By Kathy Webster
Living in an area of San Mateo County, rich in agriculture, some assume we all reap the benefits of eating locally. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. Many of the farm workers who are such an important part of our food system, have never tasted some of the delicious vegetables and fruits grown on the local farms even though they may have been the ones who planted the seeds, picked the vegetables, and packed them to go off to farmers’ markets or CSAs.
Recently, a few of us from local organizations (Puente de la Costa Sur, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Pie Ranch, and TomKat Ranch) realized that the parents of the children who attend our local schools where we are all working together to get healthy, local meals to the students, had never tried the local food. Often, it is because they aren’t familiar with the food or don’t know how to prepare it.
After attending an Edible Schoolyard program called ‘Family Cook Night’ where parents of children enrolled in the Alice Waters’ program of preparing meals together, we decided to create our own program in Pescadero ⎼ Cocina Familiar. Our goal for Cocina Familiar is to create a space for diverse community members to come and learn how to cook a delicious meal together with local, in-season produce.
Since there are many amazing chefs in our area, we rotate the chefs, each one bringing their culinary expertise and variety of cooking methods, always using our locally grown ingredients. The class is taught at the Pescadero Community Church kitchen and open to the first 15 attendees that sign up. It is offered for free and is bilingual. Students range in age and kitchen confidence. Local ingredients are donated from Blue House Farm, Jacobs Farm, Pie Ranch, and TomKat Ranch. Some funds are provided by Puente’s health grant. To date, we have successfully held four classes with local chefs: Mona Urbina, Stephanie Raugust, Marissa Gall, and Lane Rowland. Meals are simple, delicious, and easy to prepare, and of course, made with local, in-season ingredients. The following are some of the meals that have been prepared: Lasagna with Squash and Tomatoes; Los Barrios Caldos de Res; Polenta with Ragu Sauce; and Shakshuka with Cilantro and Feta.