South Indian Cooking

by Richa Chaturvedi ’18 and Caroline Gentile ‘17

It’s always fun to venture to the other side of the table are cook rather than consume. For Caroline and me, the Food Literacy Project’s South Indian Cooking Class was definitely a voyage into the unknown. South Indian cuisine always reminds me of color, flavor, and, above all, danger. The dishes were classic: chapatti, raita, all of the makings of a good South Indian meal. Our only mistake?  Forgetting to always watch your back in the kitchen – constant vigilance.

The cooking class was divided into teams, each one tasked with making coconut chutney and sambar.  The coconut chutney was made with no complications.  My main task was to cut up green chilies, which is something I have seen people in my family do since I was a little kid. I carefully replicated the proper technique: cut the top off, use the back of the knife to slide the seeds out, and then cut into smaller pieces.  Caroline helped with the chutney itself, slowly stirring it over a low simmer until the coconut smell filled the room.

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Coconut Chutney

Up next was the sambar, a classic South Indian lentil dish that’s infused with spices and vegetables.  Now experts at our crafts, Caroline and I cut up the onions, bell peppers, and chilies that were cooked in an oil with spices, which really enhances the flavor of the dish.  I took a break to brag to my parents about my killer chef skills and, a split second later, heard an unusual shriek – Caroline had gotten green chili in her eye, which is literally so painful.

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PSA: do not handle green chilis (pictured) and subsequently touch your eyes…

After a quick Google search, we had Caroline pouring milk in her eye (it actually works, something about neutralizing the chemicals in the chili – check out this sick Life Hack if you don’t believe me) and she recovered gracefully.  Now having really earned our meals, we returned to the class to finish what we started.

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A heaping plate of sambar and coconut chutney

The food turned out great, mostly due to our friends that really carried the team during our little crisis.  We made plates of rice, sambar, chapattis, raita, and fried chickpea snacks.  People always say that it’s more satisfying to cook a meal than to just eat one.  In this case, I would have to agree.  We fought with sweat, milk, and tears for our food.  And it really was worth it.

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Heart-shaped chapati

 

Harvard’s Second Annual “Just Food?” Conference

By: Dana Ferrante ’17

After a hugely successful conference last year, the Harvard Food Law Society and Food Literacy Project have decided to hold a Second Annual “Just Food?” Conference this March. While last year the conference focused mainly on social justice, this year public policy makers, professors, and farmers from across the US will gather to discuss issues of Land Use Rights and Ecology, in the pursuit of a more just food system.

The goal of the conference is to examine the interaction we as humans have on the land, specifically in terms of how food policy and agriculture practices affect our environment. Whether you are an ESPP concentrator, or are just interested in food, the conference is geared towards all levels of familiarity with the food system, exploring humanity’s impact on the land in terms of environment, economy, policy, history, human health, and ethics. In order to accomplish this, the conference takes the most ‘just’ choice, bringing people from all across the food system (farmers, scholars, activists, public policy makers) in one place in order to give the most nuanced perspective of how our food system affects us all.

Held completely at Harvard Law School, conference events will begin on the afternoon of Friday March 25th and will continue for a full-day of events on Saturday March 26th. Featuring both lectures, live music, local food, workshops, film screenings, poster sessions, and opportunities to network, the conference is sure to be be both eye-opening and highly-interactive.  

While the full schedule is not yet published, the conference has announced the three keynote speakers, which are as follows: Smite Narula (from the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College), Anuradha Mittal (Founder and Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank), and Jo Guldi (historian of property rights and agronomy in England). All experts in man’s relationship to land, these speakers will frame the importance of land use and ecology in the larger food system.

Tickets are now on sale here until February 25th. Since the conference is run on-campus, Harvard students receive a huge discount on the tickets, having to pay only $12 for the entire weekend. With general admission tickets priced at $49 a pop, the student price is really a good deal on an opportunity you should not pass up!

Check out the website here to find out more details about the conference, speakers, logistics, etc.

How to Use the D-Hall

By Dana Ferrante ’17

It’s where you eat; where you do homework; where you procrastinate. The place where you always end up eating inordinate amounts of honey butter on Sunday nights; the place where you can always find at least one of your blockmates.

Yes, I’m talking about the dining hall d-hall. (Let’s be honest, we don’t have time to say the entire phrase.)

But, there are some things about the d-hall you should have time for. Some of these things may be obvious, others not so much. Nonetheless, in the name(s) of sustainability, accountability, and community

Here are FOUR things you can do EVERYDAY to make our dining hall a better place (If you want to be lazy, just read the bolded sections): 

#1 S.O.S

In other words, SAVE OUR SPOONS (and all other silverware and dishes for that matter).

