Cooking Collards at the Hattie Carthan Community Market

December 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

As summer comes to a close, the Hattie Carthan Community Market is making the best of the final good weather.

Just Food Chef Yonnette Fleming led a cooking demonstration for youth at the market on Saturday and offered an easy and fast method for preparing collard greens.

Fleming’s approach was a departure from Southern collards, which is a more commonly known method for cooking the leafy vegetable and which takes at least an hour to make.

Preparing the greens Brazilian-style was an appropriate way for Fleming to demonstrate the goal of these cooking demos: to give youth the intelligence to understand food better, and to give them unique and creative ideas for cooking with fresh foods.

The meal contained only three ingredients–collard greens, red onions and garlic–and only the red onions were not locally grown. Throughout the demonstration, Fleming emphasized the importance of the services that the market provides for the community.

While bodegas are scattered among various neighborhood street corners, the area has only a few bigger grocery stores and very few options for fresh, organic produce. Market manager Fai Walker said the farmer’s market fills that hole by providing locally-grown produce right across from the housing projects.

Bed-Stuy is a fresh food desert, Fleming said, and creating an informational access point for fresh and organic foods is half the battle. “If we don’t sit with communities and do the educating, it’s like we’re not doing anything.”

Fleming has been working with the students on an on-going basis, encouraging the kids to reflect on and use the information they learned the week before.

As the students cut the onions and garlic, Fleming posed a question to the audience: “What does food mean to you?” Various answers around the circle from the participating students and onlookers included joy, excitement, energy, nourishment and comfort.

To Fleming, food means life. “As a person who farms in the city, the way life emanates from the earth to make sure earth is preserved and nutritious to the body is beautiful.”

Walker is new to her position as market manager, but she started out as a volunteer and appreciates Fleming’s dedication to the market.

“Yonette is the innovator and does the demos using the accumulation of her life experience,” she said. “This is her brain child.”

Kimberly Johnson-Toure came to the market to stock up on fresh vegetables and stayed for the demonstration with her children. She said she can appreciate the market, which she found when walking her kids home from school one day on a different route.

She was overjoyed by the discovery. “I’m all for it and for putting energy into it directly,” she said.

Johnson-Toure spoke to Walker about wanting to sell her products at the market, because they’re locally made, but can’t because the ingredients are not locally grown.

Despite this obstacle, she stayed through the demonstration, filled out a volunteer application and even took over at the cooking table when Fleming went to Clifton Place to play African drums.

She noted that she cooks collard greens often and enjoys them, and she appreciated many of the techniques Fleming shared that made the process easier and more streamlined.

“Simple is also pure,” Fleming said. “I try not to get too complicated so everyone can feel empowered to do the same.”

Check the Hattie Carthan Garden website to learn about future “Cooking With Herbs” workshops.

[Original story here.]


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