Thursday 23 August 2012

Noughty but Nice and Keeping Refreshed at Happy Mondays

The Low Carbon Cookbook group hasn't had a meeting this month, and so here is a post I wrote for the Transition Social Reporting Project yesterday, 22nd August, about the latest Happy Mondays meal at the Sustainable Bungay community kitchen - a celebration of multiple birthdays with falafels, cupcakes and the herbs that refresh us. Mark Watson

Bungay community centre, Monday 20 August, late afternoon. I have spent the past hours gathering and infusing herbs for the herbal refresher I am making for Sustainable Bungay's Happy Monday meal. These events happen once a month with a different theme, using as much local food as possible and are organised and prepared by the Community Kitchen subgroup of Sustainable Bungay. Anyone can join in and help out or just come to enjoy the food and atmosphere. This month's meal is also a Happy Birthday celebration for the proportionately large number of us in SB who have arrived at an age with '0' in this year .

I'm hot, I've been unable to find any organic, unwaxed lemons in town and outside everyone seems to be moving at a snail's pace as the heat increases towards the end of the day. It must be nearly 30 degrees and I'm definitely feeling the effect of my particular 0 (which is no longer 30). The infusion of over twenty herbs (picked both from home and from the community garden at the library) smells amazing, but it's still piping hot, people will be here in forty minutes and WE DON'T HAVE ANY ICE!

Margaret (another 0) offers to go down the road for the ice after she's finished the flowers for the table. Charlotte cools the infusion by transferring it from jug to pot to saucepan to pancheon and puts in the summer fruits and flowers. I add a little sugar, fizzy water, a bottle of Nick(0)'s homemade raspberry wine and some blackcurrant cordial, testing as I go to get the right balance.

I've stationed myself in the main room where it's slightly cooler. Janet ties balloons on the windows and I carry on pouring and stirring and testing. Thane and Emma are among the first diners to arrive. "Great!" I said. "Tell me what you think of this. I don't want it to be too diluted."

"It's certainly strong enough," they said. "Adding more water would be fine. It's really refreshing!"

The mood of the kitchen is the usual one of intense concentration as everyone in the crew goes about producing the dishes: Josiah rolling the falafels he's made from British fava beans, Christine preparing a raspberry coulis for her cup cakes, Lewis testing the beetroot for the Moroccan salad. Cucumbers and tomatoes are sliced and onions are chopped for the accompanying dips and sauces. "Charlotte, can you do the yoghurt sauce?" says Nick almost at the last minute, whilst he washes up several large pans.

The drink is finally ready and living up to its name. People are arriving and everybody wants some.

"This is delicious," says Sally. "You must tell me what herbs you used."

"Well, there are over twenty five, with a strong base of lemon balm and lemon verbena, and... I'll come and tell you about it later," I said.

And there was plenty for everyone, with Dano (but not Dan0), taking the pancheon round the table so people could have seconds.

The meal was great, too – falafels, pitta bread, salads, sauces, oven-baked wedge potato chips, followed by cup cakes each with its own candle – and that raspberry coulis!

The candles were lit, the lights were dimmed and there was silence for a moment before we all sang Happy Birthday. Janet (yet another 0) and I laughed as we both realised we were singing happy birthday to ourselves and tried to add an 'us' in there somewhere, which didn't rhyme but never mind.

PS There were even more 0 birthdays in Sustainable Bungay this year than I mentioned here: Elinor, Eloise, Jon and Dee also celebrated the beginning of new decades. So cheers to you too, guys!

Pics: Birthday balloon by the window*; Peppermint (ricola) flowers*; oh those cup cakes, in the kitchen; Dano offers Margaret another glass of herbal refresher. By Josiah Meldrum and *Mark Watson

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