UAF celebrates locally-grown food

Lilly Necker/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 1, 2011

A delectable fragrance filled the Wood Center Multilevel Lounge at lunch time on Monday Oct. 24 and invited hungry stomachs to come closer. And what they found was mouth-watering cold smoked salmon fillets decorated on lettuce with Cabernet grapes, beef skewers, Napa cabbage, onions, potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, a salad with lettuce and tomatoes, soup and others.

But it isn’t just any food. The event was called the “Taste of Alaska.” Home-grown food from Alaska was dug out of the earth at the Matanuska Experiment Farm, the Rosie Creek Farm, Grey Owl Garden, the Fairbanks Experimental Farm and many other farms in Alaska. UAF Dining Services prepared the dishes.

The new national Food Day is about each state in America celebrating local agriculture on Oct. 24.

The event is about healthy eating and supporting Alaska’s sustainable agriculture, Nancy Tarnai said. Tarnai, 55, is the public information manager of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and  Food Day organizer.

She was thankful for all the work Dining Services did, she said, though not everything ran smoothly that day.

“Unfortunately the apple dish made out of apples from our Experimental Farm hit the floor. But everything else looks good,” Mary DuRousseau said. DuRousseau, Dining Services coordinator was exited about the Food Day.

“It’s wonderful, the idea of being more self-sustainable as a state,” DuRousseau said. “The home-grown Alaskan food isn’t just more nutritious and healthier, you also don’t have to pay those enormous shipping costs.”

Food day offered information desks with local exhibitors like Alaska Center for Natural Medicine, Alaska Community Agriculture Association and the Alaska Food Policy Council. Tarnai and her team came up with other ideas on how to spread nutrition facts and general knowledge about healthy food.

The Food Jeopardy pitted nutrition specialist Bret Luick and assistant professor Andrea Bersamin against farmers Jeff Johnson and Mike Emers in the way of the well-known game show. Contestants answered informative questions like “How much percentage of the world’s beef is produced in the U.S.?” (Answer: 25 percent) or “How many pounds of potatoes can one acre of land in Alaska produce?” (Answer: 39,000 pounds). There were several categories like “Fruit&Veggie”, “Agriculture Economics” or “Diet&Disease”.

Besides a Food Film Festival sponsored by the UAF Anthropology Society showing the films “Fresh” and “Seeds of Deception” and several public lectures in the Wood Center Ballroom, a highlight on the schedule was The Iron Chef Cook-off.

Professional chef Michael Roddey of the Community and Technical College culinary school and Carol Lewis, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, made up one cooking team.

The second team consisted of professional chef of NANA Management Services Dave Sikorski, and dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Michael Castellini.

Both of the teams had 30 minutes to create the meal that the judges tasted in the Wood Center.

Lewis’s team created a mixed salad with pieces of reindeer.

“It´s a reindeer from our Experimental Farm on campus, it was a female and we slaughtered it last week,” Lewis said.

Dean Castellini created a mixed salad with spotted shrimp, paying tribute to his school.

“For us in Alaska food is even a bigger deal, cause we are so far away. With the shrimps we wanted to show that there is more that salmon to create kind of seafood awareness into peoples mind,” Castellini said.

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