By Michael J. ARVIZU
Steam rose from the pot containing Alan del Castillo’s crawfish chowder as the cook removed the lid, filling the air with a delicious, mouth-watering smell.
It’s his New Orleans native mother-in-law’s authentic crawfish chowder recipe, del Castillo said. Inside the pot are crawfish brought directly from New Orleans. Del Castillo and his wife have been participating in the Empty Bowls event since they moved to La Crescenta from Mississippi in 2008.
The bags of crawfish arrived in La Crescenta just in time for Saturday evening’s Empty Bowls event, organized each year by Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church (CVUMC).
“It goes to a good cause,” del Castillo said. “We donate to the food pantry, too. It’s our way of giving back every year.”
This year’s proceeds benefitted Bailey Human Care Center, based out of Tujunga United Methodist Church; Friends In Deed, a Pasadena-based women’s shelter and food pantry; and the World Service Fund, an arm of the United Methodist Church that provides relief services to those affected by natural disasters around the world.
“I think it’s very important, because it’s a fair amount of money,” said Jeanne Lavieri, Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge pottery instructor. “We’ve been raising about $6,000 or more a year for seven years, and that adds up over the years.”
Above all, Lavieri said, is the sense of community the Empty Bowls event elicits.
The event highlighted soup as its main dinner course. Funds were raised as guests purchased a handmade soup bowl for $15, into which the soup, provided by area restaurants, was poured. Participating restaurants included New Moon, Frank’s Famous, Dish and Joselitos, among others, and included homemade recipes like del Castillo’s.
Mike Flower, ceramics instructor at Crescenta Valley High School, provided the handmade bowls crafted by his students.
“The nice thing is it is the first church event that I’ve been a part of in 30 years that really brings a lot of people from all parts of the community,” said the Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall, pastor of Crescenta United Methodist Church. “We have people who are helped throughout our valley here. Most of them are on the fringes of society. They’re homeless, they’re hungry so the money that we raise goes to help feed them.”
For the first time, this year’s Empty Bowls event featured fair trade products for sale. The goal of the sale was to promote the purchase of products that have not been picked or produced using child or inhumane labor.
“A lot of it is organic,” said Mary Marino, a CVUMC member.
The products were provided by Equal Exchange, a Massachusetts-based company that discourages existing trade models, such as large plantations, agri-business and multi-national corporations.
“This company guarantees equal exchange, that these products are grown by small farmers, and they get a living wage for this,” said Lavieri. “The same is true for the coffee, chocolate and olive oil.”