When it comes to good taste, most folks think homegrown and home-cooked is better – and that good food is as good a reason as any to celebrate.
Wednesday was National Food Day, and several groups – including Sustainable Tahlequah, the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, Farmers’ Market, Cherokee County Food Policy Council and the Northeastern State University Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Club – got together at Norris Park to give area foodies a chance to learn more about the nationwide movement toward healthier, more affordable and sustainable food.
Food Day put the spotlight on edibles that are either grown or raised in the area, said Tahlequah Farmers’ Market President Marla Saeger.
“Food Day is a time when we can actually show what we do with local foods, whether it’s preparing it, selling it or eating it. Food is important to all of us, and we need to cherish where it comes from,” Saeger said. “I have found in a lot of the things I’m looking at that organic has been the trend for years and that it’s kind of changing now from organic to local. When it’s local, you know the people who are producing it, and ‘organic’ does not necessarily mean you know those people. So it makes a lot of difference to know who’s making your food. There’s a trust. There’s a bond. It’s almost a spiritual experience. You get to meet these people and get to know them.”
According to the website for the nationwide food celebration, Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and is supported by a diverse allied group of food movement leaders, organizations and a wide variety of food advocates. The annual Oct. 24 event promotes discussion on issues like health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy and animal welfare, with the goal of strengthening and unifying the food movement on both a local and national level.
“It’s just one of those days where you can enjoy the harvest, enjoy the food, enjoy the community and speak to the concerns of the people who eat it,” said Heaven Scent Food and Fiber owner and Cherokee County Food Policy Council Co-Chair Colleen Thornton. “What are there concerns? Is it pesticides? Is it that it’s local [food being bought] so all the money is staying in the local economy? Is it the fact that you know your neighbor? Those kinds of things.”
The Tahlequah Food Day bill of fare included a pumpkin-decorating contest, music, booths of local food producers and the inaugural Food Day Iron Skillet cook-off. Under the symbolic guidance of their respective celebrity chefs, five teams received a like list of ingredients provided by local growers to produce dishes to be judged on taste, healthy presentation, presentation and adhering to the rules.
Ingredients included yellow and pattypan squash, provided by Betty and Susan Raincrow of Raincrow Farms; Kale donated by Thornton, Tang Thao of Empire Farms in Jay, and Karen and Johnny White of Barefoot Farms in Rose; sweet potatoes contributed by Hulbert grower Julie Gahn, who is with the Tahlequah Community Garden; onions offered by Chua Thao of Empire Farms of Jay; goat cheese donated by Marty and Chrys Tinsley Family of Canyon Ridge Farms in Welling; and cornish hens donated by Lynn and Raymond Jones of DARP Co.
Each team was presented with its basket of ingredients Wednesday and was required to arrive at Norris Park by 4:30 p.m. with a prepared entree and side dishes using each ingredient in the basket.
The winning team, which produced a kale and bacon cornish hen roulade with sautéed pattypan squash dish, was Team Cherokee Nation and Talking Leaves Job Corps, with celebrity chef Diane Kelley. First runnerup was Team Tahlequah Public Schools, with celebrity chef State Sen. Jim Wilson.
To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.
Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.
Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.