#LetsModo: The Food Connection
Joey and Jenny the ‘driving’ force behind The Food Connection, which is a community of food-loving folks who gather for monthly potlucks and food workshops at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House. In March, they took their first Modo trip to prepare for their #dinnerpartyYVR menu and wrote about their experience in this guest post.
Like all Vancouverites, we’re used to getting around in a rainy city. But when the first day of spring dawned as a rainy Saturday morning, it was a relief knowing we’d have the roof of a red Toyota Yaris over our heads. As co-founders of The Food Connection, we were preparing for two community events the following week, so we had several stops planned, and a long grocery list.
Once every month, we meet at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House for a potluck dinner with people in our community, followed by a free food-skills workshop. We would also be hosting a home event for #dinnerpartyYVR, serving Asian-Pacific dishes based on recipes perfected in our workshops.
We were Modo first-timers, but getting started was a breeze. We shook out our umbrellas, tossed our reusable shopping bags in the back seat, and unburdened ourselves of water bottles and backpacks. These few acts were simple luxuries we could never enjoy as pedestrians or cyclists. With our mascot perched on the dash (a friendly garden gnome named Alden), we started off on our day trip.
Our first stop was Whole Foods Market on Cambie where Grant guided us through the store’s plentiful fresh food departments, letting us sample cold-pressed juices, sweet oranges, cheese, olives, and smoky sweet potatoes.
We typically pride ourselves on stretching our Neighbourhood Small Grant dollars effectively, so it felt quite decadent to be purchasing such premium products with our gift cards from #dinnerpartyYVR . We found ourselves discussing what it means to have access to healthy food for both our city’s most wealthy and impoverished citizens, and everyone else in between. These reflections are at the heart of our work. We aim to make connections among people from all walks of life, knowing that everyone has something valuable to bring to the table.
After an eventful morning, drove out into an afternoon of fragrant cherry blossoms and stopped for lunch at La Taqueria. A favourite among locals, this tiny mirrored restaurant features top-notch tacos made with local, ethically-sourced ingredients. Like the hobby chefs we are, we took some snapshots of our food before heading off to our next destination: Historic Chinatown.
In Chinatown, our focus was to get inspiration for our Asian-Pacific dinner menu based on recommendations from one of our community partners, the Hua Foundation, a non-profit organization located in Chinatown that works to strengthen and connect the Chinese community over food, sustainability and culture.
Back in January, Kevin and Megan from Hua taught our Lunar New Year dumpling workshop, and we wanted to recreate a vegetarian version of their recipe. Kevin recommended going to Chinatown Supermarket, who they’ve been working with to create multilingual signs that highlight the seasonality and locality of vegetables (pronounced ‘choi’ 菜 in Chinese). He informed us that most leafy greens found in Chinatown were local, which we hadn’t realized and were delighted to hear.
At Chinatown Supermarket, the first thing that caught our eye was gigantic winter melon the size of our thighs. We paused as Joey picked one up and savoured a moment of nostalgia, thinking back to eating nourishing winter melon soup with pork, goji berries and mushrooms.
The second thing that caught our eye was the signage Kevin had been talking about — all of the Asian choi signs stated where they were grown, and when. We found baby Bok Choi that was BC grown, in season and pesticide-free, not to mention fresh and cheap. Impressed, we immediately scooped some up along with Enoki mushrooms for our miso soup, as well as Gai Lan for the side dish, and Shiitake mushrooms and cabbage for the vegetarian dumplings.
After returning to East Van we said goodbye to our Modo and walked over to the backyard garden of Joey’s neighbours, which we affectionately refer to as the Sweet Pea Garden. This is the place where Jenny and Joey first collaborated, nurturing vegetables over the span of a growing season while sharing dreams and ideas about community and food. It’s also where the seeds for The Food Connection were planted, as we looked for a way to extend this collaborative and experimental feeling out into our community.
Approaching the garden, the sun emerged behind the clouds to celebrate the end of our adventure. Feeling very much in his natural comfort zone, Alden supervised us as we planted lettuce seeds and reflected on the day and our upcoming events. With so much going on, Modo definitely helped make our day-to-day tasks easier, giving us more capacity to focus on our passion, vision and impact. Thanks, Modo!