Food brings us together in so many ways. Planting, growing and harvesting the produce for a meal requires collaboration and physical work. Cooking and preparing food requires planning and skill. But the most important aspect about food that binds us the most is the sharing of the ultimate product: eating.
Before a community meal is dished up, everyone gathers in a circle. The cooks announce the dishes and the origin of the ingredients. This practice makes us aware of where our food came from. It gives us a certain pride whenever a community dish is announced to have come from the PICA garden, and a cheer goes around the circle. The usual proud, happy chorus of “KALE!” always rises up out of the work group in response to the salad dish announcement and members expectantly nod when a local farm is mentioned.
It’s great to know where our food comes from and it is even better when the dishes we make from sustainable sources taste good. My favorite part of PICA is the deliciousness of the community meals. When I first came to PICA, I shared a child’s fear of vegetables. I would pick at my plate and avoid all green things. Then I discovered PICA.
I first came to PICA during a sustainability project with College 8 as a requirement for my core course. The whole class was invited to stay for lunch after working in the garden. As one of the few who stayed for the meal, I can tell you that it was well worth while. I happy devoured everything on my plate, including all the veggies and was pleasantly surprised. Delicious green vegetables were unheard of to me before that point on my life. I decided at that point that I can and should eat better. I should be eating vegetables to maintain my health as well as eating local, organically grown food and little meat. Every meal at PICA is vegetarian and/or vegan. This is another way that we can eat sustainably. Living and eating at PICA has changed my life for the better and has had a small impact on the world around me. I am so thankful that PICA has allowed me to broaden my horizons and helped me learn to love new things. Without PICA I would have never discovered that veggies could be so inhumanly tasty.
And clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Every Saturday, after working in the garden, everyone settles down with their dish of amazing sustainable food and a silence falls over the community. A silent appreciation for all that has been done to create the plated masterpieces in front of us. The group occasionally nods their head and smiles. The occasional hum of “mmmm this is so good!” is heard over the quiet hungry mass of garden workers.
The PICA community meal tradition is a recipe for a happy, sustainable community. I hope that the practice is carried on through PICA’s existence and that the current and future members of PICA continue the tradition within their own lives, no matter where it may take them.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Lora Johansen, the events coordinator here at PICA. I am a sophmore studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology here at UCSC. I love sailing, gardening, cooking,reading, and meeting new friends. So please feel free to introduce yourself!