Madison is known for its many noteworthy restaurants, but who could imagine that a community meal at the Goodman Community Center (GCC), using ingredients found in GCC’s food pantry and cooked by a small group of volunteers, would become a dining destination?
The Fritz Food Pantry at GCC is open to the community three days a week (see schedule below). Hot, healthy meals are prepared and served while the pantry is open. And you do not have to be a panty customer to enjoy the food (or volunteer to help)! Tuesdays, enjoy a light brunch, such as cheesy egg strata or baked French toast. Coffee, fruit and pastries are often available as well. Wednesday evenings, Slow Food Madison coordinates the meal, organizing volunteers, scouring the pantry shelves and shopping for additional ingredients to make a delicious dinner—one that rivals those of some of our great local restaurants.
The Slow Food chapter in Madison was started in 1999 by two local chefs, Tami Lax, current owner of Harvest Restaurant and co-owner of The Old Fashioned, and Leah Caplan, previously Chief Food Officer for Metcalfe’s Market. Slow Food Madison has grown since then and collaborates on various events around Madison.
Considering GCC’s focus on providing fresh, local food to pantry customers, a creative collaboration between Slow Food and GCC seems natural. The volunteer chefs have been cooking up incredible meals, from roasted vegetables with aioli, served with beans, greens and turkey bacon, to Mexican dinners, demonstrating the variety of food that can be prepared with food pantry items. Typically the meal is planned earlier in the week, once the food pantry donations have been assessed. Via email, the volunteers throw around menu ideas. But once we arrive at the kitchen to cook, creativity and spontaneity take over.
Often the pantry will get a last minute donation that becomes part of the meal. This week, for example, (just 30 minutes before serving time, I might add) the abundance of kale, zucchini, peanut butter and a couple packs of rice noodles on a shelf became a vegan, gluten-free peanut noodle dish with sesame seeds and fresh herbs, while a large tub of greek yogurt was mixed with honey, blueberries and topped with candied walnuts, blueberry-lemon honey and crushed granola bars for a sweet treat. I see a reality show in the making—Master Chef-Food Panty Edition, anyone?
The effort is not lost on the community. There are many repeat diners who come each week to enjoy a meal with their family and friends. We often hear “this was incredible!” as guests line up for seconds, or even thirds. Volunteering your time, donating money and of course enjoying the Slow Food dinner at GCC are all ways to support our community’s effort to provide great food and dining experiences–for everyone.
GCC Fritz Food Pantry hours: Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m.–noon (brunch served) Wednesdays, 6:30–8:30 p.m. (dinner served) Thursdays, 12:30–3 p.m (lunch served).
originally published in Madison Magazine, 2013