Lebanese Cooking, May 25
A Tasty Victory: The Food Connection’s 3rd anniversary party serves up a diverse, memorable evening of community spirit
On Wed. May 25, I visited the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House for a special hands-on Lebanese cooking workshop and community potluck hosted by my new friends at The Food Connection. Throughout the evening, I felt increasing gratitude as I watched our casual gathering grow into a lively and heart-warming example of food’s powerful message of hope, sharing, enjoyment and reconnection.
Luckily for me, it just so happened that this first free community cooking class I’d ever attended in the city of Vancouver also marked The Food Connection’s third birthday. Around 30 of us, mostly folks who had never met before, made sure that The Food Connection’s fourth year began with much celebration.
The Food Connection was founded in 2013 by Joey Liu, a local food movement champion. She wanted to create a way for friends to explore urban food security and self-sufficiency, while sharing skills and resources and empowering neighbours to try new things hands-on. Through Neighbourhood Small Grants from the Vancouver Foundation and a partnership with Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, The Food Connection hosts monthly potlucks and workshops. After three years, there’s an impressive archive of workshop recipes ranging from nut milk and homemade dumplings to guides on canning, fermenting and starting your first garden.
Today, as Vancouver makes modest progress toward its Greenest City Food Strategy: Building Just and Sustainable Systems for greater public health and many related economic, social and environmental dividends, I find it very encouraging to see innovative and inclusive approaches like The Food Connection helping move our city in the right direction.
The whole room buzzed with pride when co-organizer Jenny van Enckevort said, “This is one of the most intergenerational gatherings of The Food Connection that we’ve ever hosted.”
Everyone – from baby Phoebe, who tried her first local strawberry of the season, to students and recent graduates as well as parents, community advocates and elders, all from diverse backgrounds and interests – discovered that we had much more in common thanks to the pleasures of sharing good food and friendly company.
Though I’d arrived hungry, tired and feeling a little self-conscious at the end of a long workday, I left feeling more satisfied than I’d dared to hope, and with a much lighter step, knowing that I had been part of something important.
After preparing dishes together and enjoying our work alongside “the usual” spectacular potluck, we then shared community announcements that ran the gamut from an East Van rewilding project to laughter yoga classes at the Hub. These stories continued to add to the atmosphere of positive and encouraging directions.
Majid Koury, who shared his delicious family recipes from traditional Lebanese cuisine with us, summed up the evening for us all when he said, “This gives me hope for the city.”
The night was also full of laughter and learning. I now appreciate the simple secrets of authentic Lebanese hummus. As one of the many Vancouverites who usually eats colourful spiced-up dips (such as the beet-ginger hummus I ate last weekend), I was among the many people who chuckled to learn that garlic – and a modest amount at that – is the only authentic flavour flourish for hummus. And as someone who recently fumbled my dried chick peas in a way that ended up both gaseous and time-consuming, I noted the helpful tip that a teaspoon of baking soda added to the soaking water helps them reconstitute more quickly and easily.
About half the evening’s participants had never attended a Food Connection workshop before, so it was clear that word of mouth and other grassroots connections – as well as a beautiful spring evening and the promise of great food – had enticed many curious newcomers and regulars alike.
Since I’d also enjoyed a revitalizing variety of new conversations, I went home feeling certain that times are changing for the better, too. It felt like everyone was committed to taking more chances like this to meet our neighbours, share what matters, and celebrate community spirit – most of all because it’s just good old fun.