Posts Tagged ‘kids food fest’
On Saturday, January 21, 2012, I went to the Kids Food Fest to be a culinary volunteer. Co-sponsored by Share Our Strength and the James Beard Foundation, the festival was created to get kids interested in food and teach them healthy eating habits.
The event was a two-day affair in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan. It was a snowy, cold day and while it brought out the skaters to the ice rink (CitiPond), it kept away a lot of visitors from the festival, which was a shame. They had prepared for 50 children per event, and the numbers were nowhere near that. The most kids I saw at any demo/performance were perhaps 20. But there was a nice cross-section of kids. They ranged in age from toddler to teen; they were black, white, and Asian; and I even saw a couple of kids who, I had reason to believe, had two daddies. These are all good things.
Although there was a lot of frenzied running around, it seemed that they really didn’t have a whole lot for the volunteers to do. I tried to brave out the cold in my chef jacket, in an attempt to maintain a professional appearance at all times. I even helped deliver trays of prepped foods from the event services pavilion to the main building, where they were doing other demos, with no coat.
After a while, another volunteer and I were assigned to the stage tent to help out with the demos. The stage tent was one of those temporary metal-and-Plexiglas structures, and although they had heaters in there, it was absolutely freezing. Over time, I slowly donned parts of my outwear: first my gloves, then my hat, and after about 2 hours, I couldn’t take it any more and finally put on my coat. And despite the fact that I was wearing my snow boots, my toes were frozen after several hours. I eyed the main building, a café/lounge called Celcius, with envy, wishing that I’d been assigned to the demos in there.
The first demo I assisted in was “Avocados From Mexico: Guacamole Mashing with Cricket Azima.” Cricket Azima is a co-founder of the Kids Food Fest and The Creative Kitchen. I had gone in with my knife roll across my back, kind of like an arrow quiver; Cricket told me to put the knives down so as not to scare the kids (not that they would have known that there were knives in there.) Kids were given plastic bags with an avocado and some tomato. The other volunteer and I handed out the bags, along with limes, cilantro, and salt. The kids squeezed the limes into their bags (or their parents did), pinched off the cilantro leaves, and grabbed a pinch of salt, sealed the bags, and then squished everything together with their hands. Then they got to eat it with sweet potato chips.
Next up was “Table Time with Mr. Manners,” hosted by Tom Farley, an etiquette specialist. He engaged the kids in a talk about table manners and the kids’ answers to his questions were pretty cute. For example, he asked them to name some bad table manners, and one kid responded, “No spitting on the table.”
I was interested in “Akiko Thurnauer: Japanese Onigiri Rice Balls,” Chef Akiko and her sous chef taught the audience how to make Japanese rice balls by hand and by using a mold (which actually yielded rice rolls). One of the ingredients she used was red shiso, which is often referred to as Japanese basil. It did have a basil-like flavor, crossed with maybe oregano. Green shiso, also called perilla, is part of the same as basil, but red shiso is another type called akajiso, and is used to dye umeboshi, which are pickled ume plums. (We used a lot of umeboshi paste and vinegar quite a bit at The Natural Gourmet Institute. The medicinal benefits of umeboshi is the subject of another blog. Stay tuned.)
I took a break during “Circus Balancing,” as it did not require any culinary assistance. Cricket was up next with “Snack Time Choices.” At that point, I could no longer feel my toes and decided that 6 hours was enough for me.
All in all, it wasn’t the culinary experience I’d hoped it would be, but it was educational to see the behind-the-scenes activities of an event like this. Well, at least I got a few Clif Bars out of the deal.