Turn Off the News, Turn On the Stove, and Come Together at the Table

This holiday season, it'd do you some good to feed folks.

Chef cooking soup
Photo: Getty Images

How do you make sense of a world stranger than fiction? The best way I know is to turn off the news and turn on the stove. To cook something good.

Recently, I had the pleasure of cooking a feast for the educators, administrators, and farmers of Jones Valley Teaching Farm, a not-for-profit organization based in Birmingham, Alabama. The meal celebrated the opening of JVTF's Center for Food Education, a dynamic new campus with classrooms, a teaching kitchen, and a working farm, and as I filled a long table with food I'd made with ingredients grown right there, I forgot my worries. I cooked something good and filled my heart up in return.

I've been involved with Jones Valley for nine years, half of them as a board member. With seven teaching farms located on Birmingham City Schools campuses, JVTF uses the power of good food to teach a STEM curriculum and environmental stewardship. Students enter the program in elementary school. By high school, they're afforded the opportunity to intern and apprentice at the farm and earn a job there or in the community. Some of those students, now college graduates, are finding their places at the table as community leaders. (To support the farm and the Center for Food Education, visit ready2grow.org.)

During dinner, I met Dom Bowman, a graduate apprentice who was part of the first class of JVTF high school interns. Having come up through the program, he understands intuitively how the Center for Food Education will connect students, teachers, and the community and symbolize progress for the region. "We dreamt this center. The kids did," Bowman says. "We built the center to reach out to more young people, and just people in general, so the community would have the same experiences we had as students at Jones Valley."

As we get deeper into the fall and the region's farms give us squash, sweet potatoes, and kale, I'm beginning to plan a different kind of seasonal feast for a different crowd, but I'll try and channel the same generous spirit as that farm dinner.

As you begin to write your own menu, I hope you take inspiration and ideas from this Thanksgiving issue, starting with new looks for styling your holiday table and smart new takes on Thanksgiving classics, including roasting turkey breast in a salt crust to lock in the moisture. You'll find plenty of rich, carb-laden sides (like Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes) in Handbook, three stunning desserts (Brandy Pecan Pie, Apple Cheddar Rye Pie, and Cranberry Crumble Pie) from Detroit's Sister Pie, and a Hanukkah feast from Adeena Sussman inspired by the holiday's proximity to Thanksgiving this year.

And whatever your cause may be, I hope you also find yourself energized and inspired by organizations like Jones Valley Teaching Farm and use this season to give thanks to your favorite nonprofit, charity, or mutual aid group. It's time to come together and turn on our stoves.

Food & Wine Gives

Please consider donating to our favorite food-centric organizations this holiday season. If you have a favorite cause, I'd love to hear about it via email. – Hunter Lewis

No Kid Hungry

One in six kids are at risk of hunger in America—a threat made more pressing by the pandemic, as millions lost access to school meals. No Kid Hungry makes sure America's children are fed, through grants, strategic assistance, and advocacy. F&W has supported No Kid Hungry for years; we hope you will join us and donate at nokidhungry.org.

Southern Smoke

Led by 2013 F&W Best New Chef Chris Shepherd, Southern Smoke's Emergency Relief Fund provides financial assistance to food and beverage industry professionals in crisis. To date, they've distributed more than $8.1 million. Donate at southernsmoke.org.

The Lee Initiative

Chef Edward Lee and former restaurant manager Lindsey Ofcacek's nonprofit creates programs that make a real difference in the lives of restaurant industry professionals, help their broader community, and inspire others. Donate at leeinitiative.org.

No Us Without You

Damian Diaz and Othón Nolasco founded this Los Angeles–based nonprofit with a modest goal of feeding 30 undocumented hospitality families impacted by the pandemic. Since then, No Us Without You has become one of the city's most important food distribution centers. A donation of $33 feeds a family of four for a week. Donate at nouswithoutyou.la.

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