Hello there, this is Taylor Malone from Build It Up. Our resident blogger and dear friend Brian Serway is going through illness in his family, so he has moved away back to Virginia to support his family in this time. We wish him a fond farewell and warm thanks for his work with us (including helping design our new logo), and hope he continues down his path of service and leadership in Appalachia. This is my first ever blog post, so here goes!

For our Heart Healthy Cooking workshop this year, we decided to try something a little different. Our group of gardeners all turned out to be experienced cooks who already believed in eating healthy, so instead of preaching to the choir, we decided to host a recipe swap and potluck. Whatever our nutritional philosophical differences, we all could definitely agree that eating more fresh vegetables than the average Joe probably does is important, and that they should taste good. So we requested that participants bring in their pot of luck something they love to eat, with vegetables from their garden in it, and have ten copies of the recipe next to the dish.

We reached out to our a local garden shop that opened less than two years ago, Downtown Farming, to see if they could host it, and they happily obliged. Not only did they oblige, but they transformed the lot behind their shop into a proper fall harvest celebration space, decked out with giant pumpkins and squash, decorative gourds and corn, and pallets stacked high for setting afire. We’ve purchased most of our program supplies through that little shop over the past two years, and the Grimmett family has quickly become helpful gardening allies, and some of the best friends you could ask for. So in the spirit of broadening our network, we decided to extend the potluck invitation to the whole community, and raffled off a copy of Good and Cheap as a door prize.

The turnout was excellent, and the weather perfect. Dishes included a veggie soup that’s pretty standard around these parts, a southwestern tomato and black bean soup, soft shell veggie tacos, roasted butternut squash, tater salad, and southern-style cornbread. We finished the night with a giant bonfire, which is only legal in city limits if something is being cooked. No one thought to bring heart healthy alternatives to ‘smores, so a sacrificial, token ear of corn was placed in the fire, so that we could sit at a distance and enjoy the gentle warmth, sunset, and conversation.