That Hometown Taste: Missing the community food connection

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The Kona Ice Shop has plans to serve mini doughnuts once a week. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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There is something special about living in Winters and that is our community food celebrations. Growing up here and experiencing it now as an adult I’ve come to realize that being a part of the community is sometimes like having multiple family celebrations year-round. Coming together and sharing a meal is one of the most communal connections you can experience.

Food nourishes your body, and company and conversations nourishes your soul. 

We haven’t had an opportunity to really enjoy one in a long while due to the coronavirus pandemic. Guidelines, protocols and fear of trying to put money and plans into an event that may ultimately be cancelled are a big challenge — and I don’t blame the committees of volunteers for not wanting to deal with them.

There was a small taste with the July 3rd Pancake Breakfast hosted by the Rotary Club of Winters and the Winters Fire Department Volunteers. Charley even dedicated a column (or two) to talk about it this summer. It was probably one of the first opportunities the community has had to come together and share a meal in a long while.

We also had a low-key Albariño Wine Stroll in August. I missed it because I had some work-things (and a preschooler in tow). The photos of the sips and eats looked amazing, and I hope I’ll be able to make the next one.

I’m definitely missing the opportunity to connect with fellow community members. I was recently reminded about all of our community food connections when I brought my preschooler to the Kona Ice Shop for a treat after school about two weeks ago.

We walked up to the door and the smell of something delicious and pastry-like wafted through. It turned out that they were doing a test run of mini doughnuts. I had missed the social media post, but it turned out they were going to be doing a community taste test and gathering feedback the Thursday and Friday after.

They gave us a little bag to taste test ourselves. Freshly cooked and sprinkled with sweetness, these little warm doughnuts were bites of happiness. It reminded me of going to the fair and getting a funnel cake to share with my sister (or friends).

Which strangely enough made me think of Dean’s Frostie fresh fries. Which led to the carnitas plates at the Festival de la Comunidad. And then to the Chamber Mixer Rib Cook-off.

All delicious eats that bring people together in the community. I started thinking about some of the other things that we used to do like the Chili and the Paella cook-offs. I also thought about some of the ways community members have become known for amazing dishes. 

Gloria Lopez’s paella, Mayor Wade Cowan’s ribs and John Neil’s barbecued oysters — The list goes on. These are dishes made by community members to share with the community they care about.

Sharing food fosters connections, and I miss it. I certainly look forward to when we’ll be able to indulge in a community-wide food festival of some sorts again. In the meantime, maybe I’ll see you downtown sometime when we’re out enjoying something from a local eatery.

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