Community Cooking

Last week, I took a cooking class run by New Dawn Enterprise’s A Better Bite Community Kitchen.

Jessica MacNeil

Jessica MacNeil (Source: Facebook)

Called “Tomato Sauce Five Ways,” the class was held in A Better Bite’s facilities in the New Dawn Centre on Nepean Street in Sydney and led by dietician Jessica MacNeil. She taught us to make a tomato sauce from scratch that could be used in five different dishes; a very easy way to add some nutrition and lower expenses.

Our basic sauce could be used to make chili, mini pizzas, spaghetti and meatballs, and lasagna. (Garfield fans out there will understand my excitement about the lasagna – and hatred of Mondays – but that’s a different article. Let’s get back to the pasta.)

We made our lasagna with roasted eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini. This adds a lot of depth and can replace a layer (or all) of the meat, if that’s your preference. Personally, I like a little meat but will readily admit that including more vegetables – or perhaps some tofu – is always a good choice.

“Tomato Sauce Five Ways” is one of several classes available from A Better Bite Community Food Kitchen – others include bread baking, cooking for families, vegan, Indian, seafood, pasta and roast chicken dinner.

 

I had the opportunity to speak with A Better Bite Manager Claire Turpin, who told me that each class is unique and they teach as much as they can in the three to four hours allotted, depending on the ability levels of the participants and their degree of involvement in the cooking process. Our class started about 9:30 AM and went until 1 PM. If more time has to be taken to teach things like knife skills or talk about temperatures, then that is what they do. (Our instructor really took her time to patiently go over things.)

March Break Grandparent & Grandchild Cooking Class at A Better Bite with cooking instructor Haley Zora-Boersch. (Source: Facebook)

Turpin explained that A Better Bite aims to provide quality food to working people through their cafe and classes, while also providing the food for New Dawn’s Meals on Wheels program, which delivers “affordable, nutritional” food to vulnerable members of the community.

A Better Bite really tries to tackle community issues around healthy food in practical ways. Said Turpin:

We do a lot of gardening workshops and stuff as well, trying to show people how to grow their own food. Because that’s really truly food sovereignty and food security when you know where your food comes from and you can grow it yourself.

Turpin says she created A Better Bite Community Kitchen to help people in the community better feed themselves, whether by providing instruction or food. Having begun with one employee in 2017, A Better Bite now employs 20 or more people during the summer months.

They train volunteers and offer paid classes, the chief aim of which is to help people become more comfortable in the kitchen and to give them ideas for meals. To provide them an alternative, as Turpin says, to “taking something out of the freezer and throwing it in the oven at 350 and hoping for the best,” which can happen when a person who has never had to cook for themselves suddenly has to accomplish this necessary task.

 

Word of their services has spread, said Turpin:

People know of A Better Bite. They know we do food stuff…We work a lot with schools, we work a lot with other community groups that approach us and say, “Hey we don’t know anything about this, can we just pay you to do our classes for us?”

Those services now include The Good Food Bus, a popular mobile food service that, the day we spoke, was going to Eskasoni. But Turpin said it wasn’t part of her plans, initially:

When we started out, we didn’t know the pieces that were gonna grow, like, I never thought we’d have a bus. It’s a big bus and we load it up with groceries and we go to places that don’t have grocery stores.

The bus was a community partnership, [the] United Way and the Ecology Action Centre approached us to take on the bus.

The Good Food Bus

Source: A Better Bite Cafe

Turpin says many of their projects begin with a request from the community:

A lot of the food security projects that we’ve kind of gotten into, [like] the Community Food Cupboard we have outside, they came to us…So it’s a mixture of, like, our own kind of vision or passion towards it, but also meeting the community needs.

Claire Turpin

Claire Turpin (Source: A Better Bite Community Kitchen)

A Better Bite uses all possible avenues to get their brand of delicious, nutritious food out to the local community. In addition to the community kitchen and the Good Food Bus, there’s A Better Bite Cafe and a catering service of the same name.

Turpin seems very committed to the goal of ensuring everyone has access to health food. Although COVID has hit their business like it’s hit every business in the world, it has also made the need for their services all the more urgent.

Turpin said their Meals on Wheels program, which typically produces around 12,500 meals a year, has been producing 24,000 a year since the onset of the pandemic. “So basically,” she said, “ we doubled production overnight.”

But this time of year they are helped by many community initiatives, which is very motivating for her:

We’re also excited around here cause we have Nutrition Month, so we have a lot of different funders and grants, and we’re doing two events a week. You know, lots of cooking classes, day activities and programs.

I can certainly recommend the cooking classes. They even give you recipes to take home with you…now, where did I put them?

(If you want to learn more about A Better Bite’s many services and programs, visit their website or Facebook page.)

 

 

Donald Clarke

A “military brat,” Don Clarke finally put down roots in Dominion, Cape Breton. A graduate of CBU (Communication) and NSCC (Business Administration), he has been active in the local theatrical community for years, having performed and directed at the Boardmore Playhouse and Two Hoots Productions. He has worked in film and television, directed a Canadian Short Film and published poetry in Caper’s Aweigh, Poetry.com and The Caper Times, where he also served as editor.