What does it mean to feed people?

When I started culinary school, a weird thing happened. People started getting really twitchy about the food they liked around me. They'd start apologizing for liking Taco Bell or cut up Li'l Smokies in their mac'n'cheese or whatever. But here's the thing. Food only needs to do two things to be good at being food, and therefor to be good food. It needs to nourish you -- to provide nutrients, including absolutely essential macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which you would die without -- and it needs to taste good to you. If it has calories, it satisfies the first requirement. If it pleases you in the moment you eat it, it satisfies the second requirement. That's it. That's all. Yes, it is an excellent idea to eat a wide variety of foods with lots of different micronutrients, because those are important too. Yes, it is good to balance the proportions of the macronutrients you eat, although different people have different needs and different optimal levels of each. But calories are what keep you alive. If the goal is to feed people, there is no better thing to do than to feed them something they will enjoy. Something that tastes good, that makes them feel good. If they have to choke it down because it doesn't taste good to them, they won't eat as much, and they won't be properly nourished physically. But food is also a source of joy, and that's nourishment, too. We need joy to live, almost as much as we need calories. So food should bring us enjoyment, the inception of joy. So I tell people not to be ashamed of what they like to eat. I don't care how cheap it is, how low-class, how many artificial flavors and colors it has. If it tastes good and it fuels your body, that's good food. Feed people. Feed people things they like and want to eat. Give them both nutrients and joy. Feed people....

"Why are you not Hestia's?"

"Because Hekate got to me first?" That's an exchange from the weekend of Many Gods West. I was feeding people, you see. I spent most of my weekend doing all this other stuff, and I talked a whooooole lot about all the random crap I do -- weaving, spinning, a little coding and tech stuff, beadwork and jewelry, collecting facts and trivia, whatever else came up -- but then after ritual, I was feeding the ritual crew. Because that's what I do: I feed people. Everything else I do is secondary to or derivative of that, for me. (There are a lot of kinds of hunger, and a lot of ways of feeding people.) And then it came up again, the next day, and someone asked me that. I answered the best I could, and I told her I'd dedicated my restaurant as a shrine to Hestia, and our pilot lights as her Flames. Not everything I do and am is about my particular gods. Anything I do can be about them, and often is. But feeding people as a central part of who I am doesn't make me Hestia's in the same way that I am Hekate's, or even Dionysos's. My cooking is not (usually) about either of them. But feeding people means that I give Hestia honor, that I recognize her realm, her work, her bailiwick in what I do (hence the restaurant; I still keep the frieze plaque of her I had hanging in the restaurant in my ritual room). I pray to her daily. But she is not the one who came to me when I was sixteen and sick and scared and hiding, and told me I could be both strong and powerful. I didn't even know how to cook yet, really, much less how to feed people. Hestia's not the one who first rode me, not the one who followed me in the night and kept me safe, who answered my questions, who told me that killing myself when I was dedicated to a goddess of the underworld was a Bad Idea and so kept me alive. Hekate came to me when I needed a goddess, and in return I gave myself to her. That Hestia did not do those things is not something I'm hurt by, understand. She had her reasons, and maybe I didn't call to her in some way that I did call to Hekate. I don't blame Hestia at all, though I realize some parts of this entry might sound like it. It's simply that Hekate is the one who was there, so I dedicated myself to her. Hestia is both wonderful and important, and feeding people can be an act of worship and honor to her. It is always an act that falls within her demesne. Doing it, however, is not always about her. I hope that makes sense?...

Feeding People: Get Your Permits

Someone mentioned in the comments of Feed People to be sure to get all the paperwork in order. Case in point, police in Daytona Beach, FL (where, btw, I have a dozen relatives) have ticketed people for feeding homeless people in a public park. More than $300 each. Now, it seems that they had been doing so for a year with no trouble, and that the police came down on them when the DBPD chief got snotty about it. This is a guy who seriously thinks that a significant number of homeless people are homeless by choice, or are sex offenders, substance abusers and bank robbers. (I dunno, I think if you’re a successful bank robber, you probably have the money to have a place to live, and if you’re unsuccessful, you’re probably in jail and not on the streets.) At any rate, he thinks that feeding poor people makes more poor people, and he doesn’t want all these dirty indigents cluttering up his pretty, expensive park that’s really meant for Real True Citizens . . . oh, and tourists. (There are parts of Daytona Beach that do not exist to serve tourists at all. Manatee Island Park is not one of them.) The article also mentions laws and regulations in places like Gainesville, FL, Phoenix, AZ and Myrtle Beach, SC that limit the amount that can be served to the homeless, or forbid it entirely in some areas. There’s a report linked from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness. Anyone who wants to try this should look at that. My idea specifically did not cater solely to the homeless, but to everyone. Anybody think that’s going to stop cops and officials from harassing anybody doing this? Didn’t think so. Anyway. Find out the laws in your area. Get your permits in order. If you’re going to do it, do it right… otherwise, they’re going to shut you down and your initial costs will be lost and useless, and you won’t be able to feed people anymore. In better news, Rhyd Wildermuth, who has a background in restaurants and catering, too, has also offered to advise help anyone who wants to take up this idea and run with it....

