Eastern Shore Food Lab

Back to the Food Lab

December 02, 2019
Dr. Schindler’s Food, People, and the Planet course recreated 1950s diner fare inspired by the film “Back to the Future” with a nutrient-dense and bioavailable twist.

Students served their parents and special guests including Seamas Caulfield, an internationally renowned archaeologist from Ireland.

On the menu were burgers and hot dogs on sourdough buns, lacto-fermented fries, and root beer kombucha floats with kefir ice cream. 

“What was hidden in plain sight in the gloomy dimly lit isles of the grocery store — and everything that I thought I knew — was turned upside down,” says Catie Vinch-Buck ’23.

Students made every item from scratch over the course of the semester. They made beer with Nicki Sener of Ten Eyck Brewing and roasted organic coffee with Noah Kegley of Rise Up Coffee in Easton. The burgers came from pastured beef from St. Brigid’s Farm in nearby Kennedyville, and every condiment was fermented to maximize digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients.

“I never in a million years would have thought that food didn’t necessarily have to come from a store or a vegetable garden. Whenever we made something completely from scratch, like the ketchup where I ground up the spices and mixed it in with the tomato paste, I felt like we were in control of what was to be eaten,” says Shannon Smith ’23.

They joined regenerative farmers Brian Knox and Jennifer Vaccaro of Where Pigs Fly Farm (who raised their pig Dixie on pasture forage and acorns) to apprentice with Chef Kevin McKinney of K-B Market and Kitchen in a nose-to-tail butchering approach that resulted in bacon and hot dogs.

“When we butchered Dixie, I learned about what her life looked like while she was alive, what she ate, what her personality was, and what her days consisted of,” says Catie Vinch-Buck. “I learned how sacred and meaningful every bite of food can be.” 

Jack Winters ’23 echoes the sentiment: “Being able to butcher the pig with my own two hands was an experience I will never forget. I instantly felt a connection with what I was doing that is unmatched compared to going to a grocery store and picking up a piece of pork inside a plastic seal.”

The meal demonstrated how mass-produced fast food — fries and burgers and shakes — all stem from deep cultural traditions that can be revived in the context of a modern, healthy diet.

A ’50s-inspired diner placemat included the menu for evening's dinner.A ’50s-inspired diner placemat included the menu for evening's dinner.

Students appreciated the cultural insights and skills acquired during the semester. Jodi Eren ’23 proclaims “My diet, my food choices, my food purchases, and my food preparation process are positively changed forever!” Her sentiment about a shift in lifelong skills and perspective is echoed by many others in the class.

Zach Goss ’23 explains how “This class and the life skills I have learned in this class will allow me and everyone I cook for to eat like humans” — the slogan of the ESFL encapsulating the idea of acquiring and preparing food in a more meaningful and healthful way.

“I now know that I can use different ways of making foods that I love to make them healthier than what I can buy in the store,” says Isabella Smith ’23.

Beyond ingredients from the store, Dr. Schindler’s students experienced cooking wild foods with permaculturist, author, and foraging expert Dina Falconi. “The delicious meal transformed my idea of vegetables,” says Lizzie West ’23. “What we picked up off the ground looked like grass or weeds, but they are so much more than that. They were far more nutrient dense and beneficial than any other vegetables I have ever eaten.”

“By learning about indigenous diets, reading books about different modern diets and nutrition related problems, and by preparing an entire meal, I was able to see how food can be made meaningful. Being able to see the impact that our food had on others was really incredible” explains Emma Smith ’23. She adds “I can see myself making a positive impact in my small community — all it takes is a little support from local buyers like me. Regarding the environment, I know I can try my best to find foods that are not harming the planet or the animals in the planet.”

Everyone in the class emerged with a more conscientious connection to food. “This semester has made me really think about the food I am putting into my body and has caused me to choose what I’m eating more carefully than ever before,” says Kaitlyn Tourin ’23.

Inspired by their experience, Catie Vinch-Buck and Shannon Smith signed on to become ESFL Interns, student leaders who work to extend the impact of the Eastern Shore Food Lab into the community. Shannon explains, “The final dinner made me realize how special it is to share food with other people. Food brings people together, but the dinner was something much more than that. All the people involved being there made it special and unique. It wasn’t just me who felt it, but also my parents who told me afterward that they have never experienced anything so connected and honest in their lives. When they told me that, made me feel so proud of what our class accomplished and worked for.”


Last modified on Dec. 18th, 2019 at 12:05pm by Karen Jones.