When I was still in UBC, life usually slows down as the calendar turns to October and everyone’s finally settled in school. Extended summer breaks are over, frosh kids are all partied out, and adding/dropping courses are past the deadline. As for me, it’s my cue to get serious with my research papers and bury myself in readings.
Here in Toronto, it’s different. The leaves are changing but the city is as vibrant as ever. From Nuit Blanche to Oktoberfest, park crawls to zombie walks, and food shows to chocolate festivals, there’s always something big happening every weekend. The city sets its own pace, which I too have come to do for myself.
One way I’ve gained control of this fall season is by volunteering. The great thing about the culinary and hospitality industry is that it is part of everything we do so there will always be events to work on. I’m grateful that George Brown is very hands-on and really pushes its students by regularly updating them of the opportunities all over the city. Last weekend I was able to work at the Homegrown Park Crawl with AGO’s FRANK Restaurant, then on the 25th I’ll be working at the 2014 Canadian Hospitality Foundation Gala.
Aside from these special events, I have been spending my Thursdays helping out at a small community kitchen. They have an amazing Youth Food Program wherein they encourage kids to learn culinary skills like cooking and baking from scratch. I’ve only volunteered twice but I’m really enjoying it! I get there and my mind just enters its comfort zone. It’s not like one of my culinary labs where I am under pressure and have to present 4-5 dishes in 2 hours; it’s more of building a relationship with the youth, contributing what I know (in culinary as well as in life in general) and simply having fun in the kitchen. At the end of each session, we gather for a lovely home-cooked dinner, strengthening our sense of community, but more importantly, sharing a unique food experience with everyone. And if there’s something I wouldn’t mind doing for the rest of my life, it would be to encourage those kind of experiences.
Since it’s Thanksgiving on Monday, this week we taught the youth how to make chicken pot roast and their choice of either apple or pumpkin pie. I chose the latter since I’ve only made it once before and that was from a canned pumpkin. At the volunteer, we got to use fresh pumpkins, and although it’s more work, we all had fun deseeding, roasting, and scooping out the insides. Not to mention that fresh purée tastes so much better!
I ended up with extra pie filling so I played around by adding flour, baking powder, baking soda and butter to make these pumpkin donuts. I also coated them with homemade brown sugar glaze and chopped pecans for toppings. They actually turned out really good. They’re flat-sided donuts but it works for something that I came up with by just randomly mixing in stuff!
Have a great weekend, and if you’re in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!