Community Supported Kitchens and Public Demand

“Peasant food has been the smartest, thriftiest, and most nourishing food available to us. Simple, seasonal, and regional foods are what we are meant to live on.”
Tressa Yellig
chef and proprietor of Community Supported Kitchen (CSK), Salt, Fire and Time

The local food culture in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon has a thriving local food culture. It’s no wonder, with a 12-month grow season and some of the most fertile soil in the country. Local farmers benefit from the supply and demand created by the general public. Renegade chefs are flocking in droves to the Willamette Valley, to be part of a food revolution that offers quality ingredients to the local consumer. With a variety of purveyors to choose from, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Portland Farmers Market offerings abound, providing chefs with the raw materials to support a population of people who are demanding local, seasonal and organic food.
It is the existence of this local food culture and the support of the regional agricultural system that drew local chef and proprietor of Community Supported Kitchen (CSK), Salt, Fire and Time to the area. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Tressa Yellig about community supported kitchens, how she got her start and why people should be supporting the four CSK’s that are in existence.
CSK defined
Yellig explains, the technical definition of community supported kitchen is, “a community scale model for food preparation” and that this is the only common link between the four community supported kitchens that exist in the United States today. As sole proprietor of Salt, Fire and Time, with a handful of volunteers, Yellig has her hands full cooking nutrient-rich food for 30+ families, teaching classes, and hosting events, not to mention the recent addition of a low-key cafe that is volunteer-run. The cafe offers a small selection of simple, traditionally-prepared foods that nourish. Think of a plate with dense bread and homemade butter, flavorful sauerkraut with texture and an egg made your way and you have the idea.
Yellig’s influences, and how she got her start as a chef
Yellig credits her grandmother, who was a traditional German chef, as among her first culinary influences. Yellig claims that it was not a participatory process in the kitchen, as her grandmother maintained secrecy, and did not divulge trade-secrets, as family recipes were a prized possession. Yellig also credits her uncle, who was a farmer, as a significant influence.
Although Yellig acknowledges her family experience as playing a significant role in the development of her food philosophy, she also comments on the process of educating herself, acknowledging the Slow Foods movement and the Weston A. Price Foundation, as fundamental sources of information, and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook.
In New York, Yellig complemented her self-education by working for herbalists and attending the Natural Gourmet Institute. Yellig explains that she had the desire to do work that was healing, and at one point, thought about becoming a naturopathic doctor before attending the Natural Gourmet Institute.
Although the Natural Gourmet Institute, in some ways, formalized her education as a chef, Yellig recognized that she really had already learned the fundamentals of cooking well before she attended this school, and credits her personal experiences, mentors and the learning that she did on her own, as being a substantial part of her education. The Natural Gourmet Institute provided her with some valuable contacts and the opportunity to intern at Three Stone Hearth and work with Natural Gourmet Institute alumni and mentor, Jessica Prentice.
In the trenches
From New York, Yellig headed west to do an internship with Three Stone Hearth, a community supported kitchen in Berkley, California, and the first of its kind. Positively influenced by the Full Moon feast series, established by Jessica Prentice, Yellig was able to learn by watching and participating in a large scale operation that provided feasts for 50 to 100 people at a time. The labor was volunteer-based, and the business model supported 5 worker-owners full time. Yellig explained that the start-up money for this business was established with private donation-based funding and the great success of this business was in the excellent reputation of the worker-owners, and the community-based resources the chefs were able to access. According to Yellig, this cooperative was not only able to pay back $100,000 of borrowed money but able to pay themselves a salary within 1 year’s time, which is incredible for any business in their first year.
From here, Yellig went on to do formal paid work as an Executive Chef in Mendocino, leaving her volunteer kitchen manager position with Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley. As Executive Chef for this restaurant, community-minded Yellig worked with local purveyors and farmers to create meals for the public. These connections in the community led her to become the manager of the local farmers market and to become better connected with the agricultural community.
All points head north
From California, Yellig witnessed the migration of great chefs as they ran to the promised land. As a smaller city, with an already thriving food scene, Portland became popular. Access to local food, was a public demand. In similar fashion, Yellig chose Portland to be the location of Salt, Fire and Time because of the already established community support, and existing scene that was largely supported by the public. Yellig also noted the lower cost of living and the lack of taxation as being incentives to move.
Existing Community Supported Kitchens

