Neighbors share knowledge at first ever FoodCamp

At Madison’s first ever food “unconference” on Apr. 7, attendees learned which chile pepper to use for authenticJeff Augustine explains how to tap a maple tree.Jeff Augustine explains how to tap a maple tree. enchilada sauces and how to tap a maple tree.

Madison FoodCamp ran from 10 a.m. -5 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center and included over 27 different discussion topics. According to the event’s lead organizer, Phil Crawford, about 100 people attended.

FoodCamp was free, in part because the leaders of each talk or demonstration donated their time.

“This is a completely community organized event and doesn’t rely on industry experts,” said Ashe Dryden, another of the camp’s organizers. An “unconference,” she explained, is less formal in presentation style, which encourages more participation than a typical conference.

“The idea is that there’s a wealth of information in the community and that you can learn from your peers,” Dryden said.

Otehlia Cassidy demonstrates how to make enchilada sauceOtehlia Cassidy demonstrates how to make enchilada sauce

For instance, Otehlia Cassidy leads an annual culinary tour in Mexico and shared a couple cooking tips for making more authentic enchiladas.

“In real enchiladas, you don’t fold the tortillas,” Cassidy explained. "You dip a tortilla in enchilada sauce, pan fry it on both sides, and then lay it flat on a plate. A plate of enchiladas is a stack of these saucy, fried tortillas."

To make the sauce, Cassidy blends the raw ingredients and then fries them in a skillet. She suggests using guajillo chile peppers for enchilada sauce. Find her full recipe at the end of the article.

While Cassidy led a step-by-step cooking demonstration, one room away, Jeff Augustine held a flexible hose and small metal hose connector up for the audience to see. Those two items, plus a five-gallon bucket, are Augustine’s $4 solution for tapping a maple tree.

Augustine owns his own residential remodeling business but taps the trees in his backyard for fun. He’s beenAugustine's $4 solution for tapping maple treesAugustine's $4 solution for tapping maple trees collecting sap and making his own maple syrup since he was an undergraduate.

“Most people have a tree in their yard or neighbor’s backyard that they could play with,” Augustine said. The amount of sap given by one tree depends on its age, but he estimated that a mature tree would give enough sap to yield about a gallon of syrup.

“You can barely taste any sweetness in sap when it comes out of the tree,” he explained. After you collect the sap, you boil it until it reaches the desired thickness and flavor. Augustine likes his syrup a little thicker than the store-bought variety and boils it slightly longer than average.

Johnson (right) walks Austin (left) through the beer brewing process.Johnson (right) walks Austin (left) through the beer brewing process.Outside the community center, Pete Johnson was boiling a different type of treat. Johnson spent several hours on Saturday demonstrating the beer brewing process.

“I’m a hobby brewer,” Johnson said. He’s works for a Californian marketing company but brews for fun on the weekends.

FoodCamp attendees Jake Austin and his bother-in-law Tim Dennison assisted Johnson, learning the process as they went. While Austin lives only a couple blocks from the community center, Dennis and his wife drove two hours to participate in FoodCamp.

“The small livestock and maple syrup session got me thinking about all of the things I can do in my backyard,” Austin said. He’s even considering leading a session next year, maybe on sausage making.

That, according to FoodCamp organizers, was exactly the point. The event was meant to be a forum for learningDennison (left) and Austin ground grain for beer brewing.Dennison (left) and Austin ground grain for beer brewing. about anything food-related and encouraging attendees to share their knowledge with one another.

“FoodCamp is a perfect way to connect eaters with producers, amateur with professional, newbie with foodie-nerd, and to blur all the lines between,” said Slow Food President and FoodCamp organizer, Matt Feifarek.

Feifarek helped organize the event because he believes the more people know about their food, the more invested they will be in a fair food system.

Crawford, FoodCamp’s lead organizer, said that FoodCamp was an offshoot of a similar tech-focused event called BarCamp which he helps organize. Madison’s was the first FoodCamp in the country and Crawford is already advising other cities, including Portland and Milwaukee, on how to organize a similar event.

“It's important to me that people learn we can create the world we want via local actions and not everything should be relegated to a program run by some far off government agency or non-profit,” Crawford said. “Power to the people - we can do it.”

EnchiladaRecipe.pdf32.55 KB