Feed People

I’ve had a thought bubbling in my head since last night sometime. It may be a thing some pagan/polytheist groups are already doing, I don’t know. The Hare Krishnas used to do it on FSU campus, though, and I think it would be an excellent pagan charitable thing to de, to demonstrate hospitality to the community and devotion to the gods. Feed people. Once a week, some of you get together, cook up some simple food — a lot of it, fifty to a hundred meals’ worth — go to some busy space, like a park or a community center (the HKs used the student union courtyard), set up tables, and give it away. Free. Just… feed people. It’s not a thing I could organize any time soon. It needs resources I don’t currently have. But I’d like to, someday, and in the mean time, maybe somebody else will see this and do it. Here’s what you’d need to get started: Catering equipment, like chafers, sterno, hotel pans and covers, serving spoons, at least 4 of each, wide foil, wide plastic wrap Somebody with a van or SUV to deliver it Long tables Disposable service: paper plates, utensils, napkins Staple foods, seasonings A kitchen or two to cook it in For a menu, keep it extremely simple and cheap. Rice pilaf, which can be made right in the hotel pans, holds well, and is dead cheap. Rice, oil, onion, seasonings, and stock, broth or water. Use vegetable stock, and it’s vegan. In the hotel pan, on 2 burners, sweat the onion in the oil. Add the rice, cook the rice in the oil until it turns a little translucent. Add liquid and any other seasonings, cover with foil, stick it in a hot oven. Anybody wants a full recipe, I’ll get it for them. Then some simple vegetarian protein source, like beans or a lentil or chickpea stew. Again, very cheap; again, cooked right in the hotel pan. Lots of recipes out there. I’ll help find them, if anybody wants to do this. And… that’s it. Dish it up on paper and give ‘em each a plastic spoon (compostable, of course). Some of the people who come to eat will have money, although many won’t, so put a contribution box at the end. There’s, oh, $200-500 startup cost for the equipment and tables (although if you go to a community center, they may have tables), and you can make the food for under a dollar a serving. (Seriously, I could even go do the costing on these recipes. And you can buy a lot of this equipment used at restaurant supply stores.) You can makes a lot of food in a home kitchen. If you’re serving a lot, you might want to make it in two kitchens. Maybe you’ve got CUUPS people and the local UU congregation has a big kitchen you can use. Do at least two pans of each thing. An 8qt hotel pan holds, oh, 30-40 servings, depending on how much you're figuring per serving. At first, you can’t have more pans of food to serve than you have chafing dishes, because, especially when you already have to transport it, it’s too hard to keep it hot enough for safety. (You must keep it either under 40F or over 140F to prevent nasty things from breeding in it and making people sick.) Later, if this gets rolling really well, maybe you can get a grant or donation from somebody (like Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which donates the proceeds from its books to various charities) or hold a funding drive to get a heated transport cabinet like caterers use, and then you can make more and keep serving longer. Maybe some hot beverage urns and/or drinks coolers to provide beverages, too. Hot tea on a cold day is a good thing! Or a cold drink on a hot one! You only need a couple of people to do the cooking, and 3-4 to serve. It’s not difficult work. But it’s a huge good that can be done. If I were going to do it, I would name it, oh, Hestia’s Hearth. I’d put a QRCode for a website with info at the bottom of the sign, but otherwise not advertise who we are. There would be no religious material out, no preaching at anyone, and the only answer to “Who are you people?” would be “Hestia’s Hearth. We’re here to feed people.” And that’s it. If people wanted to know more, they could go to the website. Feeding people. Hospitality. Really, the one is the core of the other, to me, the most basic thing you...