Monday, August 16, 2010

Civic Engagement with Food Not Bombs! (Spring 2010)

 The collective group of 10 classmates in our Research Studio Community Based Practices class had the opportunity to engage in a community-based project. We met, we looked at places we’d previously visited, we created a wiki with ideas and links, we talked and talked and finally decided on our collective criteria:

We wanted it to:
  1. Be free
  2. Be public
  3. Include art in some way
  4. Allow for individual + collaborative participation
  5. Provide a needed service

Get a list of places or events that interest you. Share these with each other and plan a brainstorming day.  Try to narrow down your choices based on some collectively agreed upon criteria. This really helped us to narrow it down by quite a bit.

When you decide who you would like to collaborate with, make contact and start the conversation about what might work best, where, when, etc. We decided that contributing something to the regular food distribution by Food Not Bombs was something we were very interested in. They let us know a few things about their event that they could use help with or where certain items were hard to come by and this informed our decision to create bags for people to take the food home in. We thought it would be nice if they were not disposable and if they contained original designs on them that somehow related to the work of Food Not Bombs or could be some type of logo for them. Each person wanted to create their own design. This also allowed us to create a good quantity by dividing the work between 10 people, each responsible for 10 bags.

Coordinate the work and studio days with your collaborators and lay out a schedule for days and times and the materials you will need and perhaps establish partnerships for gathering materials and setting up work stations. We set aside two studio days: one for creating the designs and transferring to masking and one for doing the silkscreening.

The distribution! We had arranged to meet up with Food Not Bombs one Sunday for their regular distribution and arrived a little early to set up a table with our bags. We found that they were very useful and people were genuinely thrilled that we wanted to give them away for free. They were gone really fast! One of the greatest parts of the day that most of us remembered was how we met people and stayed longer just to continue conversations, even though it was a cold and rainy day. I think we were surprised by how many people we met and wanted to talk to us about why we were doing this and who made the bags and with the quality of conversations all the way around. The Food Not Bombs volunteers really appreciated it too.

Ravioli Making with Mystery Filling (Fall, 2008)

The first time we decided to prepare and share a meal together revolved around the making of pasta. Our chef in residence, Tara Lane, prepared three fillings before our pasta-making day for us to use to fill our ravioli. The fillings would remain anonymous until tasting time, when we would collectively enjoy their deliciousness and try to figure out what was in them.

1. You’ll need bowls, measuring cups, big wooden spoons, a couple pasta makers, flour and eggs. Access to water helps too.

2. Pick a partner to work with and cover your work area with paper or plastic tablecloths. 

3. Measure out about 2 cups flour and pour this directly onto the table making a well in the center, crack 3-4 eggs into the center, add a pinch or two of salt. With a fork, break the yolks and mix the eggs together bringing in a little flour. You will have to use your hands when the dough starts to come together to gather up any remaining flour to make a ball of dough. Then proceed to knead, knead, and knead. This may take a while and can be pretty physical, so having a partner to take turns with is really great. Keep kneading until it is a uniform consistency and very smooth. Let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes.

4. Divide the dough into balls roughly the size of a tennis ball. Flatten the dough with your hands to an oblong pancake-like shape. The pasta setting should be at the widest to start. Feed the dough into the pasta maker, crank it through and catch it on the other side increasing (or decreasing) the dial for thinner sheets each consecutive pass through making flat sheets of dough.  For the ravioli making, we used three thin, long sheets of dough. (You might end up with more though.)

5. Now, on to filling the ravioli! We still didn’t know what our gorgeous fillings were. The fillings are spooned into the dough, spaced about a couple inches apart. You can make any shapes you want with this, but you do need to make sure the ravioli are sealed shut on all edges (press edges tightly together, you may need water to make sure they stick). One way we did this was to leave the sheet intact and put teaspoons of filling across one side (a little big away from the edge) spaced a couple inches apart, then fold over the dough (sealing it along edges and in between) so you have one big sheet with little bumps all along the length of the dough.  Cut the ravioli into separate pieces. Cooking and sharing the raviolis was starting to sound really good. 

6. Drop the raviolis into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Fresh pasta cooks pretty quickly. You can take one out and test it to see if it is done.

7. When they are done you can make a simple sauce with olive oil or butter and herbs, garlic, salt, etc. Have fun trying different flavors.

8. The best part! We shared the ravioli and guessed at what was inside. Some people were reminded of other meals, some of the ingredients were easy to identify, others escaped us, but the point wasn’t only to be accurate in uncovering those ingredients – it was the whole experience and shared process involving all our senses. The ingredients that Tara used for the fillings contained spices that we could relate to certain cultures, and we talked about the origins of particular spices and about their value in people’s lives, and some of their geographical or cultural significance. We shared some of our own personal stories about certain foods that reminded us of particular events or people and about when or what we might prepare and share together next…..