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Resource Thu Sep 12 2013

Bring the ComOOnity back into FOOd

rsz_1rsz_1125970_31858572.jpgThe only thing I enjoy more than eating is eating with people. I'm not talking about prissy business luncheons where people daintily nimble on their arugula salads, wishing those kettle chips weren't so damn crunchy. I'm not talking about fancy galas where attendees try not to spill gazpacho onto their cocktail attire. I'm talking about simply sharing food with friends, family, your dog Carl Barx, and even complete strangers.

Community is the core foundation of food--from historic, hunter-gatherer societies to modern-day kitchen lines, the creation and consumption of food has never been a solo act. Although eating has largely evolved into a perfunctory, subsistence type of ritual, I'd like to believe that food tastes better in the presence of people, not electronic screens. We see that return to community with local community picnics, farmer's markets, food swaps, and pilgrim-style restaurant concepts, but there are some innovative tech ideas that I really wish were more popular in Chicago:

Leftover Swap
Stale pizza is good pizza to me. But nearly 40% of the food produced in America becomes waste--from those stale bagels in our fridge to mass-produced Panera cookies, we toss away completely edible food. Luckily, Leftover Swap helps "cheap" and "hungry" individuals who also care about "reducing waste, eating locally, and building relationships within [their] community." As someone who fits all three categories, I would use this app more if it weren't branded so negatively by the media.

EatWith
Imagine you're vacationing in Milwaukee during Thanksgiving, and you're in the mood for a homestyle Midwestern meal. Instead of ordering a sad burger at the local diner, you eat resplendent turkey and rolls with complete strangers in their home. EatWith essentially allows people to "prepare [their] favorite dishes for guests from around the globe, meet interesting people and share [their] unique cultural perspective." Although EatWith is currently more of an international concept, I think a Chicago version would be pretty neat: enjoy grandma-style menudo in Humboldt Park or cook for Italian tourists visiting the Bean! It gives the average denizen like me an opportunity to flaunt my culinary chops for people longing for some good ol' homestyle cooking.

GrubWithUs
Grubwithus is a "community where users join and create group meals at top restaurants across the nation." Although reddit and LTH Forum have similar concepts where random strangers convene over food, Chicago lacks that one reliable website where people would feel comfortable setting up dinner with Ron and Carly at Sepia.

Kitchit
Kitchit "connects high-quality chefs with people who want a high-quality home-cooked meal." People (with plenty of disposable income) hire renowned local chefs to cater a birthday party or to conduct a private cooking lesson. Like a Top Chef catering service, Kitchit has already signed with big names like Phillip Foss (El Ideas), Sarah Grueneberg (Spiaggia), and Brian Jupiter (Frontier). Why yes, Chef Foss, you can use my cutting board for that steak tartare.

Although people can quite easily abuse the system behind these four concepts (e.g. salmonella, appendage mutilation), their enormous potential for preserving that sense of community in a very technologically-oriented era is undeniable. If we can reduce food waste and hunger, build and strengthen genuine relationships, and cast our social nets across greater waters, I think it's worth the risk of venturing outside our comfort zones.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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