Building Community At America's Table

One Hundred Meals “Launch Party”

written by Ellen

OK, to be honest, we didn’t have time for an actual launch party for One Hundred Meals, so Grant and I jumped at the chance to launch the project at the season’s last Soup & Bread (and Pie!) at The Hideout in Chicago.

The founder of Soup & Bread, Martha Bayne, has built a thriving community raising money for good causes like, the Logan Square Warming Center, which was the beneficiary of last week’s event. For background, here is a good post from the New York Times (OK, really, I added that link because it is the NEW YORK TIMES WRITING ABOUT MARTHA’S CAUSE!).

Well, anyway, it was such an auspicious event, it being the last of the season, and such a good cause, building community — that it was a natural place to launch our project, designed to build community.

First Step Soup

I made what I called First Step Soup. I adapted a recipe that I got from Kristin Reese, who was at The. Breakfast. It is her family’s favorite soup and is a traditional Italian Wedding Soup that she got the recipe for from Ina Garten. Here’s what Kristin had to say about the soup:

“It as a recipe I found that tasted good and can be a meal. Meatballs can be made in advance and it is tasty. The kids like the meatballs. I used our ground chicken and add some spices to it. I love the chef Barefoot Contessa and I think this is one of her recipes…without looking. When I cook I always make little changes or ad in this or that…I bet that is how you are too. I use herbs out of my garden. Our children Campbell 4, and Parker 2, love to help cook.”

You can probably see already that learning about the lives of the people on the other side of the table can help begin to bridge gaps. The reason, of course, is that you learn to see them as people first, not just a faceless enemy force. And that was the point of this soup I was making, to use food — a tie that binds — as a gesture for building a connection.

Ellen serving First Step Soup

We thought it would be fun to add the recipe from each meal, so I made a page for that and you can go get the recipe for First Step Soup. I apologize to the “specific direction needed” folks out there but I write recipes mostly how I cook. I am sure as Grant adds recipes, they will be more organized and precise. So, there will be something for everyone over time!

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, planning and plotting the project, reading and learning, that we haven’t really had enough time to communicate how this project is going to fall together. So, since this is the launch party post, I thought maybe it was high time to do that.

The foundation of One Hundred Meals will be a series of topics that Grant and I pursue as we set out to learn about our food supply. First up — learning how to read and understand the data and information that swirls around us, generally making us confused as we try to sort out what to believe. We’ll be announcing the first meal, whose topic is learning to research, in the next few days.

For each topic, we will be posting a preview post announcing the topic, sharing why we chose the topic and what we hope to learn, and listing a number of the questions we have about the topic. We’ll also be soliciting questions from you, so please feel free to let us know what you want to learn about each topic so we can share what we find.

Grant will be developing a photo record of the meal that we’ll share with you, and we’ll both work on follow up posts that share what we learned. We’re building a discussion board for the blog which will be incorporated into each post to try to keep the discussion strings on topic and easier to follow. We encourage you to chime in and get your voice heard on the boards.

Our target list of meals we would like to pursue will be going up shortly, as will an ever-updated reading list that includes learning and information from all sides of the issue.

Our goal is to try and sort out, really, the truth about our food supply and how regular people with busy lives and jobs can sort through the morass of conflicting information and arrive at a way of living that is in tune with their ideals.

That’s really the crux of the problem, to my mind, that it is nearly impossible to know what to choose when you don’t have ready access to real facts you can count on. And that’s what One Hundred Meals is all about — building community at America’s table while helping us — and you — understand the realities of the choices we make, instead of ignoring them or misunderstanding them.

We hope you participate, after all, we are trying to build a community here, and hope you end up getting some of your own questions answered. And, well, maybe meet a few people, like-minded and not, along the way.

Packed house at Soup & Bread!


3 responses

  1. This is great. I am very happy to see you launch this fascinating effort. If you are sincere in your effort to really find the truth about your concerns with food, you will find that the origin of the food system in this country, starting with both large and small farms, is largely comprised of honest, hard working people working to provide the safest, best food supply the world has ever known. Clearly there is ample room to improve and move forward, but the system is not so dark, conspiracy-laced and dismal as you may have initially perceived.
    It seems there is quite a bit of “us versus them” mentality out there. I want to point out that every farmer I know, large or small, goes out to eat and goes to the grocery store. While U.S. farmers are producers of food, they are also consumers of food just like everyone else.The difference is that farmers understand the behind-the-scenes aspects of production agriculture that others are not fortunate enough to see. The reality is that, in this debate over food, there is just “us.”
    Best of luck to you in your journey. Also, for more from the ag side of things, check out my blog at

    April 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm

  2. elliecm

    Thanks, Matt. We are pretty enthusiastic about the project, since there are so many questions. And I hope that we do find that the food system is not as dark and conspiracy-laced and dismal as we have generally believed.

    But then, I would say that in my own experience, the initial forays I have made into learning have, actually, left me feeling defeated.

    It seems, for one, really hard to get at some actual unadulterated research. We’re studying PEW and are in contact with them to find out more about how they work — and you know I am really happy you brought them into question. You are right in that a lot of the research we rely on is funded by non-profit groups who have to raise money. Frustrating.

    And on the other side, it seems all the research out there that informs “Big Ag” is industry sponsored. Such as the links you so generously send for and

    And what seems to be a growing body of evidence that Monsanto for one sponsors much of the work at land grant universities. With press releases like this:

    Monsanto is also a longtime partner with Iowa State University in the improvement of agriculture and the preparation of students for successful careers in agriculture. Monsanto has supported Iowa State with grants totaling more than $2 million to support research in all areas of agriculture and economics; with gifts totaling more than $2.4 million to 28 different academic departments, athletics and Extension; and with state-of-the-art equipment, such as three mass spectrometers valued at more than $1 million given to the Plant Sciences Institute. In addition, Monsanto supports graduate fellowships for minority students in genetics, hires many Iowa State graduates and is an active partner in some of the university’s most important initiatives, including the Seed Science Center and the Plant Sciences Institute.

    And so I, like you, tend to want to go to the source — in this case the farmers (you are so right! they are consumers!).

    But even then, I find the opportunities to learn are skewed, you know? All the farmers I have relied on and know personally, whose farms I have visited, have been farmers who work on human-scale farms, who are frustrated by all the toxic chemicals that are sprayed near their farms — and who have taught me much, first hand, about why they insist on raising animals in what they demand are humane ways.

    I turn to Joel Salatin, who write much and often (although rather too libertarianly and such for my taste!) about our food supply and farming.

    Whereas it seems the farmers who support Big Ag, many of whom I am getting to know and appreciating, demand what they are doing is, really, far better.

    So, I am very much looking forward to learning more. But I am also wary that maybe what I am going to find out is that my backyard is, in fact, the only source of food I can really trust!!! I hope not, for all our sakes.

    April 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

  3. Pingback: A progress report | MetaCookbook

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