As the school year goes on, plates, glasses, bowls, and silverware magically disappear. Of course accidents happen and things get broken, but when you lose HUNDREDS OF SPOONS in one year, it really makes you wonder where the spoons have gone. In the end, it doesn’t matter where they are going, but the fact that d-hall kitchen has to spend (read: waste) money every year getting new dishware. Whether you care about money, sustainability, or both, it’s clear that disappearing dishware isn’t helping anyone. So here’s my plea to you:

    • DON’T TAKE THE SPOONS/GLASSES/BOWLS/etc. OUT OF THE D-HALL. You probably have better things to stack up in your bookshelf anyways.
    • If you do take something….BRING IT BACK. There is no shame in bringing something back to where it belongs. Gold stars for anyone who does.
    • NEVER, under ANY circumstances throw out the plates & spoons. JUST BRING THEM BACK! That’s honestly downright wasteful. I’d rather you bring back a year’s worth of plates in May than never bring them back at all.

 

#2 SWIPE EVERY TIME YOU EAT

Unless it’s brain break when swiping isn’t necessary, it is EXTREMELY important that you swipe at every meal. We’ve all seen that sign on the checker’s desk (at least subconsciously), and we know we should… but do we really have to? Yes. Here’s why:

  • Swiping helps HUDS know when to have food ready and how much they’ll need. If there is a rush every night at 6:15, HUDS will be ready and armed with red-spice chicken for all only if they know how many people to expect at dinner. By using the swiping data from previous weeks, HUDS can make your red-spice dreams come true. Therefore, swiping helps HUDS, which in turn, helps us.
  • Swiping also allocates money to the house kitchen. In other words, each time someone swipes, a certain dollar amount from the giant HUDS fund is to your house kitchen. If a lot of food is taken, but only a few people swipe, there will be a huge discrepancy in the numbers. By swiping, we do our part in making sure our d-hall is making ends meet.

 

#3 Use trays & dishware sparingly.

This doesn’t mean go tray-less, nor does it mean you should always use a tray. Here’s an outline of the best case scenario:

You’re getting dinner with your blockmate, Bob. Instead of each getting your own tray, Bob gets a tray and you don’t.  Both of you enjoy your Friday afternoon clam chowdah. When you are done eating, you pile everything onto Bob’s tray and send it down the conveyor belt. Water is saved, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Why you and your blockmate Bob deserve a gold star:

By using one tray, you do two things.

  1. You save water, since now only one tray has to be washed instead of one.
  2. You save the conveyor belt from potential damage. Part of the reason why we have trays in the d-hall is to prevent silverware from falling onto the conveyor belt, getting stuck, and breaking the belt. Of course, if one section of the belt isn’t working, everything comes to a halt, causing problem for HUDS staff and students alike. For this reason, going trayless is not the answer, but using them efficiently is.

On this same topic, consider taking one glass instead of three. If you have to get up to get a refill, it’s really not the end of the world. Once again, reducing your usage of cups, plates, and silverware helps reduce the amount of water used to clean the dishes; one less glass a day can make a big difference over time. At the same time, if you are planning to stay in the dining hall for a bit, there is no reason to use the disposable cups and silverware. When dining in, reusable items should always be your first choice.

 

#4 Remember: the d-hall is a COMMUNITY

You live in the best house on campus; let’s keep it that way.

  • Don’t take a bag of bagels when brain break starts at 9pm, leaving your peers bagel-less. That’s just not cool.
  • So you hate what’s on the menu for dinner every Saturday night? Well, that just happens to be Bob’s favorite meal of the week. It is HUDS’ job to meet the MAJORITY taste at every meal, so please be patient if your favorites aren’t on the menu every night.
  • We all are a part of this community, which is why we all have the chance to let our voices be heard. HUDS loves feedback. If you want change, it’s up to you to fill out the HUDS survey each semester or submit a feedback card. Real humans read every comment students make, and it is only through voicing your opinion that changes can be made.

While other d-hall issues are going to take a little more time to tackle, (i.e. getting more recycling bins, how to avoid the chaotic pile of dishes and glasses during brain break), these are a few simple things that everybody can do to make their d-hall the best (and most sustainable) one on campus.

 

If you have any questions/suggestions/concerns, feel free to reach out to me (danaferrante@college.harvard.edu) or the FLP Fellow for your house. We are here to help relay your ideas to Food Literacy Project, HUDS and beyond!