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A Hot Yam Done Good

August 28, 2009

Dear Caitlin et alia,

So the last few days for me have not been the most exciting food-wise; that’s why I haven’t posted in a while. My own meals have been somewhat dull as of late. But I did have the excellent experience of my first Hot Yam lunch this week, and I will dedicate most of this post to this amazing group.

What is Hot Yam? Simply put, it’s a University-of-Toronto-student-run all-volunteer mostly-local-and-organic 100%-vegan cooking collective. Every week, a group of us get together, prepare a hearty meal, and then sell it to the hungry public for only $4. The meal is always different and changes based on the season and the local produce available. This week was my first week with the Yam, and since I have basically nothing else to keep me busy until school starts, I decided to devote a good chunk of my time to helping out in whatever way I could.

Meal preparation started the night before on Wednesday, where me and another Yammer met up to go shopping in Kensington Market for the various, non-produce items for this week’s menu (two other Yammers went to a local farmers’ market to pick up all the fresh stuff). It was pretty fun; I’ve never bought food in such large quantities before. We actually cleared out the store’s bulk container of chickpeas!

Anyway, after we got back to the Hot Yam kitchen, we unpacked our groceries and then got to cooking. Again, I’ve never prepared food in such large quantities, either, so it was quite the experience. We aim to make enough food for about 100 people, and this meant I did things like wash and boil 250 potatoes, and cook 15 cups of chickpeas and 15 cups of quinoa! I was a little surprised at how humble the Hot Yam kitchen was: stove burners didn’t work, the oven didn’t cook evenly, there never seemed to be enough containers and pots for everything we were doing. But I liked that. It made it more exciting and spontaneous, and made it feel more real. The Hot Yam isn’t a professional kitchen; it’s just a group of students who really love cooking and want to make delicious food in any way possible.

I didn’t finish up on Wednesday until 9 p.m., and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it. I was a little worried about our progress when I left Wednesday night, but when I returned Thursday morning at around 10:30 a.m., everything seemed to be almost done (except for the fruit compote, which was a long and complicated—but ultimately averted!—disaster)! Come noon-time, we were all set to serve our hungry patrons. And here’s what your plate would’ve looked like if you had been one of those patrons:

Hot Yam Lunch

What is all that delicious goodness? Well, here’s the day’s menu:

Menu

In case you need some help linking the menu with the plate, the dishes are, starting with the bowl and moving clockwise: Peaches & Elderberries Fruit Compote with Chocolate-Dipped Cornmeal Wafer Squares; Curried Potato Salad; Steamed Bean Salad with Dill; Pesto Carrot & Cucumber Salad; and Quinoa Chickpea Salad. My favorite dish of the day was probably the Curried Potato Salad, although I am quite partial to potatoes. But I was also quite partial to the cornmeal wafers, which were absolutely amazing, even when not dipped in chocolate. I will hopefully be getting the recipe (which isn’t even that difficult!) soon.

Want to learn more about the Hot Yam? Well, you could hop on over to their blog, which has all the latest updates on the group’s activities. If you just want to learn more about the Yam and what it’s all about, check out Now Magazine’s glowing review of us in this week’s magazine (giving us the highest possible, NNNNN rating!), available online as HTML or PDF.

But for all my Hot Yam activity this week, I was not completely absent from my own kitchen. Here are a couple of the things that made it into my mouth in the past few days…

To begin, a new Sunflower Lentil Pate, this time with all yellow lentils:

Sunflower Lentil Pate

This pate definitely tasted different from the last one, although I can’t say exactly how, but it was still totally delicious and made for some very happy snacking.

Next up, the first of two bread loaves I bought this week at farmers’ markets:

Olive Cilantro Bread

This is an Olive & Cilantro loaf, which I very much enjoyed. It was very soft and almost creamy on the inside, and I loved the flavors. Does this mean I might be slowly warming up to the joys of olives? We can only wait and see…

Last night’s dinner was udon noodles with a simple peanut sauce:

Udon and Peanut Sauce

Unfortunately, this could’ve been better for me. I think it was a mistake to cool down the udon after cooking them by running them under cold water, and the peanut sauce had too much coconut milk for my liking. However, it was still a nice quick and simple dinner, and I will most likely be eating the rest of the peanut sauce in the next few days.

And here’s the second of this week’s two famers’ market loaves:

Potato Sourdough

Potato Sourdough Cut

I definitely liked the mix of the potato and sourdough flavors, but this bread isn’t my favorite. It’s still very good, though, and I will enjoy eating the rest of it.

That’s all I have to report in recent food news, but before I go I thought I’d share with you some of my weekend plans! Here they are:

Friday

  • Buskerfest: A festival of international street performers. It’s going on all weekend, but I think today might be the best day weather-wise to go downtown to see the madness. (Their website is not the greatest as it is bogged down by Flash animations and the like, but it’s still kind of cool to check out.)

Saturday

  • Hot Yam Party in the Park: If the rain stops by the evening, I will probably head out to nearby Sibelius Park to hang out with fellow Yammers and enjoy some good food and games. Other than that, though, it looks like the weather is going to make for a quiet day inside.

Sunday

  • Live Green Toronto Festival: Toronto’s annual celebration of all things green! I’m mostly going to scope out the local food, but I’m sure there will be plenty of things of interest. Also, one of the live music acts is called The Philosopher Kings.
  • The Wilderness of Manitoba, Live @ Sneaky Dee’s: The same band I went to see last weekend are back in town, playing a PWYC (Pay What You Can) show at a local bar.

And that’s what my weekend is looking like right now. Finally, two quick things I recently discovered that you may be interested in:

  • Toronto’s First Post Office: As explained in Fodor’s: “Dating from 1833, this working post office continues to use quill pens, ink pots, and sealing wax. Exhibits include reproductions of letters from the 1820s and 1830s.” And it’s free! Possible place to go when you visit?
  • BlogTO: The more I frequent this all-about-Toronto blog, the more I love it. I specifically appreciate the “Best of Toronto” features, which are perfect for a TO-newbie like me. You really need to check out their index; you won’t believe the sorts of lists they’ve come up with. For example, here‘s a list of The Best Roti in Toronto. Roti. I mean, c’mon.

Okay, this has been a long post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed. I’ll be back soon, I hope, with reports of all the weekend’s fun activities and food adventures.

Until we eat again,

Willie


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