Harvest Festival 2013: A Feast of Local Produce

Thursday, 17. October 2013

by Daniel Davis Wood

Last night, everyone in the Ecole community spent some time preparing and then devouring a smorgasbord of tasty treats to celebrate our inaugural Harvest Festival. The event was an initiative of the Ecole’s Ecoliteracy Program, which helps our students to appreciate and understand the ways in which we interact with the natural environment.


Ecolianers fill the Grossen Saal for Harvest Festival 2013.

Here's how it worked. Each Ecole family was asked to cook a small meal using only fresh ingredients sourced from farms in the Haslital area, and then to share the results with other Ecole families at a gala event decorated with lanterns made specifically for the occasion. The meals could take any form, and were presented to several local farmers who were invited to judging which meals were the most delicious.


The Pumpkin Lantern from Geheeb Haus.

The festivities got underway early in the afternoon as students met in their family kitchens to begin their preparations. While Geheeb Haus set to work on meatballs and Haus am Hang put together some borscht, Osthaus Oben made a superb pumpkin pie and Osthaus Unten whipped up a giant meringue using pumpkins from one local farm and eggs and milk from others. Later, family members who did not take part in cooking activities met in the Grossen Saal to set up the lanterns and decorations as well as arranging the dining tables -- and, by sundown, everything was in place for a fantastic celebration.

Alex and Arik prepare a meal.

After the farmers were introduced to the hundred and fifty students and staff in attendance, we all satisfied our appetites with a selection of incredible soups, salads, baked dishes, and meat dishes, plus plenty of cheese, bread, and sausages from the farmers, and cakes, yogurt, and crème brûlée served up after the main meals had begun to fill bellies.

“Personally,” says Kebir Gadio, a member of the family from Wagenschein Haus, “I really enjoyed trying out all the different dishes that Ecole families prepared to share with the community. My family crafted two delicious sheets of pumpkin cheesecake, although, unfortunately, our dessert didn’t place in the top three according to the judges.”

Two hours of feasting were followed by an hour folkdancing, and then the festivities came to an end when two Ecole families were called forth to enjoy their moment of glory. First, Haus am Hang took out the prize for best lantern with a device that used the heat generated by a candle to rotate like a carousel. Then the pumpkin spiced meringue allowed the Osthaus Unten family to head home with the honor of having prepared the judges’ favorite meal overall.

Crème brûlée from Waldhaus.

Looking back on the event, it’s hard to believe that this was the first Harvest Festival ever to be held at the Ecole. It was a fun night for everyone involved and, just as importantly, it allowed students to directly experience -- using their hands and using their tastebuds -- the sheer variety of meals that can be made with nothing more than what is already available in our own backyard. This first Harvest Festival is bound to be only the first of many more to come.