To sustain CSK’s as a movement, the public will have to be involved. Yellig invites the consumer to participate in the “life cycle of the business” by supporting 1 of the 4 CSK’s in existence, and to engage in a community movement. If you want to get to know know Salt, Fire and Time stop by the kitchen and make yourself known.
Check out a CSK near you:
Salt, Fire and Time (Portland, OR)
Sweet Deliverance(New York, NY)
Three Stone Hearth (Berkeley, CA)
Some reasons why you should support your local CSK
The food purchased through a CSK is often the best use for your “eating out” food dollars.
The food purchased through a CSK is nutrient-rich, meaning, you are getting your vitamins and minerals, without using a supplement.
The food purchased through a CSK is traditional, and good for what ails you. Just ask your Grandmother, who had the right idea by placing sauerkraut beside the sausage on your plate.
The food purchased through a CSK is local, seasonal, and organic, thus it supports regional agriculture, the systems of the body as well as your local community.
The food purchased through a CSK supports your own good health and that of your family.
The food purchased through a CSK saves you time, which benefits the working public.
The food purchased through a CSK saves you money. As businesses, CSK’s benefit from wholesale discounts; a soup that would cost $34 dollars to make at home, only costs you $16 from a CSK. Your food dollars go into long term food costs, with better quality ingredients that would cost you 2x’s as much in the store.
And last but not least, the food purchased through a CSK allows you the opportunity to support revolutionary changes that are occurring in regard to food culture. As a consumer, you are demanding a higher quality product, thus making other food providers stand up and take notice, and supply the same quality ingredients. The principles of supply and demand are simple: as a consumer, if you demand high quality health-supporting food, you will get it, and at a cheaper price, because of the competitive market we live in.
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Food for Flight


I don’t like my food to come in plastic shrink-wrap or to be served on TV dinner-style trays. So, what’s a girl in flight to do? Last November, I arrived at the airport prepared. I was scheduled for a flight to the east coast, and with a parcel of groceries in hand–I was committed. I was not going to be purchasing any small, over-priced meals that were potentially warmed in a microwave. In hand, I had: a jar of crunch peanut butter, several pieces of whole fruit and vegetables, cottage cheese, raw hard cheese, avocado, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dried meat. I was so pleased with my selection of nutrient-rich foods that, in theory, was going to last me the entire flight.

My bubble was burst as my parcel of food was being scanned for potential explosives or liquid content. My unopened jar of peanut butter and cottage cheese were pulled from the bag immediately. The attendant said, “These are considered liquids, you will have to throw these away”. I tried to argue that ground-peanuts are not considered a liquid, and that if the attendant would actually look at the cottage cheese in his hand, he would discover that it was actually a “dry-curd” cottage cheese (if such a thing actually exists). To my chagrin, my efforts to hold on to my food failed due to standard procedure.

A women looked at me skeptically as I tried to give her the unopened food, but it seemed shameful not to try. In the end, the best I could do was leave the unopened containers on the edge of a trashcan and board the plane hoping that the food would be eaten by someone.

This is one of the many reasons I do not enjoy flying. At the airport, personal freedom is restricted, and one’s choices are limited. This interaction started me thinking about how I might be better-prepared with my own food for flight the next time I travel. If I view the restrictions in service and the limitations as a challenge it will be interesting to note what I can get away with bringing or making myself.

This is a partial list of reasons that I am not interested in eating airplane food to begin with:

  1.  it is expensive
  2.  the size is small
  3.  there is excessive packaging
  4.  the food is not fresh
  5.  the food is often microwaved (no thanks)
  6.  the food is of poor-quality (not organic, not sustainably-sourced, not sustainably-raised, etc.)
  7.  the food leaves me hungry (what’s the point of eating, if you are still hungry in the end?)
  8.  the food tastes bad (who wants to buy food that tastes bad to begin with?)

Instead of eating airplane food, I’ve decided to commit to creating my own meals while on the plane with the nutrient-rich ingredients I bring myself. If you think picnic you have the idea. On this particular flight, and with the ingredients I had left, I was actually able to make a simple and yet tasty guacamole, that would have been considered a “liquid” had I mashed the avocado before boarding the plane. Not bad, for some of my food being spurned by airport attendants!

Guacamole recipe:

2 whole avocados

1/4 red onion

1/4 red pepper

a thin-skinned lemon

salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

Directions:

  1. Use the plastic fork or plastic knife that is provided by the airline to cut the avocado in half. Remove the pit and scoop out the avocado center. Mash the avocado content in the plastic water cup that is provided.
  2. Take out some cut onion and pepper pieces that you sliced the evening before, and mix them in with the avocado.
  3. With a plastic knife, take a whole thin-skinned lemon and slice off a section (not as difficult as you may think), squeeze the desired amount of lemon juice into your guacamole. You can use the rest of the lemon to flavor your water. If you do not have a lemon on hand, you might ask one of the flight attendants if they have any lemon or lime, as these are often served with drinks (it is, at the very least, a whole food).
  4. Mix in the salt, pepper and cayenne you brought along. Your guacamole is ready to eat!
  5. Enjoy alone or use as a dip for vegetables, tortillas, or anything else you brought to spread it on. I spread mine on some tortilla chips and added a little raw cheese!

As it stands, I will be leaving for the east coast in a few weeks, this time, I will be better-prepared and more creative with what I make. What else is there to do while on a plane for many hours?

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