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My Grandma’s cooking & my 1st produce bag from Community Services Unlimited, Inc. (South LA, CA)

September 5, 2010

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Earlier this evening, I prepared a vegetable soup from no particular recipe: string green beans, garlic, sea salt, water, red potatoes, romaine lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, poblano peppers, & rosemary all mixed and boiled in a large pot.  Later on, my aunt raved about the soup, even going far as to compliment how the taste reminded her of my Lola (grandmother)’s cooking in the Philippines.  Her praise stunned me since I never expected such a response.  I also tend to not cook much, especially vegetarian dishes.  She remarked,

This soup tastes like something that your grandpa likes, it tastes like your grandma’s cooking, so fresh.  It has a natural, delicious taste.

I replied,

But I didn’t put anything special in it.  I just boiled all the ingredients.  Maybe it was the poblano peppers?  Or, the rosemary?  The fresh rosemary!  I got that from the produce bag!

The rosemary, the poblano peppers, and half of the vegetables in the soup came from the community gardens and urban mini-farms run by the organization, Community Services Unlimited, Inc., in South Central Los Angeles.  Last Thursday afternoon, I picked up my first small fresh produce bag order at CSU, Inc.’s weekly farmer’s produce stand in front of the EXPO Center Pool Stadium on Bill Robertson Lane @ Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in L.A.  For $10 (the community neighbor’s price for a small bag), my produce consisted of:

  • Poblano Peppers
  • cantaloupe
  • strawberries
  • zucchini
  • red potatoes
  • corn
  • romaine lettuce
  • rosemary
  • Italian basil
  • poblano peppers
Actually, I ended up buying other items in the food stand, such as squash, mugwort, carrots with sesame seeds, and a very delicious apple/plum sauce with no added sugar (my favorite!).  I am happy about signing up for the weekly produce bag now, especially after my aunt enjoyed my vegetable soup, which I prepared and seasoned with locally-grown food by CSU staff, volunteers, and students, who are mostly elementary school pupils.  The org runs various programs in the community, such as providing hands-on education on how to grow your own food and becoming sustainable urban farmers.
Here is an introductory video about CSU:
I learned about CSU’s work when I met Neelam Sharma (Executive Director), Dyane, Heather, and Lawrence (the rest of the staff) in East Oakland back in 2007, when I was volunteering at a food party thrown by Oakland Food Connection (OFC).  Neelam and her crew prepared the vegetarian Indian food that night.  Their cooking was so amazing that I remembered to contact them when I moved back to L.A. recently.

According to the CSU website:

Our mission is to foster the creation of communities actively working to address the inequalities and systemic barriers that make sustainable communities and self-reliant life-styles unattainable.

CSU creates programs that aim:

to create a sustainable local food system where food is grown, distributed and bought within our own community, incorporating training and educational programs, the creation of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities and supported by partnerships with regional farmers.

Well, I can’t wait for my produce bag next week!

I believe that even though my veggie soup uses only some of the ingredients that my grandma would have used, I feel joyous that my creation’s freshness has invoked memories of my grandma’s delicious cooking in the tropical islands.

And I also decided to continue my food justice volunteering by signing up to help at upcoming gardening days at CSU, such as the following:

  • September 11th – John Muir Mini Farm Work Day  – 9am to 1pm

Dress for the dirt and heat, wear a hat and bring water to drink. You cannot imagine how incredibly rewarding it is to work together outdoors for a few hours and then look upon the results. Get some exercise, learn and teach, and help out CSU in the process.

Where: John Muir
Arrive at John Muir Middle School, main entrance on Vermont Avenue near Cage, enter through side gate located on 60th Street near Budlong Elementary
RSVP: or call Heather at 323 299 7075
In partnership with John Muir Middle School:

For more info on CSU, visit:

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