Although this is in the catering section, The Resource Project is so much more than that.Take a look:
As you can see, this project involved a lot of heart, soul and passion. The Integrated Arts Education Association (IAEA) works with autistic children in an environment that guides the child towards independence, contribution and participation. Children are taught how to connect with their bodies through physical movement. They are taught to connect with nature through understanding permaculture and they are shown how to use the fruits of their labour to cook and take care of each other.
Sheenru Yong (creator) invited a group of collaborators to host a fundraiser that would enable IAEA to hire more staff and open more classes. There was already such a need. So many testimonies from parents held IAEA up in high regard as creating a space for their children to grow and thrive.
Collaborators were made up of dancers, artists, photographers, installation artists and food artists. Sheenru asked every contributor to give what they could. She did not tell us what she wanted. The magic of this simple gesture ignited every single contributor to give of their best, to think outside the box, to really give without thinking of return.
There are fundraisers and then there is the Resource Project. From beginning to end, there was magic in the air. Giving, compassionate magic.
The project spanned two days and the intention was to show food as art and to create a space for the community to share and participate. These happen to be my favourite words, “share” and “participate”. The community would be taken through a series of happenings – from a tea ritual in the garden, to incense and oils, to installation art to food, to singing to dance. We had estimated about 80 people attending on the first day which was the day I was scheduled to present my food art.
The thought of preparing food for 80 people by myself was not something that occurred to me as impossible. Indeed, nothing occurred to me. Things just happened, they just flowed. Some magical force took over me and gave me super human strength to such a level that I worked my tail off, slept a small amount but felt refreshed, invigorated and really blessed to be a part of this project.
I decided that the best participatory dishes would be a raw beet humus,
where the community would scoop up the hummus into empty croustades.
Then, some oven-roasted vegetables served in raw purple cabbage cups. One of the intentions of The Resource Project was to be in itself a sustainable event. This meant, we did not buy disposable paper cups, plates, knives or forks. This excited me beyond belief. I love nothing more than a challenge (no, I lie…I love chocolate even more!) so thinking of what to make AND how to serve was awesome!)
Being Indian, living in Taiwan, dating an American-Taiwanese boyfriend whose Mum’s family hails from Hunan Province of China (second spiciest region after Szechuan), the complement of flavours in this dish was um…various. And wild. I chose to work with pumpkin, bell peppers, green beans and mu-er (a fungus). These vegetables maintain their shape and colour after marinating and cooking. I marinated the vegetables in ground Szechuan peppers, curry powder, cumin, coriander, fennel rice wine vinegar, a dash of soy sauce (“dash” relative to 80 people:D) and honey. Twenty four hours later, they were roasted in various friends’ (saviours – I have one toaster oven) ovens. We had enough purple cabbage to fill three, huge cardboard boxes. I love purple cabbage. It can do no wrong in my eyes.
Next, I decided to work on some falafels. Who doesn’t love falafels?! In the falafels I made for The Resource Project, I was more inspired by the artistry of my raw food peer, Adela Stoulilova.
Adela had just created a sweet potato falafel that sounded so divine, I promptly called her up and asked her if I could use her sweet potato falafel recipe. Since I was cooking for 80, it was more convenient to use chickpea flour than it was to use the chickpeas themselves. I love sweet potatoes, especially in Winter where it warms and fills the body. Even though this fundraiser was in Summer, with the wrap being a lettuce leaf, the weight of the sweet potato was appreciated by the community. The chickpea flour proved to be the perfect binder to the delicious sweet potato falafel.
Finally, something familiar, simple and much-loved by Taiwanese people – Indian food!
A special mention must be made to the person who sponsored all the vegetables. Her name is Tammy Turner. She is an American woman who has lived in Taiwan for over 25 years. Tammy has a profound history in Taiwan. It was in her undergraduate years that she discovered the Indigenous People of Taiwan and embarked on a journey of discovery that spanned decades, into Taiwan’s people and natural environment.
Tammy now sits on the board of directors of the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Enterprise and Economic Development Association. Tammy teaches permaculture to students from universities across the island as well the restaurant industry and individuals. For Tammy, permaculture is not a job, it’s a way for life.
For Tammy, sponsoring the vegetables to The Resource Project, was an obvious contribution. We were deeply touched by this generous contribution. Taking it one step further, Tammy also went into the more lush areas of her mountainside dwelling to hack off some taro plant leaves for me to use as serving platters! She carefully wrapped them into damp paper and sent them over and they provided the most beautiful addition to the presentation.
We eventually raised US $7,655.78 for IAEA which enabled them to do what they needed to do, but above that, we created a network that was one of co-creating and sustaining. You don’t need a lot to do a lot. You need you, your heart, soul and passion. I had no idea I could cater for 80 people but I did because the cause was bigger than me and based on what I could bring to the table. I brought myself.