"It is worth noting that they were the best tamales I've ever had in New York."
On Saturday, at a church on Russell Street in Greenpoint, over 300 people gathered to hang out, drink some beer, and eat a locally sourced meal of homemade tamales while raising money for emerging art and community projects. This was FEAST, a non-profit event that sits at the intersection of foodie culture and arts fundraising, using an interest in food to raise money for a good cause.
FEAST (Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics) works like this: attendees pay a sliding scale donation to gain admission to dinner, which includes homemade food and beer donated from Brooklyn Brewery. While eating, drinking, and schmoozing, the attendees check out artists' proposals, eventually voting on the project they think should win funding. Proposals range from funding local rooftop farms, to creating "site specific wearable sculptures," to the manufacture of beauty products benefitting the Yucatan peninsula. The door money is awarded to the winning artist in the form of a grant, and the resulting work is presented at the following FEAST. The grant winner at last month's feast was an organization called Green My Bodega, a project that is "inventing the Bodega Supported Agriculture (B.S.A.) Model" by finding ways to get locally sourced produce into the bodegas that already serve huge parts of the communities of New York City.
At last Saturday's FEAST, chief cooks Molly O'Rourke and David Michael Perez made Perez's grandmother's recipe for tamales. "Our main issue is always making FEAST as seasonal as possible and as organic as reasonably possible, all on a really tight budget," Perez said. Using over 45 pounds of donated pork from Brooklyn based Heritage Foods USA and fresh masa from Nixtamal in Queens, the FEAST crew made nearly 800 tamales for the event in space on loan from Brooklyn Kitchen.
It is worth noting that they were the best tamales I've ever had in New York. Served with the tamales was a simple black bean salad with butternut squash and a healthy dose of cilantro, as well as hot sauce and salsa (both locally sourced, of course).
Through it all, there was a palpable sense of community. "People get dining together—it's a great way to start conversations and get people talking," O'Rourke said as the meal was wrapping up. Indeed, this FEAST succeeded in bringing people together on a freezing cold night and getting them interested and excited about funding local community and art projects. For more information on FEAST, artist submissions, and past and upcoming events, check out their website at feastinbklyn.org.