Having your kale and eating it too

Community garden invites local restaurants for a cookout cook-off

Urban agriculture is becoming ever more popular as people realize how easy it actually is. To raise student awareness of the possibilities of gardening in the city, Santropol Roulant – a community-based and volunteer-run organization that uses the power of food as a means of social reform – is holding an “Iron Chef cook-off” in the Edible Campus garden next to Burnside building. All proceeds will go toward the organization’s activities, including the meals-on-wheels program.

Maddie Ritts, a U4 Arts student and intern at Santropol, explained the importance of the meals-on-wheels kitchen: “We cook all the meals in our kitchen with volunteers, and then we deliver them on our bicycles to client members all over Montreal. Most of our client member base is people who suffer from a loss of autonomy – so a lot of seniors in the city, people with a disability, people with other health issues who have difficulty getting food get their dinner with us.” By using all the produce from the garden collective for local projects, Santropol Roulant enables McGill students to easily get involved in the wider community; you don’t even have to go off campus to contribute.

But when the project is so removed from the rest of campus life, it can go unnoticed among students. To raise awareness of their project, Santropol is holding an Iron Chef cook-off on September 2. Ritts organized the event with help from volunteers of Santropol and the radio station CKUT. She said this year’s fundraiser is a development of a workshop run last year to promote local healthy eating: “a bunch of folks picked veggies and herbs straight from the garden and then on little camping stoves cooked something up and had one hour to do that. So we thought this would be a really great idea to do on a much bigger scale to raise money for Santropol.”

The six restaurants invited to participate – among them Fuchsia, Crudessence, Lola Rosa, and Serafim – were all chosen because they have “similar ideas and beliefs around food, food security, accessibility.” These teams will have one hour to make a meal for a panel of judges. Although there is a catch: they are limited to whatever produce they can cull from the garden, in addition to the basics of salt, pepper, olive oil, a knife, a cutting board, and one special ingredient. Their efforts will be judged by a motley crew comprised of McGill students, journalists from Montreal papers, the Hour and the Gazette, and Santropol members.

With this event, Ritts said, “I guess the idea is just to draw attention to the garden…and [how] it’s really easy to grow a tomato plant in the spring time and not buy tomatoes from Provigo.” Ritts emphasised the importance of transforming “urban landscapes into nourishing, green, accessible spaces where people can grow food and form their diets around the food that they can grow themselves in the city.”

If your landlord isn’t keen on you digging up the back garden to grow competition-worthy pumpkins, students can pick up a volunteer shift in both the Burnside garden (although act fast because gardening season will be soon over) and year-round in the kitchen and on delivery shifts. In the meantime, come along to the garden in front of Burnside Hall for an evening of cheap food from Campus Crops and beer from McAuslan brewery. All proceeds go toward the Edible Campus and meals-on-wheels programs. With performances from Montreal stalwarts Pat Jordache and David Simard, as well as a corn roast, you can’t say no. BYO toothpicks.

September 2, 5p.m.-10p.m. in the garden. From 11p.m. onwards there’s an after-party, attended by the chefs and judges, at Blizzart’s (3956 St .Laurent)