With a menu that proudly announces the inclusion of orange peel, watercress stems and pumpkin skin, Sunday’s Favela Orgânica taster event was an exciting introduction to an innovative food project for the favela and beyond.
In the Babilônia resident’s association building in the pacified community overlooking Leme, Regina Tchelly and her team served up a range of gourmet dishes made with ingredients commonly regarded as trash. The full vegetarian feijoada with watercress root farofa, watermelon peel risotto and pumpkin peel dessert may sound like unreasonably experimental cooking but in fact are delicious, satisfying dishes that maximize the nutritious and economical value of the ingredients.
Regina Tchelly founded Favela Orgânica with R$140 out of her home in Babilonia. She explains: “I’m from Paraiba in the Northeast. There we manage to get much more out of the food than in an immense city like Rio where there’s an absurd amount of waste.”
“The idea is that people with low incomes and high incomes alike learn how to use all the food they bring to their homes and produce delicious meals like we’re serving today. It’s low cost, healthier and more economical in the home.”
Regina is a smiley one woman superforce of passion and energy, out of which her vision to help people create new, healthier and more economical food habits has taken form and grown.
With Favela Orgânica she has trained her current team of sixteen women, offering workshops in nutrition, consumption and waste, and gastronomy and the total utilization of foods. She says: “When we say we utilize everything, people make the connection with trash but it’s not trash, it’s food. People throw vitamins away.”
At Sunday’s event, where for just R$10 people could enjoy a full meal of truly tasty and filling dishes, refreshing fresh juices and a richly delicious chocolate and orange peel dessert, there were a lot of fresh converts to the Favela Orgânica way of thinking.
Juliana Beltrame, a carioca diner at the event, says: “I’ve never had a meal with a vegetable peel base before. It was really delicious and I’m going to try to do something like this at home.”
Fellow diner Sebastião Junior from Petrópolis was also impressed, saying: “We should really start to value this type of food.”
Sunday’s event is just the first in a series of monthly taster events with the goal of raising funds to buy machines such as blenders to make the food preparation easier and help Regina achieve the dream of a Favela Orgânica canteen in the community. “My imagination runs wild adapting chic dishes using the whole of the ingredients. When we have the canteen I’ll be able to follow through with all my ideas.”
Although the project is growing, with workshops in Complexo de Alemão and Gávea and providing outside buffet catering, Regina is still unable to devote all her time to Favela Orgânica. She says: “As a maid I earn a lot more than working like this at the moment. I still can’t sustain myself with the project but I want the plans for the future to come to fruition quickly so that I can dedicate myself.”
Smiling broadly she says: “If the project’s like this while I’m still working as a maid, imagine what it’s going to be like in the future.”
View the slideshow of this event and the community: