Global Kitchen Dinner at the President’s House

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American Taste Seminar 2013 (The best ever!)

November 12th marked a day of history-in –the-making for the students of the American Taste Seminar! For the first time ever in Skidmore College’s history, these lucky students were able to cook and present a global dinner to President Glotzbach at the Lucy Scribner House. First on the menu was Poutine, a dish native to Canada, as well as Latino Tamales. These appetizers share their richness in flavor only, as their history and origins could not be more different. Traced back to Aztec, Incan, and Mayan cuisine, the nature of tamales has evolved over thousands of years. In contrast, Poutine is a contemporary comfort food that is rumored to have been created only fifty years ago when a customer wanted cheese curds added to his fries and gravy at a snack shop in Quebec.

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Assembling the filling in cornhusks is key to great tamales!

Panzanella, a traditional bread, tomato, and onion salad eaten by peasants in Tuscany, was next on the menu. Noted for its numerous ingredients, this bread salad incorporated leftovers and stale items deliciously—a great advantage when food was unavailable or inaccessible to peasants. After mass Italian immigration into America took place, cultural assimilation occurred while their foodways remained the same. Italian women regarded their traditional means of cooking as part of their livelihood, which is why the original recipe for Panzenella is most popular in America today. Together, Ceanna and Julia, teamed up to bake Naan, a flatbread from India and Afghanistan. Renowned for its buttery flavor and soft, doughy quality, Naan has become much more mainstream in America. Usually a type of bread served during a special occasion in India, Naan is now the typical bread served in most Indian restaurants in America.

Panzanella ready to go on the table!

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Look at the fragrant plate of Naan!

For the dinner course, the students decided to serve a vegetarian and shrimp version of the stir-fried noodle dish, Pad Thai. In Thailand, Pad Thai is a casual dish served primarily in casual restaurants or street fairs. After the Vietnam War, many people of Asian descent immigrated to America, bringing their culture and food, like Pad Thai. Today, Pad Thai is a staple of Asian cuisine in America. Due to its growing popularity, Pad Thai was featured as the fifth most enjoyable dish on the 2011 list of the World’s 50 most delicious foods according to CNN. For dessert, the students made Baklava, a Middle Eastern delicacy. In the Middle East, Baklava is a demonstration of wealth since only kings could eat it during the eighth century. When the migrant laborers brought their foodways to America, baklava was no longer a dessert of the elite and became accessible to all.
While sampling the dishes, President Glotzbach asked the group what their favorite aspect of Skidmore was. One person appropriately responded, “the dining hall” without hesitation. Skidmore has gone to great lengths to provide its students with choice and variety in regards to food, especially in the Global Café of the dining hall. As students are introduced to other culture’s foods, Skidmore successfully brings a little piece of home to international students while educating others about the unique cultures of the world. All in all, the dinner was a great success! One student even said “it was a unique and awesome experience to be able to say that I cooked dinner for the President in my freshman year, and the class bonded over the ethnic flavors!”

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It was a great dinner filled with delicious food and great conversation!

Written by Anika Verma

Quick Update

At our meeting today we discussed the two locations that we are proposing to the administration and created these two pro and con lists. Also, since our proposal will probably will not be passed in the next week we will be unable to sheet mulch before winter break and may have to purchase soil in the spring instead (which is more expensive than mulching).

Behind the tennis court location
easy to design, space is pretty, potential for expansion, may include small pond, terracing, no tampering, access road, and conventional Skidmore shape (linear and square)
Cons- Farther, neighbors may be concerned, not marketable for admissions, harder to gain interest, property line confusion/zoning, and less creative.

Other location
Ease of accessibility, visibility for marketing (along tour routes), increased awareness on campus, favored more by administration, and unique design.
Cons-more expensive, more likely to be tampered with, ground is very wet, no bond, run off from nearby parking lot, potentially higher in cost, and shaded areas.

Slow Progress

Every Friday a group of dedicated Skid Kids have been meeting with Levi from the Sustainability office to discuss plans for the new Skidmore garden. Since October we have been going through periods of both huge progress and long periods of not being able to move forward until we recieve more information.
The first step, determining a location, was deemed a success. We have been scooping a location behind the tennis courts that is easily accessible yet semi-hidden that students would not invade it unnecessarily. I walked with economics/GIS professor Bob Jones out to the garden with his GPS to ensure that where we identified as our garden location was clearly within the property lines of the college. Soil samples have passed basic testing from the Skidmore lab, and are currently at the Columbia lab for further analysis. We were aiming to have the soil sheet mulched (a mixture of compost and mulch over the entire area of the garden) by this week, however, our plans have been stalled as we continue to seek out another possible location. This location has not been revealed or declared as the site of the new garden, so for now a lot of our action has been stalled.

In an effort to not loose too much of spring planting season trying to make decisions about planting, we are still going to move forward as best we can. We are working to design the garden so that it is truly a permaculture garden. We want to make sure that the companion plants are be used effectively, all beds are accessible through wide-enough pathways (most likely using a key-hole design), so that compost and water can be easily distributed throughout the garden (especially to water-loving crops like blueberries), integrating both annuals and perennials, and finally analyzing systems of natural pest control so that we can maintain our status as an organic garden and still produce large enough yields.

EAC met last night to reassess its standing of an SGA club. Our discussion mainly pinpointed one main area of attention that the club needs to focus on, which is to improve communication between the various branches of EAC so that everyone can feel informed and aware. By the end of the meeting we determined that once a month, EAC will host a larger meeting consisting of a representative from different initiatives such as Cool Cities, Real Food Challenge, the Sustainability Office, SuCo, the garden, etc. In addition to these larger meetings, EAC is going to rearrange into groups that correlate to smaller projects whose deadline is the end of the semester. This way there will be a sense of urgency in finishing projects so that the club can feel like it made a difference in sustainability efforts on campus. Some of these “campaigns” were establishing composting in all of the apartments, reviving the Take a Mug, Leave a Mug program, creating a Bathroom Reader, banning plastic bags and water bottles from campus stores, improving student awareness of environmental movements on campus, etc.

December will be a month of reestablishing goals and finally starting to put action to everything that has been discussed this semester so that when we all return in January we are ready to move forward.

The Harvest Dinner

Zia's dinner plate... looks delicious!

Zia’s dinner plate… looks delicious!

Kohlrabi Fries

Kohlrabi Fries

The Skidmore Garden’s Harvest Dinner was hosted on Sunday, November 3 in the Spa and it was a great success! Zia & I worked that weekend in the Spa kitchen with the Garden Committee preparing food for the dinner and it was great to have a behind the scenes look at the whole event. Some of the food that was served was stuffed peppers, butternut squash soup, vegetarian chili, kohlrabi fries (fried by Zia and yours truly), fresh salad with homemade dressing, and apple crisp. The line for the food was huge, and students didn’t hesitate to express their gratitude for the delicious (and free) meal we served.

In preparation for the dinner, Zia & I contacted local farms such as Kilpatrick Family Farm, Otrembiak Farm, and Battenkill Valley Farm to ask for donations of food for the dinner. On Saturday, November 2, the Garden Committee went to the Farmer’s Market downtown to pick up any leftover vegetables that these farms hadn’t sold, and the farms graciously gave them to us after we explained our Harvest Dinner. Battenkill Valley Farm supplied tubs of ice cream that we served with apple crisp and it was a huge hit. We were holding off serving the apple crisp for a while at the Dinner because we wanted to get rid of as much of the dinner food as possible, but people were asking about the apple crisp every 30 seconds (quite literally), so we brought it out earlier than expected. It was my personal favorite.

And then, at least 50 porcelain plates smashed on the floor! A stack had toppled over from the cart of dirty dishes and silverware, and scattering glass shards everywhere. But students jumped right in to help, which I thought was really nice. That helped to contribute to the comfortable and home-like atmosphere of that evening, with everyone pitching in to do their share, whether it was through cooking, cleaning, or just being there to support the Garden.

The Garden Committee had bags made that were sold at the dinner. The bags were made out of sustainable material, fitting in with the environmentally-friendly themes of the Student Garden.

In sum, the Harvest Dinner was nothing short of a success. It truly benefited everyone, from the farmers who got to contribute their vegetables and supplies to this great cause, to the Skidmore students who got to cook and enjoy a fantastic meal with their friends while donating to the future of the Skidmore Student Garden. Until next year!

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Garden Plans are Moving Forward

The Skidmore Student Garden club has been pretty busy over the past few weeks. We have met numerous times to discuss everything from the harvest dinner, to locations of the garden, to reviewing shed designs. Back tracking three weeks, student members met to discuss possible locations for the garden. We decided that the location behind the tennis courts was by far the best choice. It is easily accessible by either following the pathway to the gym and walking past the daycare center or by taking a beautiful footpath that is somewhat hidden by the foot bridge that many may recognize as the one they take to Broadway if they take the shortcut onto Fourth Street.

The garden will be located at the top of the hill and gradually flowing down the slight incline. The dimensions of the garden will be comparable to the garden that was located by the Colton House, or approximately 72 ft by 76 ft. After using GIS maps and meeting with Professor Robert Jones of the Economics and GIS departments, I discovered that the property line of Skidmore is right at the base of the hill (follows the tree line behind the gym).

Skidmore Facilities is building us a metal fence which will be five feet tall and extend approximately a foot underground to enclose our garden and prevent critters from digging under the fence. Unfortunately the fence will do very little for the massive amounts of squirrels that have invaded the Skidmore property. The fence will include two entrances: a main entrance near the gym that has an archway designed by a Skidmore student and another utility entrance near the driveway where compost, tools, and other supplies can easily come in and out of the garden. The compost pile will be set up just inside the utility entrance. An 8 x 8 shed is also going to be added to the design of the garden outside the fence in order to store tools, seeds, and provide a structure for a water collection system. Future plans for a small pond at the base of the garden, greenhouse, and thoughts for expansion are all being included in a long-term plan for the garden.

We are currently working on creating a story board and a final map that exactly lays out the plans for the garden. The timeline for approval is moving quickly as we are hoping to sheet mulch before the first full snow. Sheet mulching requires three steps: the first is laying down a layer of cardboard (from dining services) and then layering five to six inches of compost over the entire area from a combination of Skidmore Compost and a local compost business and then finally a layer of mulch. The garden will absorb these minerals for the winter and the soil will be ready for planting in the spring when it thaws. 

The Harvest Dinner & Other Garden Plans

This past Sunday’s (October 20) Garden meeting discussed plans for the much-enjoyed Harvest Dinner!! The Harvest Dinner will be held on Sunday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM in the Spa! It is a free event, but any and all donations are graciously accepted. We are all very excited to gather ingredients from the Farmer’s Market and prepare a healthy and hearty meal to enjoy with the school. Some farms we are consulting about ingredients are Battenkill Farm, Kilpatrick Family Farm, Pleasant Valley Farm, and Otrembiak Farm. We also have plans to order bags (in a variety of colors!) to sell at the Dinner that are made of sustainable recycled material. So get excited!!

In terms of the garden itself, we are currently working on setting a definite location. Right now, the grassy area near the tennis courts seems like the best bet, but we still need information regarding water flow, sewage systems, soil testing, property lines, and fencing. We want to make sure that the location for the garden will accommodate potential pathways, sheds, varied garden bed shapes, running water, and maybe even electricity. The Garden Committee is also in talks with the administration about the landscaping of the garden, as the administration expects the land to look a certain way so as to maintain the pleasant Skidmore aesthetic. But the plans for the garden are definitely progressing, and the committee has BIG dreams! When the garden is built, it will undoubtedly be a beautiful space that will be very rewarding to all the creative minds involved, as well as the entire student body.

More to come!

Harvest Dinner & Potential Garden Locations

The garden planning committee met this past Sunday to begin the planning of the upcoming Harvest Dinner. The annual event usually is the celebration of all the produce that the student gardeners had grown, however, since the garden was closed this summer due to high levels of lead in the soil changes have had to been made. Since the event has been such a huge hit, generally drawing in about 250 people, the club still wanted to host it. The goal is to host the dinner on Sunday, November 3rd in the Spa.

People who want to participate in preparation will go to the Saratoga Farmer’s Market on the Saturday before and purchase fresh local vegetables. They will then bring the food to the Spa where they will prepare delicious dishes for anyone to enjoy at the dinner. Live music will hopefully also be at the event as well as t-shirts, bags, and stickers. Everyone is welcome to come and cook no matter how little time they have available to help out and everyone is strongly encouraged to share the bounties of the fall harvest at the dinner.

We also received updates from the location committee about the future of the Skidmore Student Garden. The committee had walked to various sites around campus earlier this week to determine the viability of these locations. They began by looking into a site near the Northwoods apartments but it was noted that the soil there was fairly compacted and contained a large amount of rocks. Another possibility was in between Howe-Rounds but that section is a high traffic area and not an ideal spot. Finally there were two favorited spots, on the north side of the library and behind the tennis courts. The library location is a perfect spot but has two major concerns including that it is a very public space and that it is where the Quiddich team practices. The space behind the tennis courts seems to be the most favored of the locations because it can be easily accessible by just following the path to the gym, it is a large space which would allow in an increase of size from the earlier location, and seems to have good soil composition. This space was described to be at a bottom of a hill where a water system can be set up to capture irrigation water as well as to grow water friendly crops such as cranberries or blueberries. Property lines have to be evaluated so that the garden does not accidentally dig into the city property that boarders the campus. The top choice sites are going to have their soil tested in Skidmore labs in the next few weeks to ensure that the garden will not have to be moved again in the future due to soil contamination.

The Skidmore Student Garden – Initial Meeting

On Wednesday, October 2, Zia and I met with Levi Rogers, a Sustainability Fellow for Skidmore. He provided us with some background information on the Student Garden, while also giving us the insider scoop on future plans for the garden.

The Skidmore Student Garden began five years ago, and was located next to the admissions office. It was a straight-bed, organic, permaculture design, meaning it was in a simplified design that would maximize ecological efficiency. The Garden supplied our Dining Hall, and contributed to a Harvest Dinner every Fall. The soil was continuously tested for contaminants, to ensure that the fruits and vegetables were safe for consumption. Earlier this summer, they identified slightly higher levels of lead in the soil than usual. These levels have always been present in the soil, but had never surfaced. With recent tilling, this lead has begun to surface, contributing to the higher levels found in recent tests. This presence of lead on the surface of the soil was realized to be potentially harmful to Garden workers who were constantly submerging their hands into this soil, but it did not pose a health threat to those who have consumed Garden products.

To ensure that this increase in contaminant levels does not cause any health concern, the Garden Team is working to relocate the Garden in the spring to a safer and more accessible area to maintain awareness of its presence. The dream for the new Garden is that it is more of a social and artistic space, instead of just a space to plant fruits and vegetables. They would like the Garden to be a more interactive place where events can be hosted and people can socialize and embrace the Garden’s natural beauty. Hopefully with this new design, people will also be able to admire the Garden’s ability to mimic a natural ecosystem. The Garden Committee is very excited to reinvent the Garden as a focal point of campus, and have the opportunity to start anew.

