Meghan Brooks Staff Writer
Common Ground High School in New Haven had its annual fundraiser, Feast from the Fields, also known simply as “Feast,” on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Walking onto the campus of this environmental charter school, you are greeted by the farm on the lower grounds, the wetland memorialized to a previous student, and the new building finished in 2017. Feast brings in families of students and donors to enjoy not only the school’s land, but also local food from the New Haven area.
Fathia Williams, 59, executive chef of Common Ground High School’s kitchen, has worked Feast for 10 years. Her dishes were displayed with more food from the kitchen. “My favorite dish is the mini-eggplant parms. I love eggplant and I love to cook, seeing how people voice the dish,” stated Williams while she dressed the food with parmesan cheese.
This is the 11th year Common Ground High School has run Feast. But it has not always been what is seen today.
Feast used to be a sit-down dinner, where guests would provide a ticket, tour the school’s farm, and be sat under a large pavilion where students would bring the food to the tables.
This changed about five years ago. When guests come for Feast now, they are presented with food all around the campus from local New Haven Establishments like breweries, wineries, restaurants and Common Grounds own food made in the kitchen.
Next to Williams’ dishes from the Common Ground kitchen, sat Theresa Brooks’ dishes for this year’s Feast. Brooks has also worked Feast for 10 years. “I like that I get to see people enjoying what I do, with all the hard work put in all year. I also like that my kids come back to participate, even if they don’t go to Common Ground anymore,” said Brooks, 46.
Before, Common Ground only provided the dessert for Feast. “The style now allows more exploration with food, and opens for more people to come; it was too expensive for families before,” explains Brooks, who served wellington puffs alongside other dishes of her and Williams’ making.
Brooks continues as she dishes the food, “The wellington puffs are a collaborated dish, with different items to make it. I made a caramelized onion cheese spread with a mushroom pate and sliced steak inside the pastry with a horseradish pate. All ingredients are from the farm.”
Joel Tolman, a volunteer for Feast who once was the primary organizer, now handles direct impact and engagement. Tolman joined Common Ground High School in 2003, and helped start Feast in 2008. “The opportunity for students and the supporters to meet, taste food from our farm, and see our site is the most important part of Feast,” stated Tolman.
“The event feels all about Common Grounds mission, place and people. Feast pulls all our work together.”