The Way to the Heart

by | Apr 24, 2019 | Food, Latest Stories

Taproot Kitchen transforms produce into community nourishment for body and mind at its spring event.

David Sharpe isn’t prepared to speak. But when invited to say a few words on behalf of Taproot Kitchen, a nonprofit and increasingly popular caterer, he wins over the crowd with one sentence:

“All I can say is we give you guys heartwarming love with our food.”

His statement is an apt summary of Taproot’s mission to nourish the Central Pennsylvania community while giving young adults with autism and intellectual disability a meaningful role in it.

Wearing Taproot Kitchen aprons, David and his hospitality colleagues greet the crowd of about 50 people at the Meetinghouse on Atherton, a shared-use meeting space in downtown State College. In a series of dishes that emerge from the downstairs kitchen, they serve pickled watermelon radishes, beef empanadas with chimichurri and patatas bravas, followed by lemon squares and carrot cake for dessert. The food is plentiful, fresh and better than what you’d get at most catered events.

Billed as a celebration of the talents of people of all abilities, the April “Tapas at Taproot” event featured live music, a selection of wines offered by University Wine Co. and the art and music of two artists in their 20s: Fionn Angus, a filmmaker and musician from Ireland; and Jamie Berube, a State College artist whose captivating drawings are a riot of color created from his mammoth collection of crayon fragments. Both men live with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that is noteworthy only because their lives challenge people to see beyond it.

Angus shared the limelight with his father, Jonathan, who interviewed his son and offered his own commentary. His message: There aren’t two categories of people, those who are disabled and those who are not. Rather, there are only human beings trying to make it. “All of us have been at one time disabled,” he said, “when we just couldn’t do life.”

Taproot has created a community in which disability is no longer a defining characteristic, and adults of all abilities can experience the satisfaction of fellowship built through food.  “As a culture we need to keep moving in the direction of recognizing that people with intellectual disabilities and autism have the same hopes and dreams that we do,” said executive director and co-founder Sharon Schafer.

Working with a vast network of nonprofits, farmers and producers, Taproot transforms donated produce that’s left in the fields after harvest, as well as food gifted by producers and businesses, into feasts. Some of those meals are fundraisers; others are corporate and nonprofit events Taproot has been hired to cater, including full-service meals for 70 people.

The Penn State Student Farm Club donated the tarragon plants that Taproot picked, preserved in oil, froze, then turned into pesto for the April event. Plowshare Produce provided peppers that had been cooked down with tomatoes and onions, then stashed in the freezer. Brightening early spring with last summer’s harvest, Taproot served the spread with bread donated by Gemelli Bakers. Fresh farm eggs from the Food Reclamation Network of Centre County were baked into carrot cake.

It’s satisfying, delicious food. Served and prepared by Taproot, it’s a reminder that the meals we eat are that much better because of the people with whom we share them.

Angus, the filmmaker from Ireland, discovered that universal fact while working on one of his favorite projects, a series of films that ask people, often celebrities, one simple question: “What do you love about your life?” In an interview with a member of the British rock band Squeeze, the answer was “Home.”

Displaying his interview skills, Angus asked a follow-up question: “What do you love about home?”

The musician answered with a one-word reply: “Breakfast.”

Provisions Magazine Taproot Kitchen Watermelon Radish Cucumber Salad

Watermelon Radish and Cucumber Salad

We love to purchase beautiful, colorful radishes, either Purple Daikon or Watermelon Radish when available, and serve them either plain with Kosher salt or in this salad.

45 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced
2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
cup olive oil
Juice of 2 large lemons (about ⅓ c.)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp honey or maple syrup
12 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1

Add olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, honey and garlic to a small bowl and whisk together. Season to taste.

2

Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette and serve with chopped parsley, dill or cilantro.

Ingredients

 45 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced
 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
  cup olive oil
 Juice of 2 large lemons (about ⅓ c.)
 1 tsp Dijon mustard
 ½ tsp honey or maple syrup
 12 garlic cloves, minced
 Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1

Add olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, honey and garlic to a small bowl and whisk together. Season to taste.

2

Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette and serve with chopped parsley, dill or cilantro.

Watermelon Radish and Cucumber Salad

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