March 16, 2011

Soup to Nuts:
Eat, write, say

Essayists impress in Slow Food Portland's inaugural Young Food Writers Competition.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Ali Perkins with her grandfather, Dave Getchell, before reading her winning essay.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Ellie Sapat enjoys baking and helping her mother in the family garden.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


Eliot Bramble, a third-grader at the Breakwater School in Portland, took second place in the Grades 3 to 5 category for his colorful, richly detailed account of a trip to an apple orchard. Wilson Haims, a fourth-grader at the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, got an honorable mention.

Louisa Hetzler, a sixth-grader at Gray/New Gloucester Middle School, took second place in the Grades 6 to 8 category for her essay on Maine's seasonal foods. Honorable mention went to Julia Haskell, a home-schooled sixth-grader from Portland.

Emma Sapat, a 10th-grader from Falmouth High School, won second place in the Grades 9 to 12 category for an essay on her love/hate relationship with the slow food movement. Honorable mention went to Gaelyn Lindauer, a 10th-grader at Bonny Eagle High School.



Read the winning essays by clicking here.


Ali Perkins, a senior from the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport, had never given much thought to being a food writer – she wants to be a teacher.

But there she was last Thursday night, standing on stage before a crowd at the Space Gallery in Portland, reading her essay about a hike that taught her about wild Maine foods.

In the audience was her grandfather, a key character in her essay.

Perkins, 17, was the grand prize winner in the Grades 9 to 12 category in a new food writing contest started by Slow Food Portland. The winning essays from the First Annual Young Food Writers Competition were read last week at the Sixth Annual Slow Food Portland Writers Night, an annual event that showcases the work of Maine food writers as well as writers from away.

Slow Food Portland awarded grand prizes in three grade categories. Winners in each category (essays appear at right)were given a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from the farm of their choice so they can enjoy fresh Maine foods throughout the upcoming growing season.

Karl Schatz, who organized the contest, said he saw it as a way "that we could engage with young people about food and support local farmers and support agriculture."

"It just seemed to kind of bring a lot of pieces together," he said. "We can engage young people and support local farms by awarding three CSAs. Three farms will now have shares that they might not have sold before. It will introduce three families to the concept of the CSA, which they might not have considered as a food option before. And it spreads the word at the same time."

Zoe Popovic, a fourth grader at Congin School in Westbrook, won the grand prize in the Grades 3 to 5 category by writing about how she can tell the seasons by what shows up in her lunchbox every day. Her family has been a member of a CSA since she first started walking. The 9-year-old's mother, Paula Sobierajski, loads up her daughter's lunch box every day with local foods they buy from Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred.

Zoe "does like to write," her mother said. "She tends to write more poetry and fiction stories. This was a new experience, writing about something more personal."

Zoe says writing will probably remain a hobby because her goal is to become a marine biologist. As for her interest in food, she does enjoy helping her mom in the kitchen sometimes.

"I'll stir stuff, and maybe pour some stuff in the pot or something," she said.

Ellie Sapat, a seventh grader at Falmouth Middle School, took the grand prize in the Grades 6 to 8 category. Ellie decided to enter the contest because "I do flower show essays and I enjoy cooking, and so it sounded like something I'd enjoy doing."

Ellie loves to bake (especially desserts) and to help her mother in the family's garden.

"We grow lettuce and cucumbers and potatoes and peaches and pears and tomatoes and eggplants sometimes," she said. "And occasionally you have a compost pile, and sometimes we get melons in the summer from the grocery store or something, and we scoop the seeds out and they go into the compost heap and sometimes they start sprouting in the soil. It's kind of funny."

Ellie's jobs in the garden are weeding, watering and "overall checking of fruit."

"Do you ever complain?' her mother chimed in.

"Sometimes," Ellie replied, "but I mean, it's nice out, and I really should enjoy it, and I do."

Ellie didn't know what a CSA was until her mother explained it to her. After she learned that she had won the Young Food Writers Competition, she and her mother attended the local CSA fair to scope out the farms and see which one might best suit their needs.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Zoe Popovic’s family has belonged to a CSA since Zoe first started walking.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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