The Astoria CSA, formed in 2006, wants CSA shareholders to grab unfamiliar produce by the horns, and taste it. Veteran CSA members are likely familiar with the swap bin filled with the unwanted rutabagas and radishes. Instead of abandoning eggplant in the swap bin for safer, greener pastures, what if people were able to concoct fast, easy, and delicious recipes with vegetables they once feared or detested?
This is the premise behind Food Extravaganza. The two words combined demand that every one of your senses be put to use, and invite you to wish up a few more. Food Extravaganza Demonstrations provide a way to familiarize CSA shareholders, and community members alike, with different types of vegetables and cuisines that most people may not necessarily feel comfortable handling. These demonstrations started in 2008, and usually happen once a month at the distribution point of the Astoria CSA at ARROW Community Center, located on 35th Street between 35th and 36th Avenue in southern Astoria.
Stacey Ornstein—co-founder of Astoria CSA, food educator extraordinaire, and ioby project leader veteran—explained in an interview last week that the idea for Food Extravaganza Demonstrations stemmed from a desire to increase awareness of obesity, food diversity, and the subsidized shares the CSA offers to low-income families. Astoria CSA provides food demonstrations to encourage people to learn to cook something new, and to share recipes with those that might not have access to locally grown organic fruits and vegetables.
Dalena Tonkin, Events Coordinator for Astoria CSA and Health Coach professional, shares her own favorite Food Extravaganza food with ioby exclaiming emphatically, “Through the CSA I have learned to appreciate something called a watermelon radish. They are the most brilliant hot pink shade of fuchsia on the inside, and they aren’t super spicy like radishes. They’re hot pink! You can’t go wrong with that!” It’s hard not to share Tonkin’s enthusiasm, and she hopes that others will learn to appreciate organic, local food the same way she does. “Nothing beats organic and local…I think a bag of carrots goes a little bit further than a bag of Doritos,” Tonkin insists. We at ioby could not agree more.
With an ever increasing obesity rate in this country, and the disconnect between people and food, Food Extravaganzas provide a way to come together and learn about new recipes, different cultures, and cuisine varieties. It serves as a means to show others your favorite dish, and the hope that your new favorite, must-have food is waiting just around the corner. Ornstein and Tonkin are hopeful for the CSA’s project on ioby that aims to raise $255 before mid-June, when they plan to start the demonstrations. With Food Extravaganza Demonstrations, “people discover new foods and new ways to prepare their foods. I think that’s one of the great things that people enjoy about Food Extravaganzas. It’s having that knowledge of how things should taste and look. It’s not scary! It’s easy! And fast! And good!” Ornstein passionately tells ioby.
Looking forward to the upcoming summer share, Tonkin hopes to have a vermiculture composting workshop with ioby’s very own Helen Ho. The CSA is also planning a series of farm trips throughout the season, and hopefully some canning sessions sprinkled in between. Tonkin hints that there is an Astoria CSA Cookbook in the works, so keep your ear to the ground, fellow veggie lovers!
Food Extravaganza Demonstrations are an integral part of the Astoria CSA, and there is much and more to be learned by attending these amazing cooking demos. This project can be found on the ioby website, and while registration is closed for the spring, be sure to look for new member sign up in the fall. I would not hesitate to join, as spots seem to go as quickly as they open. Who knows? When Food Extravaganza Demonstrations is fully funded on ioby, and up and running, you may even find yourself leading a cooking demonstration yourself.
Again, you can find the project here.