(Ed. note – These suggestions also work for a great Christmas meal, or any meal really, so bookmark this page to reference it over and over and over again.)
There is something about sharing food that is especially binding.
This is why, eight years ago, when I had just moved back to Ohio and needed a sense of community more than anything in the world, I worked with a group of friends to start the Akron Cooking Coalition (ACC). The group’s mission was simple: bring people in the community together over food. One or two Sundays a month, Akronites would meet at someone’s home for dinner, and if they could, they would bring a dish to share. The dinners had rotating hosts, and they were all vegetarian so as to include as many people as possible.
The ACC is still around (check it out on Facebook), but I started many big life projects after that one (kids, marriage, university, The Devil Strip), so my involvement in community socializing has faded.
However, my desire to eat with intention has remained. While I am no longer vegetarian, my family eats vegetarian/vegan and/or gluten-free/dairy-free meals often. We’ve also become increasingly interested in the slow foods movement and eating local. Eating local is great for the environment and the local economy, but most importantly for strengthening the foundations of community. When we eat products grown and made by our neighbors, we are supporting and sustaining our tribe.
I married into a huge family. Our family events and dinners often involve 20 or 30 people. It’s a good thing my parents taught me how to throw a good party. Two years ago, we decided it was our turn to host Thanksgiving dinner. EJ and I got a big turkey from Mustard Seed Market, and we bought most of our ingredients at Mustard Seed or Krieger’s Market, including as much local produce as we could find.
That got me to thinking, how local can I go? In Akron, we are surrounded by farmland. I am thankful that I live in a place that has such rich soil and ample water supply. Maybe this year I can do an All-Local Thanksgiving dinner to show my appreciation for the abundance of harvest happening all around me. Here’s the catch: anything not grown or made in Ohio has to at least be purchased from a local small business.
The best places to source ingredients for an All-Local Thanksgiving Dinner include the Countryside Conservancy Farmers’ Market (CCFM), Krieger’s Health Food Market, and Mustard Seed Market & Café.
The Countryside Conservancy holds its Indoor Market at Old Trail School select Saturdays from 9 am to noon. This is the best place to get locally-sourced ingredients directly from the farmers, unless you choose to visit their farms. Don’t forget to call ahead to pre-order your turkey!
Krieger’s takes pre-orders for Bowman Landes free range turkeys from Dayton, and they carry local pork sausage. They offer local dairy from Hartzler Dairy Farm and Snowville Creamery, and eggs from Whipple Farms. Krieger’s has a large selection of local pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash, as well as a wide variety of locally grown apples. They carry several brands of locally baked bread as well.
Mustard Seed Market and Café takes pre-orders for Bowman Landes free range turkeys from Dayton. They carry Hartzler Dairy Farm and Snowville Creamery products, as well as eggs from Holistic Acres and Whipple Farms. Mustard Seed has a great selection of locally grown winter squash, gourds, and pumpkin. They also locally source many varieties of green leafy vegetables, as well as red potatoes and red onions. Mustard Seed is also a good location for purchasing ingredients that are not locally sourced, such as oils, flour, and spices. The Montrose location has a fantastic bulk herbs/spices section, and a wide selection of grains, nuts, and dried fruits. They also carry locally baked breads.
M. Sophie Hamad’s favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is, surprisingly, canned cranberry jelly. Don’t laugh. It’s so good with mashed potatoes and turkey.