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First Ever Recorded Inland Hurricane. On May 8th, 2009, our town of Carbondale, Illinois got hit by a 20-minute, 40-mile wide inland hurricane which had an average wind speed of 85 mph with gusts at ground level of 106 mph and 124 at treetop level. This disaster devastated all infrastructure: power lines were down, roads were blocked, and businesses closed. No power meant lots of food was going to spoil unless it was eaten.
I invited my slow food group (a small group of 6-8 people who would meet once a week or so to cook/eat together) over to my house to our regular Sunday dinner. I, having solar energy, still had power and ended up with a couple of deep freezes full of food “to be stored.” Due to the storm and so many people having access to food but not a way to cook, I asked the local community center, Gaia House Interfaith Center (which had the city gas still working), if we could cook there. That ended up being more than a week of people sharing, cooking, eating, and communing together under solar lamps and candles. Afterwards, we continued what would become Rice & Spice, a weekly international slow food dinner.
That spring of 2009 the slow food group would meet every Friday at Gaia House and cook up wonderful meals of camaraderie and laughter using donated food. As the amount of people who would attend grew, private donors would fund the dinner. We also became a member of a community supported agriculture delivery service operated by local farmers which supplied us with the vegetables we needed for meals.
>Having a university right across the road, we had many internationals coming to our dinners, and they wanted to share their food and culture so we started having themes like Indian or Thai or Latin. Chief chefs came up with the recipes and people would bring ingredients or dishes for the theme. With so many people helping in the kitchen, sometimes 12 or 15, the chefs could even be amateur chefs, and usually are, but they can act like a master chef tasting and directing the process.
So now it has been almost 6 years now of weekly dinners, and we have served over 5315 people. Rice and Spice has led to so many new friendships: Arab, Jew, Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, American, Tall, Short, Fat, Skinny, Brown, White, Black, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Bengali, Iranian, Native American, Israeli, Turkish, Moroccan, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latino, Mexican, Environmentalist, Italian, Afghan, Cambodian, and French people have been some of the chefs and participants. We have had a Bengali New Year party and a Jewish New Year party and a Persian Cultural Festival and a Ramadan Iftar dinner and a Native American Thanksgiving as part of our dinners. We had a Japanese Sushi dinner right after the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.
Rice & Spice is about community, working together, cooking, sharing, the talking and the smiles! And of course the Food!!!!
Aur Beck, Founder
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