Category Archives: teaching

Food community

First off: GO RAIN!!! I love this deluge.

So, you can call me Professor Carpenter now. I’m teaching two classes at University of San Francisco this semester, and sometimes the students do call me professor, and I don’t hear them because that can’t be me, right? I don’t have a Ph.D, so normally it would be hard to get a gig teaching at the college level, but USF took a chance on me, and I am so grateful.

I’ve talked about the writing class–called Tapping the Apocalypse–here on this blog already, but the other class is called Community Garden Outreach, and you know what? It kicks ass. Basically I just coordinate helping the students build community.

Everyone talks about building community as an ideal and these days, universities are figuring out that students need, want, crave, to learn how to actually do that. Our mode is to use food to engage the students and community outside the classroom. The first step is to tell the students that they will be sourcing/harvesting/gleaning enough food to feed 60 people at a free community dinner. Students then scampered to farmer’s markets at the end of the day and asked for donations, they harvested food from the student garden, they went to Rainbow Grocery Food Co-op to collect the fixings for a vegetarian meal. It’s amazing how gracious everyone was, especially the farmers at the markets.

Then we met at St. Cyprian’s church near campus to cook up the food in their kitchen. Nothing makes friendships faster than cooking together in a big group. After some gentle food safety and basic beautiful food rules from chef Jessica Theroux, it was showtime. “Go! We gotta feed 60 people tonight!” I yelled (my role was to be Gorden Ramsey, if you can imagine that.)

classphoto

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. Did they really know how to make pasta for a large group? Would the soup suck? Would the salad be soggy? Would anyone come to the dinner? By 6pm, it was clear the students had made an amazing meal–crostini with herbs from the garden, potato/rutabaga soup, an amazingly beautiful green salad, pasta with greens and broccoli.
CGOplate

And then the people came: old and young, rich and poor, food snobs, vegans, freegans, students, faculty members, clergy members. It was truly amazing. They ate all the food up. They talked. They hugged. People met each other, and socialized, and loved being part of something like this dinner. It made me wonder, what if we did this in all our communities, in our neighborhoods? Cooked dinner together, then ate as a group? Go here to see more photos.

I didn’t get to sit down and eat–too busy and nervous–but during clean up, one of the students gave me a bag of the pasta to eat on the bus ride home to Oakland. I snarfed half of it down–delicious with its sauce of olive oil, green onion, and broccoli. Then I saved the rest to eat with Frannie and Billy; they were going to be amazed. I can’t wait for the rest of dinners. If you want to come, the next dinner will be at St. Cyprian’s Church in San Francisco on Turk at Lyon; March 6, from 6-8pm. Mark your calendars, it’s really fun.

Oh, and I just wanted to say how honored I am to be working with Melinda Stone, David Silver, and Rachel Lee, who blazed the trail of this class. All photos by Sam Wilder.

Tapping the Apocalypse

The garden is not going to sleep, though it really should. Like a wily toddler, it’s trying to convince me to just stay up just a little longer. It does that by continuing to produce tomatoes. To ripen a few more figs. The pumpkin plants were even making new flowers. But there is a moment when you have to be mean, and just pull everything up, force the garden to focus on the rooted things like leeks and garlic; and greens planted long ago like kale and broccoli and salad mixes. The bees are even in the game, out in huge numbers during these sunny days. I’m betting December will be the month when the garden quits needling, gets sleepy, and finally falls asleep.

Here’s a photo from the last farmstand–thanks to everyone who came!
honeytasting
My plans this winter include writing a new syllabus for a writing class I’m teaching at University of San Francisco. It’s called Tapping the Apocalypse. Here’s the class description, if you know of someone who’s going to USF:
ENV390
Urban agriculture tends to take hold first in places that can be defined as apocalyptic. These damaged zones, in cities like Oakland or Detroit, have suffered from years of poverty and neglect, and are now hosting some of the most vibrant–and urgent–urban farms. This class will begin with an examination of how agriculture came about in the first place and how industrial agriculture (creating an apocalyptic landscape of its own) came to dominate our food system. The class will then delve into the revival of small scale farms and urban farms, questioning what forces came to pass that allowed this turning point to occur. We will take field trips to urban farms and meet guest speakers who work on the ground. Students will create a food experiment loosely based around an apocalyptic or catastrophic event. We will also write personal essays based around a turning point in our lives where everything changed, when an old self was destroyed, allowing a new self to germinate.

We will probably read Rebecca Solnit’s Paradise Built in Hell; excerpts of Octavia Butler’s The Seed Sower. Not The Road. Let me know if any of you have suggestions for other great apocalyptic literature.

I’ve actually been thinking it might make sense for me to teach this class at my farmlette in the Fall. Let me know if there are any interested students!