PICA Family Reunion a Big Hit!

The first annual PICA Family Reunion, which took place on May 22nd, was a smashing success! The total number of attendees hovered somewhere around 60 people, and the crowd was an exciting blend of current PICAns and alumni, with the multi-aged crowd including some veterans who have been at PICA from Day One (Steve and Robbie, José) all the way to a PICA baby (Max). Old housemates reunited at the welcome table and raffle entry spot, and from there, reconnections and recollections abounded, as did the meeting and mingling of more recent PICAns with their more seasoned cohorts.

Though it was a blustery day, in true PICA fashion, everyone was more than happy to be outside enjoying the grounds of the Sustainable Living Center and being wowed by just how much more beautiful everything has become in the short time since they were last here. As the group started out on their tour of the greenhouse and Foundational Roots Garden, many guests remarked about the gardens looking so wonderfully cared for and how much everything has blossomed and grown since PICA’s beginnings. Once in the Garden, most people found themselves just wanting to stay there, looking over a display of garden photos from years past and fondly remembering how they had bonded with their fellow PICAns over many hours spent putting in fence posts, pulling weeds, or planting starts they had nurtured from seed. Several folks opted to get their hands dirty and harvest lettuce and herbs for a bountiful salad for the soon-to-be feast.

This brings me to what is an essential part of every PICA gathering: food! Again, in authentic PICA style, talented PICA chefs Victoria Bloedau and Dora Bromme presented the afternoon feast they’d lovingly prepared in all its glory to our eager gathering of folks. This spread was truly a miraculous offering of multi-cultural, sustainable, delicious food prepared with as many homegrown ingredients as possible and recipes from past PICA workshops. The bountiful menu — as much a joy to the eye as to the mouth and stomach — included tamales, collard wraps filled with curried brown rice and hummus, fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce (recipe below), vegetable sushi, white bean and basil dip with handmade chapatis, homemade cheeses and crackers, and lettuce herb salad with citrus vinaigrette. After the cooks introduced their dishes, the ravenous crowd formed the typical serving line, and people chatted with their line mates as they helped themselves to the awesome meal. Everyone sat down to eat at the various tables placed around the A-Quad, and, in between delicious mouthfuls and exclamations of “Wow, this is sooo good,” rich conversation and hearty laughter bubbled up all around. People reminisced about their time spent together in PICA, recalling some of their favorite meals, funniest moments, supreme challenges, and other fond memories.

As the meal wound down, people made their way into A3 to enjoy a slideshow of PICA photos, awesome live music played by Sarah Wheatley and David Saxton, and a dessert of apple muffins with PICA-canned pumpkin butter and rosemary shortbread. Steve then spoke to the crowd about how PICA has risen up from its humblest of beginnings to its current incarnation as a program that profoundly touches many lives. He asked folks in the room to remember their time at PICA and reflect on how that experience has impacted their lives, as well as their communities, going forward. With these reflections in mind, we then engaged in a family discussion of our vision for the future of PICA and the resources needed to sustain this vision. After a fifteen-minute brainstorming session in smaller groups, everyone came back together to share and record our ideas for future planning and networking. Strengthening the roots of our community in order to tap into resources for the program figured prominently. We envisioned a thriving PICA community that fills the whole Village and that unites current PICA students with alumni, fellow campus organizations, local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

One exciting project already underway to achieve this vision includes the SLC Green Kitchen, a community kitchen and experiential classroom that will be available to the entire campus community, and is designed with sustainability as its core principal. The Green Kitchen project has already been approved by the University, and PICA now requires all the help and ideas its community can muster to raise the funds needed to make the kitchen a reality. Possible efforts mentioned that afternoon included increasing our outreach to other campus programs and fundraising collaborations with outside organizations, such as local grocery stores and restaurants, though surely there must be more! We also spoke at length of an expanded, two-unit student internship program in which seasoned PICAns residents would directly mentor newer students to pass on community practices and create a more cohesive, productive community each year. Internships also arose as a way for students to connect with alumni and non-campus organizations already working hard to make the world more sustainable for all. And of course, everybody agreed on the need for more opportunities for alumni to return to PICA, be it at special garden workdays or future alumni gatherings. With this sentiment at heart, we concluded with a warm round of applause for Steve and the event organizers, and then raffled away several illustrious prizes, including a bottled of our beloved Condor’s Hope wine.

As is always the case with PICA, satisfaction abounded and people left with full bellies, stimulated minds, and happy hearts. I’m sure for many at the communal table, all of the familiar PICA elements of good friends, common cause, nature, food, and community combined to make for a fine homecoming experience. Those alumni that were not able to be with us were surely missed by all, but especially by those PICAns with whom they had shared one or two years in the Village. We hope that in the years to come, whenever we send out the call to come home to PICA, more and more of you will be able to make that journey. This day was just the first of many annual PICA Family Reunions, and we hope to see all of you at the next one! Keep your eyes out for an announcement next year about when it will be, and do whatever you need to make your PICA homecoming happen- you’ll be glad you did!

Veggie Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Veggie Spring Rolls (Pao Phia)                                                                             

Ingredients:
* spring roll papers
* baked tofu, sliced
* red leaf lettuce
* Asian mint
* shredded carrots
* cucumber
* Somen rice noodles

Directions:

* Cook somen noodles in hot water. Make sure you do not overcook!
* Strain and run cold water through noodles.
* Grate carrots, wash and break apart lettuce. Slice tofu and cucumbers.
* In a pan of warm water, soak a wrapper until soft.
* Lay wrapper out flat on clean towel.
* Place each ingredient down middle of wrapper.
* Fold over each end and tightly roll the wrapper around the contents, as if making a burrito.
* Press to close.
* When ready to eat, slice in two and serve with peanut sauce.

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Peanut Sauce
Ingredients
* 1 Tbsp. Vegetable oil
* 1 Tbsp. Red curry paste
* 2 cups Creamy Natural Peanut Butter
* 1 cup Coconut milk
* 2-3Tbsp Tamarind juice
* Sugar
* Salt

Directions
* Heat oil in pan on medium heat. Add curry paste and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly.
* Add coconut milk until boiling. Then add peanut butter. Stir.
* Add tamarind juice.
* Add salt and sugar to taste

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