In order to achieve these goals, the Garden Committee has established three subcommittees. The first is the Location Group, that will work to find, you guessed it, a new location for the Garden. They want to pick a place on campus where it will be seen and embraced, as well as adequately supported by the given soil. Many options are being considered including the grassy area on the library’s north side and a location behind the tennis courts. This group is also responsible for acquiring permission from the administration to build a new Garden in the location of the Garden Committee’s choice. They would like to obtain permission this Fall.

The second subcommittee is the Crop Planning Group, which Zia is now an active member of! Wahoo! This subcommittee will decide what crops to plant, and how to utilize each plant’s natural growing habits so as to observe companion planting, a method of planning where crops are planted so that crop productivity can increase. The primary goal of the Crop Planning Group is to have each crop growing in its own most natural way that will in turn benefit the surrounding plants.

The third subcommittee is the Social/Garden Development Group, which I am now a member of. This subcommittee will work to make the new Garden an interactive place, where students can go to do their work, hang out with their friends, or do whatever else their hearts’ desire. This subcommittee is also going to work to make the Student Garden
Committee feel more like an all-inclusive club, as opposed to a formal organization.

The future is bright for the Skidmore Student Garden. There are some excellent plans in the works to innovate the Garden and make it a healthier source of fruits and vegetables, as well as a more exciting community space. When it is (hopefully!) underway in the spring, we will watch these changes come to life, and soon enough, we will have a beautiful campus garden to marvel at and be extremely proud of.

What Does Sysco Mean for Skidmore?

Written by Sarah Rinaolo.

Today Real Food Challenge Research Group met with MarkMiller in the dining hall. We discussed doing the food calculator as a group and we have every Friday of the month of October to figure out the percentage of real food in the dining hall. They have not run a report yet to see what local distributors Sysco uses. Skidmore is part of a cool program called sea to table. This program provides a newsletter every week that tells you what fisherman are catching in the next week. Skidmore then buys the fish and it goes right into the box and to Skidmore. This means that it is fresh and not frozen.

Sysco is a large national multi-million dollar distributor in the United States. The reason the Skidmore dining hall chose them was due to financial reasons as well as nutrition. They supply recipes as well as nutritional information electronically, which the previous distributor did not do.

Sysco Brand commercial

The First Couple of Weeks!

Hi all! This is the first real post in American Taste’s composting blog!

We’re working with the compost group of the waste subsection of Skidmore’s Environmental Action Committee (EAC). Each week, members of our group go to either an EAC meeting on Monday or a meeting of the compost group on Thursday. Then on Friday we all meet with the compost group and go to the Northwoods buildings to compost.

Northwoods apartments have compost bins in which the residents may place biodegradable bags of non-meat foodwaste to be composted. On Friday, members of the compost group take bicycles with specially made trailers to the different Northwoods buildings to pick up the compost bins. After that, they bring the compost bins to the main compost receptacle, where the compost bins of each building are weighed and the number of bags inside are counted. Then the bins are emptied into the main compost receptacle and the bins are returned to the buildings. Coffee grounds from the dining hall are also brought to the receptacle to be made into compost.

Meanwhile, other members of the group are shoveling the decomposing organic matter out of the receptacle to aerate it and add wood chips so that there is carbon, as well as air pockets, in the compost, which are both very important parts of healthy compost. After they are done, they shovel the compost back into the receptacle.

Over these past two weeks, we have been working with the compost group. Our group has helped with collecting, obtaining data from, and returning the compost bins to the apartment buildings. We also helped with shoveling the compost, getting coffee grounds from the dining hall, organizing the composting shed, and delivering compost to the garden. Our group has helped move a total of 968.8 pounds of food-waste to the main compost receptacle. While we have only recently begun, we are really looking forward to getting more involved with the composting group!

That’s all for now, Stay tuned!

Meet us here Fridays at 3 p.m.!

Here’s Jack about to ride one of the bikes for the collection of compost!

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