Our upcoming trip to Puerto Rico is by far the most ambitious trip to date. Our individually catered programming delves deep into the educational mission of our organization. Our biggest motivator for these events? The project partners themselves! We could not have taken on these incredibly exciting challenges without their support and enthusiasm.
For a small taste of our upcoming week of culanthropy, we’ve consolidated our trip itinerary below:
Sunday 1/31 Arrival
Guavate Roast Pig Route Road Trip and Traditional “Christmas Dinner” in Cayey.
Monday 2/1 Bill’s Kitchen
Created in 1992, Bill’s Kitchen creates over 3,000 frozen meals per week for residents living with HIV/AIDS. Our day will focus on troubleshooting a selection of their industrial-size, healthy menu items for efficiency, economy and taste – a recent problem for the kitchen. Simultaneously, we will be working side by side with the full-time kitchen staff and nutritionist team to teach them requested culinary basics including an herb exploration workshop, and protein cooking times and temperature lesson. The goal is to equip with the staff with the basic tools to make future improvements to the meals well after we depart.
Tour of Plaza del Mercado de Santurce with Slow Food Puerto Rico. Healthy cooking class with Slow Food chef and naturalist, Rebecca Mendez of Afrodita Catering.
Tuesday 2/2 Sapientis
Sapientis creates positive learning environments for youth at-risk in Puerto Rico. All programs encourage self-respect and community leadership. At Albert Einstein High School in Barrio Obrero, a culturally rich but underserved area of the city, Sapientis has set up a three-year baking and pastry program for 60 students ages 14-17. CulinaryCorps will be be hosting cooking workshops (one for each grade) that will focus on the creation of fresh pasta and traditional Italian tomato sauce. The day will start with an exploration of the flavors in the marinara and an exchange of seeds/plants to create a “sauce garden” in their soon to be open school garden. Students will be divided into small teams to work with the chefs in creating sauce and pasta dough from scratch. At the end of each workshop, students and chefs will sit down to share their meal which will be rounded out by salad from a local hydroponic farm. For the final hour of the day, all three grades will meet with the chefs in a panel discussion on careers in the culinary industry.
An taste exploration of the Spanish influence on Puerto Rican cuisine at Cien Vinos.
Wednesday 2/3 Hogar Ruth
Founded in 1983, Hogar Ruth is a safe-haven for women and children escaping the cycle of violence in their homes. CulinaryCorps will work with the residents of this women and children’s shelter to create a cookbook of family and staff recipes for their fundraising efforts. Activities will include recipe capture, testing and serving a sit-down dinner for all the residents. This book will also double as a “covert” abuse prevention manual, a seemingly innocuous cookbook that the aggressor will not realize is a resource for the woman in need. We will also be creating a children’s cooking activity for the youth living in the facility.
An evening free to explore Old San Juan and environs.
Thursday 2/4 VIDAS
VIDAS believes in early-childhood intervention through the creation and management of positive learning spaces. These community centers impact youth most at-risk for abuse and educational under-achievement. CulinaryCorps will be traveling to the island of Vieques to launch a series of healthy cooking classes for youth ages 2-14 and their parents. In accordance with national nutritional guidelines, CulinaryCorps will host a Saborea el Arcoiris (“eat the rainbow”) activity that explores fruits and veggies and allows the students themselves to turn them into a simple, kid-friendly, dish. Three workshops of one-hour each will help break-up the activities by age-group.
Friday 2/5 Iniciativa Comunitaria
Founded in 1992, IC helps provide social services to struggling populations in San Juan including the homeless and drug-addicted as well as sex workers and residents living with HIV/AIDS. In partnership with the Inter-American University culinary program, CulinaryCorps will work with a select group of the IC population from all service areas to teach basic kitchen skills and create a balanced, budget and tasty meal for them to execute at home. The meal will be shared by the students and chefs, and packed up for distribution throughout San Juan. Meals will be delivered from 10pm-112am to the homeless populations by the chefs and IC volunteers from a mobile serving van.
Saturday 2/6 Loiza
Food and cultural exchange with the Mayor’s Office of the Township of Loiza. Insiders trip to explore the flavors and culture of Piñones and Loiza including a private cooking lesson.
JUST ADDED! Possible community-wide project involvement providing relief to Haiti including canned good collection, packing and shipping.
Read on after the jump as we answer the question “Why a CulinaryCorps trip to Puerto Rico?”
WHY PUERTO RICO?
When Viviana Acosta-Padial (Institute of Culinary Education ’03). first participated on a CulinaryCorps trip, we were greatly inspired by her Puerto Rican heritage and hospitality. After participating in three subsequent trips, she has become the Program Coordinator for the organization, and is now the driving force behind creating a CulinaryCorps trip to her home country.
The island nation of Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies and cuisines in the Caribbean region. However, sustainable economic development remains a challenge for this United States Commonwealth. Currently, the average median household income is less than half of Mississippi, the poorest state in the USA, and a majority of Puerto Rican citizens live under the poverty line set by the American government. Puerto Rico receives some US federal aid but does not get equal coverage or qualify for most welfare programs. In 2007, the US halted its funding to clinics serving HIV/AIDS patients, a devastating blow for a country with over double the rate of AIDS than in America. However, Puerto Rico’s network of dynamic non-profits have helped reduce mortality, increase literacy, improve medical services, raise life expectancy and increase quality of life for all citizens including the domestically abused and those afflicted with long-term illness. CulinaryCorps is honored and privileged to help further the work of these admirable organizations.
Equally as important to the work that is keeping the country healthy is the cuisine that keeps the country happy. With roots in the cooking traditions and practices of Spain/Europe, the Amerindian Taínos (pre-Colombian indigenous inhabitants), and the African continent, the mingling of flavors and ingredients passed from generation to generation have resulted in an incredible food culture unique to the island. Puerto Ricans are fiercely proud of their cuisine but unfortunately, US influence and island industrialization have eroded the viability of agriculture, and Puerto Rico is now largely dependent on food imports. With this shift, practice and preservation of traditional cooking techniques, products and recipes is quickly fading. Indeed, as these native foodways are exchanged for convenience foods, instances of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease have increased among the young. Fortunately, Puerto Rico is beginning to recognize this trend and are taking first steps to quell the backslide.
CulinaryCorps is excited to be a small part of this forward progress, and upon our return home, is keen to be voice boxes for both the plight and the progress of this culturally rich country.