food matters,” said Gordon, originally from Woburn, Mass.

He believes that there’s a misperception out there that healthy food cannot taste good — a myth is says isn’t true.

“I wanted to show people that eating healthy food can not only taste awesome, but it can lead to a healthier lifestyle,” said Gordon.

The event, dubbed “Local Matters” by Palm and Patrick, was held over two nights. The first evening was a student-focused event. Instead of regular sit-down dinner in the Wilder Dining Hall students and faculty were treated to a buffet of locally-sourced food, including roasted turkey sliders from Raymond’s Turkey Farm in Methuen, hamburger and cheeseburger sliders made with beef from a farm in Maine, French fries and sweet potato fries made with potatoes from Mann Orchards, and apple cider and apples from Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury.

The second part was a dinner and discussion with invited guests from around the region: community members, farmers, health educators from other schools all enjoyed foods from New England, and discussed how local food is part of a larger discussion about personal health and sustainability. The guest chef was John Turenne, president of Sustainable Food Systems in Wallingford, Conn., a consulting company that partners with schools, healthcare facilities and community organizations “to incorporate sustainability practices that are healthier for their customers, local economies and the planet,” according to the company’s website.

The menu for that evening featured items such as pickled carrots from the Brooks School garden, roasted young chickens from Misty Knoll Farms in New Haven, Vt., and curried butternut squash, using vegetables from Galenski Farm in Deerfield, Mass.

The guest speaker at the event was Frances Moore Lappé of the Small Planet Institute and author of several books, Diet for a Small Planet. Her presentation focused on the growing ‘scarcity-mindedness’ or the belief that almost everything — from food to energy— is scarce. Through her work, she works to debunk that myth and push forward a more “eco-mindedness” where people feel empowered to align with nature and find there are plenty of resources to be used.

Gordon said he hatched the idea for Local Matters while brainstorming a sustainability project that would attract and affect the entire school community. He says he decided to focus on food because of some changes made in the dining hall last year — some of them were popular (adding a daily smoothie bar to the breakfast offerings) and some were not so popular (eliminating white bread and chocolate milk, although a healthier chocolate milk was brought back to daily offerings).

“I heard lots of chatter … some students seems more concerned with the missing food they had grown accustomed to as opposed to thinking of the nutritional value of the dining hall choices,” Gordon said. “So I had this idea to put together an event which involved great tasting local food that also had a high nutritional value.”

The student meal was a packed house and despite a winding line causing a little bit of a wait for supper, students were fans of the local fare.

“It was really good, especially the sliders and the fries” said Erinn Lee ’16, who said her mom brought her up on organic food. “You feel better when you eat better … and I don’t feel as guilty than if I had eaten a McDonald’s burger and fries.”

Palm, who serves as the school’s director of environmental stewardship, has taught AP environmental science classes for the past nine years and works extensively with students on issues surrounding sustainability, recycling and environmental awareness.

He said his hope was that this event and future related events would bring Brooks into the spotlight as a leader in the local food movement.

“Brooks should be a leader in the development of thoughts and ideas in the Merrimack Valley and on the North Shore. We should aim to strengthen and reinforce our connection with the local community and since we are a leader in the field of sustainability, this is an area that makes sense to focus on,” Palm said.

The guest list for the second event was extensive, and included representatives from the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, the town of North Andover, Northeast Family Farms, Governor’s Academic, St. John’s Prep, Phillips Andover, Shawsheen medical Associates, The Trustees of Appleton Farm and several other organizations.

“Local sourcing of food is a topic that reinforces community,” said Palm “Nothing could represent our hopes better than sharing a meal with people who are involved in education, community development and the local food industry.”

The aim, Palm and Gordon agree, was to get students thinking more about their overall wellness — from food to exercise to mental health — and developing a school wide philosophy around those topics.

“I wanted people to be involved in the process, and be conscious of what they are putting in their bodies,” Gordon said as he watched students line up for seconds at the student local-food buffet. “Hopefully, this is a spark.”

Good Eatin’
Check out the local food served as part of the “Local Matters” event this fall:

Student dinner
All-natural hamburger and cheeseburger sliders, Maine
Rolls from Tripoli Bakery, Lawrence
Vegetarian Wraps and fresh vegetables from Paintadosi Baking, Malden
Roasted Turkey Sliders from Raymond’s Turkey Farm, Methuen
French fries and sweet potato fries made in the Dining Hall from potatoes, Mann Orchards
Cider and apple from Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury
Milk and ice cream from Richardson’s, Middleton

Community dinner
Pickled carrots, Brooks School garden
Assorted greens with vinaigrette from Pleasant Valley Gardens, Methuen
Curried butternut squash soup from Galenski Farm, Deerfield
Roasted young chickens from Misty Knoll Farms, New Haven, Vermont
Rosemary potatoes from Szawlowski Farm, Hatfield
Braised winter greens from Pleasant Valley Gardens, Methuen
Seven-grain bread, Nashoba Brook Bakery, Concord
Apple and maple bread pudding from Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury, and Tripoli Bakery, Lawrence
Ice cream from Richardson’s Farm, Middleton
Apple cider from Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury