In one smooth motion, a sharp knife slid through layers of raw onion, which fell to the cutting board perfectly diced. “I’ve been cutting onions wrong all these years,” exclaimed a member of Baltimore’s Amazing Grace Lutheran Church.
She and nine fellow congregants spent a Saturday morning in November taking part in Five Times a Feast, a new program of the Institute’s Mission Thrive initiative. The cooking class, which will travel to community organizations around Baltimore, aims to break through barriers that prevent people from preparing healthy meals at home—such as a lack of time, money, or cooking skills—in a fun and social setting.
The November session was a pilot in preparation for the official launch of Five Times a Feast in January 2015. Participants worked in pairs at portable cooking stations set up on long banquet tables in the church’s fellowship hall.
The recipe of the day was chili, a staple winter comfort food, with a healthy twist: To reduce fat and sodium content, it featured shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, corn, and two types of beans. Ladled atop brown rice, this dish provides 16 percent daily value of potassium, 26 percent of daily fiber needs, and 17 grams of protein, while costing only $1.28 per serving.
What participants liked best, though, is what happened after the class. “Honestly,” one of them confessed, “the reason I came is because of all of the food I’d get to take home.”
Five Times a Feast teaches bulk cooking, the practice of investing time and energy in food preparation in one day and then enjoying the rewards for many to follow. Participants shared the first meal together on-site and each packed up five more servings to take home, gaining the benefits of healthy cooking in the week to come.