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Common Eating – The Meal Itself.

This post on the meal itself for Common Eating, is probably the one that has changed the most since I wrote it. I originally thought that I wouldn’t bother with any textbook. However, I think I’m going to add a cookbook to the list. Not just any cookbook, but the More with Less cookbook. This cookbook is the greatest contribution of Mennonites to the world, well, greatest after Pioneer Farmers Sausage, and Shmaunt Fat.

I also think that I will need to provide material to point students on the best ways to purchase food for large groups of people. I often find that when I’ve shopped and thought that I might not have enough food, that the opposite is true and that I’ve purchased a fair bit more than I need. 

Since my last post I’ve also come across another cookbook that may be helpful to have around. It’s called Volume, and it’s published by Sharon Steward, the chef for Manitoba Pioneer Camp. Although the volume quantities are larger than what might be needed for the class, cutting the recipes in four should be fairly simple. 

Common Eating potatoes
A cookie sheet full of roast potatoes is a good, simple cooking option. Cutting larger potatoes, rather than using minis will be a way to cut down on cost.

I would really appreciate it if people would leave comments as to how they have been able to overcome diverse eating habits in positive ways for all concerned.

If you’ve had a chance to read the previous posts in this series, you’ll have noticed an emphasis on the meal that begins each session.  This meal is intended to be the central part of the course.  I hope to accomplish several things in doing this.
Foremost, is the opportunity for students to get to know each other in a way that a normal seminary class may not allow.  The meal allows for something more than a coffee break, even a somewhat protracted one does, for  the building of relationships.

As more and more people pursue ordained ministry later in life, and there is a greater diversity in students, cooking a meal that represents your tradition, whether religious or cultural will be encouraged. As it’s a paired assignment, creating a meal that combines traditions will also be encouraged. 
I want to make the meal both a limited budget and limited (by number) ingredient meal.  Hopefully this would keep the meal simple.  Since, it would be expected that everyone would cook, keeping the budget low and the meal plan simple, would likely serve to keep the meal from becoming a competitive cook.  It’s likely that the people in the class would have different cooking abilities and hopefully this would prevent those with less skill feeling embarrassed by those whose skill is more advanced.

Common eating soup
Soups are typically a good way to provide a cheap, tasty, and nutritious meal for a larger group.

Another thing that needs to be dealt with is food allergies, and dietary choices. Before the classes begin each student will be required to submit any allergies or medical restrictions on their eating. This does not include things such as eating Paleo, Keto, South Beach Diet, etc.

The course will respect vegetarian and vegan choices. This does not mean that every meal will need to be vegetarian or vegan, but should make a reasonable attempt to accommodate any vegetarians or vegans. While this may seem difficult, it’s part of why the course is called “Common Eating.” It’s about learning to better eat together. 

As an example of the unaccommodating approach: A few years ago I attended a fund raising dinner. A friend who is a vegetarian also attended asking in advance for the vegetarian option. The regular meal was chicken breast, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. The vegetarian option was mashed potatoes and broccoli. Clearly, no thought was given to making sure there was some protein option included for vegetarians. 
My own way around this, if I’m not preparing a vegetarian meal, is to plan a dish, and then use the non-protein ingredients, find a vegetarian protein source, and build a smaller dish using the same ingredients. These means I can produce another dish without adding to much preparation time. I am sure there are other ways of doing this as well. 
There obviously needs to be give and take in these practices, that is one of the things that I hope students will learn. The basic approach however, is, if it isn’t going to cause you medical problems, eat what is put before you. Remember, that as a priest/minister you are a guest in people’s houses more often than not, and accepting what your parishioners offers you, is often the most important ministry bridge you can build. 
Thinking about your classmates also means realizing that not everyone likes their food prepared like you do. For example, I like spicy food of the type that makes your eyeballs bleed. However, most people don’t so go easy on the spices. You may, like one of my parishioners at St. Philip’s does, bring along some hot sauce or spice mixture, that people can add as they desire. 
In keeping the budget low, I also hope that people in the class would be forced to reflect on the cost of food.  In preparing and eating meals that are simple in nature, participants in the class will be given the opportunity to reflect on what life is like for people in their communities who are living on fixed incomes.
To accomplish this I’m suggesting a food fee of $45.  $30. of this would be the budgeted amount that the students are allowed for the meal they prepare(receipts must be submitted), and $15 for the closing feast(I’m rethinking the potluck thing).  The $15 would be due up front, and the $30 dollars would be used for purchasing ingredients(marks will be deducted for students who try and spend less/more than $30(give or take a few cents)).
I’m thinking the costing would work better on a per person basis rather than on a flat rate per meal basis. Part of the reason for this would be the time and location that course is taught. Food prices can vary quite considerably given different seasons and places.
There is also no limit on the types of food. If a person wants to cook using only fresh, local, and organic ingredients, they are welcome to do so. If they wish to cook using packaged, canned, and frozen, they are welcome to do that as well. 
By pairing students together, it also becomes an exercise in collaboration.  Both students will need to participate in the exercise, and both students will receive the same mark. While it may seem unfair if one student does more work than the other, part of the point of the exercise is in learning to work together.  For example, if you are a good cook, learning to share a kitchen with someone who isn’t quite is good could be quite challenging.
By the end of the course, the plan is that students would have developed some skills in understanding meal planning.  Some may have cooked for the first time. Some may learn a little more about simple meals. All, if it works out, will have become more closely connected with each other and the food they eat.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.