Do you know how it was prepared?
Do you know where to get those ingredients yourself?
These aren’t questions we expect every guest to be asking when they eat at Bartertown Diner, but they are easily answered. Food education has always been a main focus at Bartertown, and some of our workers are extending that focus beyond the dining room.
Collective member Matt “Dubs” Wrobleski, has been hosting “Cooking with a Bartertown Chef” classes at 6 p.m. Sundays at Tree Huggers, located at 947 Wealthy St. SE, for a few months now. More recently, Dubs has been holding similar classes at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, located at 100 Sheldon Blvd. SE.
“No fees, no sign up. Just show up, watch, learn, snack, ask me anything, offer to buy me a beer or a food truck,” he said. “They’re pretty casual. Classes at the Adventist church are more of a here and there thing, though I’m working towards making them more consistent.”
Dubs’ main focus in each of these classes is to show how simple and efficient eating a plant-based diet can be, along with eliminating the ideas that a vegan diet requires a lot of work or that only rich people can afford it.
“When I was jobless, I survived off of potatoes, onions, rice, and beans,” he said. “I had to budget.”
But even those with gainful employment can appreciate the benefits of anchoring meals with basic mainstays.
“…like making meatballs or burgers out of a grain, a bean, a binder, and flavor. Or cheese sauces made from oats, wheat flour, and sunflower seeds,” he said.
Eating healthfully is important, too. And when it comes to nutrition, Dubs maintains that sprouted grains have a lot to offer. He has led demonstrations in sprouting everything from garbanzo beans, to lentils, to quinoa.
“I recently did a demo in long sprouted wheat and we got into an open discussion about its versatility,” he said. “You can take that sprouted grain and eat it as is, or you could grow it into wheat grass and use it in smoothies or feed it to your cat. You could dehydrate it at 104 degrees and grind it into sprouted flour. You can even submerse it in water and make a ferment called rejuvelac.”
Kombucha tea is growing in popularity, and often sells out quite fast in the diner’s front deli case. Dubs has held one kombucha class in the past that he intends to expand into multiple workshops, providing attendees a SCOBY for starting cultures of their own.
The classes Dubs has led and those he and other collective members have planned for the future aren’t aimed at scaring up any business for the restaurant, selling you some sort of product, or playing off your emotions to encourage veganism, although most of the products used are available within Tree Huggers, harvested from local farms, and used in dishes at Bartertown. The main goal is to educate people on food and turn them on to the benefits of an efficient, plant-based diet, purely through rational demonstration.
“We have approached a point in mankind’s development where we have to switch to a more efficient method of resource consumption,” Dubs said. “It’s about humanity as a whole, whether you love animals or not. On the personal level, learning to cook a vegan diet will give you a better understanding of food, and how little you need if you prepare it in a fashion that maximizes nutrition.”
Of course, saving money, time and the earth’s resources aren’t the only benefits with this sort of diet.
“You are limiting or eliminating your risk of dying from a number of degenerative diseases,” Dubs said. “Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc… plus all these other problems developing as we slowly slip away from nature.”
It was Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, who once entertained the idea to let food be thy medicine. Dubs maintains that this opinion works both ways: treat your food with care and knowledge, and it will offer the same to you.