‘Foster’-ing Community

I was recently invited to enjoy a dinner courtesy of Foster Farms, a chicken company.

I am not much of a chicken eater. When I was sent the information before the event, including the history of the farm it came from and the farmer, I was reminded of this skit from Portlandia:

I was apprehensive of the dinner beforehand, as I am of most any sponsored meal. The idea was to promote how local they are, but as a friend pointed out, McDonald’s also has a campaign about being local.

Still, I arrived at the dinner with an open mind, ready to have my mind blown by chicken–whatever that could involve.

Instead, my mind was blown by the community a chicken company had brought together. In 2008, I wrote in my Thoughts on Eating Locally:

When I say I eat locally, I want it to mean I support my community. Whether this means that my greens are grown in Carnation or it means that I’m supporting the immigrant couple that run the Ethiopian store down the street, I know that my money is staying here in Seattle. Maybe my lentils aren’t grown nearby, but the money I’m paying for them is paying for my neighborhood to remain diverse. Perhaps my bok choy comes from California, but the money I pay for it is going to pay to raise children here in Seattle. I may not know where my mango comes from, but I know that by eating locally that no company in Minnesota or Boston is hording my milk money.

Susan Neel and Which Came FirstFor me, this dinner was full of my community. A community of food lovers, starting with this woman, Susan Neel of McCrea Cellars, who hosted the dinner. A cheerier, friendlier face you rarely did see. She cooked us five courses of chicken–the dessert is shown here: “Which came first?” These are pavlovas with lemon curd, a little trump l’oeil, made to look like an egg. She play the consummate dinner party chef, rushing into the kitchen, making sure everyone was happy and well fed, while her husband kept wine glasses filled.

The meal ended (many hours and glasses of wine later) with a discussion of food, recipes, why we cook. Susan shared with us a treasured recipe from a Vietnamese shopkeeper, which had been scrawled on the back of a piece of a Pall Mall cigarette box. Recipe on Pall Mall box
So at the end of this dinner, where I sat at a table with friends I had spoken to only online, a woman who made me cry the first time I spoke with her, and complete strangers who had invited me in their home, I knew that I wanted to support a company that supported this community.

Yes, I do want to know more about their farms before I tell anyone to rush out and buy their chicken. Yes, I’d like to do a farm tour a la the one Shepherd’s Grain took me on before I say too much in favor of their company and its practices. Yes, I’d rather I know my chicken was named Colin and he had nice friends (watch the clip above if you don’t get this). But they’ve started the process of getting me on board.

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