Masa Monday means a lot of different things to me. As it should, because it is an amazingly impactful event, a Revolution disguised as a farm to table buffet. At its core, Masa Monday is truly a celebration of good food, the people that grew it, and the community at large. Every Monday this year after Earth Day 2016 we have gathered under the outdoor pavilion and around the brick oven, at Rising Silo Brewery in Blacksburg VA, to celebrate the bounty of meat and vegetables with authentic Latin America cuisine. Pressing and baking tortillas fresh for customers. Beans, stew, and other dishes are offered buffet-style from the stoneware pots.
What is Masa Monday?
It all started with the mastermind chefs, having humble beginnings as a taco Tuesday ritual. From their kitchen, they would churn out impossibly delicious stews and tortillas garnered from the abuelitas and kitchens of Guatemala, Mexico, and other places. I literally can’t explain their passion for food because it runs deeper than I have personally experienced. These guys are dedicated. Although most credit goes to the chefs doing all the work, the event also would not happen without the location of Glade Road Growing, people at the brewery serving delicious beverages, and all the people helping on the farm.
This is a working organic farm, don’t let your kids run through here!
At the top of this hill, with terraced rows of peppers and heirloom tomatoes just below, everyone gathers under an outdoor pavilion. Starting with fresh vegetables and dry, mature, corn kernels – the mouth watering delicious food is created. We nixtimalize the corn, grind it by hand, and press it with cast iron skillets before baking it at about 900 F in a brick oven. We roast, pickle, stew, and make stock of all other vegetables and herbs from local farms – all of which are paid homage to on our chalk board. Most importantly, no food goes to waste. The meal usually consists of tortillas, a meat stew or spiced meat dish, an egg dish, curtido, roasted vegetables, salsa, crema, and flan for dessert. Literally everything is farm fresh, besides a few spices and fish sauce (yes, the master chef loves fish sauce). For the price of anything greater than $15, people can have a plate or two with as much as they want. Go on a run before coming, bring your kids, your dog, buy a beer, watch the musicians jam, and even take a stroll around the farm paths before watching the sunset over the Appalachian mountains after dinner.
Old Man Kelly and the Old Time Jam band
What You Don’t See
Masa Monday is not only a celebration of fresh food, it’s also a strong statement and a quiet revolution beneath the surface of joyous family fun.
First off, the whole thing is done by volunteers. And this type of authentic cooking takes some serious time commitment. The tortillas alone are prepared two days ahead of time and take about 10 or more man-hours to get them all cooked every Monday. Luckily, we have lots of dedicated help that don’t mind doing anything from chopping wood to chopping cilantro.
All the proceeds go to charity: the SNAP program at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market. This program lets under-privileged people in town benefit from farmer’s produce by doubling their funds up to $30. Get $60 worth of fresh food for $30 and the farmer will get full price. Amazing.
We buy all the food from local sources, and pay a fair price because we appreciate hardworking farmers and always favor organic or heirloom varieties. This may lead to a more expensive price than most people are used to, but we charge about $15 per meal because that is what it takes to cook this much of this type of food and still be able to raise money for charity and feed the volunteers. It’s safe to say that some people don’t pay, while some people pay extra (which we love), so when the end of the night comes around we are just trying to break even.
Why do I think this event is so revolutionary? When you think about it, it almost perfectly encompasses a sustainable circular economy. Revolutionary…circular (hah!). To put it simply, we buy food from local and responsible farmers, bring people together to eat, donate to a charity that then reinvests in the community to benefit local farmers again. As long as hard work is put into the cycle every week, this event is a community building and local-agriculture benefiting powerhouse. In the age of fast food and fast profits; this local food movement is a return to our traditional roots. It allows us, and everyone joining us for the evening, an opportunity to slow down and reflect over good food, good conversation, and beautiful sunsets.
The view from behind the pavilion just after Sunset