When Daniel Schreiber, chocolate-maker of Urbana, died just three weeks ago, many who knew and loved him started talking to each other about what could be done to honor his memory and to continue his wonderful work with local foods. Out of this ferment (Dan particularly liked fermented foods), came the Flatlander Fund, dedicated to creating and supporting a community kitchen. You can learn more about the Flatlander Fund and how to be a part of its work at www.flatlanderfund.org as well as following it on Facebook. Information and donation forms are also available at the Common Ground Food Co-op.
On Sunday August 8, at Prairie Fruits Farm, Laurence Mate spoke at Dan’s memorial service about what Dan had taught him about how community and food go hand in hand and why a community kitchen made a natural home for these ideas:
“I want to speak a little bit about Dan’s gift for community, his gift of community.
“Amid all our sadness, I hope that we can see and feel what a tremendous gift Dan has given to us — is giving to us, right here, right now. Gathered together for the first time, we represent and embody Dan’s community: the family he came from, the community he came to, and the community he created. We are the recipients, the beneficiaries, of that gift of community, and we are the gift itself. Let’s not let that slip through our hands.
“Dan and I met through our commitment to local foods, to handcrafted foods, and what Dan reminded me of more than anything else is that community and food go hand in hand.
“What this meant to Dan, first of all, is that our food should come from a community instead of a corporation. Dan had a vision of the food that feeds us coming from a community of growers and processors, from a community of cooks, such as we experienced all-too-briefly with the Dine In My Backyard group that Dan got going. Such food comes to the table touched by many hands. And it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knew Dan and how he thought things through that he also wanted the table and everything on the table to be touched by our hands as well. Just to give one example, the very last time I sat down with him, around a table, and shared some food, we were planning our next DIMBY dinner, and his idea was that we should commission a local potter in order to serve local food on local dishes, so that even the plates bore the imprint of someone we knew.
“And I think Dan grasped intuitively the magical or miraculous power of food. Remember that Theobroma, the genus to which cacao belongs, means ‘food of the gods.’ Although Dan set the highest possible standard for the chocolate he made, he was not into food for food’s sake. The power of food lies not in whatever private pleasure it gives but in the communal bonds it creates. When we gather together and share the food we have made, we become communicants. That’s why he loved potlucks like this. In gathering like this, in feeding each other, our community is sustained and created anew. It rises, like a phoenix, from the ashes of consuming its own substance.
“A community kitchen is a natural home for such a complex conception of food. It gathers a community, to produce food for the community, which in turn regenerates it. I think that’s why the idea took such root in Dan’s mind. And why his friends came together to create the Flatlander Fund to try and make that idea a reality. Working together, as a community, this doesn’t have to be our last supper, the last time we gather, but the first of many suppers.”
— Laurence Mate