A Place at the Table--for FCS Day!

By Sara Tantillo posted 11-15-2019 11:17 AM


November 15th, 2019

In A Place at the Table, chefs born all around the world share recipes that give them a sense of home—home in their country of origin, and in their communities here in the US. This cookbook, presented by the Vilcek Foundation, which features recipes that range from an easy weeknight meal to a complicated, multi-page cheesecake, explores the experiences of new immigrants and those who've been in the US since they were small children.

The Vilcek Foundation, an organization which raises awareness of immigrant contributions in America and fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences, has kindly provided a cookbook and totebag as a prize for this year's Family & Consumer Sciences Day—when you commit to Dine In, make sure to enter your email address and you'll be entered to win the cookbook or one of our other great prizes. I was able to attend a talk with several of the chefs, the book's editor, and moderator Maria Godoy, of NPR's The Salt, at Smithsonian Associates on November 3rd. I came away with a sense of the chefs' commitment to their cuisine, their staff, and their customers. Washington, D.C. chef Erik Bruner-Yang spoke of his food being rooted not just in his heritage, but even more in his roots in Northeast D.C.—his neighborhood helped him become the chef he is today!  For FCS Day 2019, AAFCS is focusing on neighbors as family—and Bruner-Yang's reflection connected with our theme perfectly. 

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the cookbook, and decided to try two recipes—one similar to those already in my repertoire, Alon Shaya's Israeli Couscous with Summer Vegetables and Caramelized Tomato, and one that was a stretch and something I hadn't tried to make at home before—Vansana Nolintha's Cilantro Rice Chicken Congee. The Congee is quite simple to prepare, though it takes longer than I'd normally spend on a weeknight—but it was absolutely worth it.  Congee is perfect for a group dinner, since it's designed so that each diner can customize their bowl to fit their tastes—adding cilantro, scallions, lime, garlic-chile oil, pepper, and/or soy sauce to the already delicious rice-chicken-cilantro-ginger base.  And this recipe is designed for a crowd—I think it would feed about 10! It's ideal for your FCS Day "Neighbors as Family" gathering.

Three bowls--left to right coconut beef curry, cilantro rice chicken congee, Israeli couscous
L to R: Shuai Wang's Coconut Beef Curry, Cilantro Rice Chicken Congee, Israeli Couscous with Summer Vegetables and Caramelized Tomato

Shaya's Israeli Couscous recipe also will feed a crowd—and is much quicker to prepare. While it is designed as a vegetarian summer meal, utilizing produce and herbs that are easy to find at many farmers' markets midsummer, there aren't any ingredients that are tough to find at your supermarket. This recipe takes a bit more work, but each step is very short—plus, it's designed so that you can either cook everything at once and eat while hot, or prepare the vegetables and couscous the day before for a quick weeknight meal. This may be my FCS Day menu!

I selected the couscous recipe without reading the intro from its creator—and then was so excited to see Shaya's connection to FCS! 

"By high school, he wasn't taking life seriously, when his home economics teacher Donna Barnett saw his talent, became his mentor, showed him fine Philadelphia dining, and pointed him toward culinary school. He never looked back."
"In 2016 Shaya joined forces with Barnett, his former home economics teacher, to start the Shaya Barnett Foundation, providing culinary education to high school students. (p. 173)

What a perfect connection! 

The stories of the chefs in "A Place at the Table" vary—but what so many come back to is the importance of family and community, and how food can fit into that. AAFCS encourages you to make plans to prepare and eat a meal the week of December 3rd with your family—those you're related to, your friends, and your neighbors—whether in your apartment building, dorm, military base, cul-de-sac, or retirement community. You can learn more about types of neighborhoods and ways to plan on the FCS Day resource page, here. And make sure to share your FCS Day pictures using #FCSday and #healthyfamselfie the week of December 3rd!

Remember, enter your email address when you commit to Dine In to be in the running to win this cookbook—and if you just can't wait, you can purchase it at your local bookstore, through the Vilcek Foundation's website, or at other online retailers.

Have you already made any of the great recipes? Let us know in the comments—or let us know your plans for your FCS Day neighborhood!

Editor's note: Writer and staff member Sara Tantillo connected with the Vilcek Foundation through her cousin, Elizabeth Boylan, Vilcek Foundation Communications Manager.