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Judging for Good

October 21, 2014

Fasting is good for the soul. It sucks for the body, but it’s a powerful reminder about the physical effects of hunger. I recently went through this and the headaches, fatigue, and irritability were all very real. It was sobering to reflect on how many people go without food on a daily basis. Not just in faraway places, but here in America and in our very own communities.

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a believer in supporting charities that help fight hunger, because there’s not much one can accomplish on an empty stomach.

Without a doubt, I am very lucky to be able to do what I do. My grandmother, who lived through The Great Depression, couldn’t understand why I was so irate at the dismal state of my cappuccino. So I drew her a diagram of how this drink is supposed to be fundamentally different than the latte I was served. It was no use. She thought that I should be glad just to have coffee.

But later this week, I will have the chance to put my fastidious observations on food to good use. As crazy as it seems, I’ll be judging a culinary competition at a fundraiser for The Food Pantries for the Capital District. I suspect it’s going to be awesome, and here’s why.

Five chefs are going to be competing to put together a great dish highlighting at least one main ingredient that’s commonly stocked by local food pantries. Each chef can pick whatever ingredient they like. They will be judged in three categories:

1. Best use of food pantry item
2. Best presentation
3. Simplest recipe for a pantry consumer to recreate

The recipes the chefs create will then be made available to those who need to use the pantries. And the chefs are coming from Century House, Honest Weight Food Coop, Mingle on the Avenue, The Point, and Stewardship Farms.

Stewardship Farms is new to me, but sounds like an exciting venture. And on Facebook, they say their chef is Rachael Mamane. I’m wondering if it’s the same Rachael Mamane from this story, because that would be awesome.

I love this idea, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. The last category especially makes me think of the recent “Unburdening” series I still need to finish writing about cooking at home.

I’m even excited about my fellow judges. One is Nina Marinello, Ph.D and chair of The Sage Colleges Nutrition Science department. Who doesn’t love nutrition scientists? William Harris, the president of Albany’s Chaine des Rotisseurs chapter (and a director of the Fort Orange Wine Society) is the other. Maybe he’ll have some insight on that mysterious CdR wine glass at Taste.

You should come.

It’s this Thursday at The Century House in Latham. The party starts at 5:30 and includes samples from the Chef’s Challenge, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert. There’s a cash bar, if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also live music, which will probably be just a wee bit too loud.

Tickets can be bought here. No, they aren’t cheap. But it’s one of the two big events The Food Pantries for the Capital District puts on every year. The other being CANstruction, with which you may be more familiar.

This organization helps a lot of people from going hungry. It’s a good cause. Being hungry stinks. And I’m glad to be lending a hand to those bringing free food to our neighbors in need. Even if it means judging delicious food cooked by some talented chefs. It’s a tough job, I know, but someone has to do it.

Hope to see you there.

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