My life changed when at 17 I found Edna Lewis' "Taste of Country Cooking". It just sat there in the stacks, virtually untouched, among the tiny cookbook section of my local branch library. I remember being so taken with her image and how magical she made eating and cooking seem. Years later at the very beginning of this site I met bryant terry and we commiserated over our love of Miss Edna and he gave me some very kind words of encouragement with relation to the direction of this work. Later he sent me a 30th anniversary edition of "Taste" he happened to have lying around his house with a very nice note about inspiration. For him it was a simple gesture that didn't cost him anything, but for me, at a time of uncertainty and anxiety, the gesture was a big deal.
Over the years this project has had an informal mentorship program going based on the generosity and commitment of you folks. I've called on some of you to give advice to some of the young people I meet and you've been gracious with your time and the students have all commented to me how much you all inspire them, so Id like to expand the idea in the same spirit, and start what I'm calling the Pay it Forward Cookbook Project.
Basically what Id like to do is set up sort of a cookbook swap where i'd be able to pass on cookbooks to students, or folks very early along in their careers that could use some encouragement, straight from the collections of working chefs. I would ask that you write a personal messages of inspiration that would share insights you recieved and wish to pass along, words you wish someone would have shared, or really anything you think a young person should know about this work. What I'm proposing is that you look through your cookbooks and pick the one you find most inspirational in, feel is important to our foodways, or just plain love for its informative nature, and pay it forward by either sending it to me so that I can pass it along or you can hold on to it and just send an email to let me know you're interested in participating and ill just have a running list of chefs on call, and when I meet a student in need ill just forward you the mailing info and you can send it directly to the student.
The most immediate application of this project would be to benefit an organization called The Future Project. One of the organizations Dream Directors, a very interesting woman named Syreeta Gates, who operates her pilot program out of a Queens hs is hosting a culinary competition called "STAY HUNGRY". The competition is an experiential exhibition of hip hop and its relationship to food. The program is meant as a bridge of culinary, visual, and lyrical art through the filter of a culinary competition. Miss Gates hopes to address the absence of the youth contingent in the conversations around our culinary future, and issues surrounding food justice and I think its a brilliant way to go about it. I was invited to be a judge for the competition being held in a few weeks and I thought that the 30 or so students could benefit from some words of encouragement from the wealth of insight and talent in our network, so I'm reaching out to you all hoping that you see the value in uplifting our young people in this small way and that you decide to participate.
If you are willing to share one of your cookbooks or pne you purchase to donate to this program, or would be interested in doing so at a later date please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Contact Us page here with the subject "Pay it Forward", and I'll send you mailing details.
Thank you in advance for your help and I'm sure this is going to be a blessing to many many young people!