Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

As you may know by now, your local Community Food Council is planning six days of events focused on food beginning Oct. 20.

Wild Rivers Coast Food Days 2012 covers a lot of ground and targets children, teens, parents, grandparents, - well, actually anyone and everyone who eats food. Through free workshops, presentations and demonstrations we will all have an opportunity to learn more about food - including expert tips on how to grow it, preserve it, prepare it and choose it. And why we should care.

Food Day is a nationwide movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food. If you visit the National Food Day web site, www.foodday.org, you'll see what's going on across the country. And if you look closer you'll see that Crescent City is literally on the map. Communities across the country are participating in various ways, but you should be proud to know that Crescent City's program is perhaps the most ambitious and inclusive.

Gardening expert Jennifer Ewing, Master Preserver/Canner Deborah Giraud, Joe Gillespie and his Crescent Elk class and authors Ann Vileissis ("Kitchen Literacy - How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back"), Karen Adler ("The Mighty Pomegranate"), Lierre Keith ("The Vegetarian Myth") and the lovely Heirloom Tomatoes ("Locally Delicious" and "Lunchbox Envy") all have informative,interactive presentations. Food films, food producers and healthy snacks are all on the menu.

The grand finale on Thursday, Oct. 25, is a Halloween-themed Teen Dinner Party with live music, special guests and raffle prizes featuring a free dinner of lasagna, salad and garlic bread for youths ages 14-20.

The single Food Day event I wouldn't miss for the world is the Meatless Monday Cook-off on Oct. 22. Three professional chefs are facing off and I can tell you they're serious.

Last week I met with Justin Hall, Anne Boulley and Charlie Fore to discuss the cook-off ground rules. After a few minutes of introductions and small talk, it was obvious that each chef, although gracious to each other, wants the win.

With authority I told them their dishes must be nutritious, delicious and affordable. No expensive fancy ingredients. This has to be real food that anyone can make. And it has to be nutritious even though no meat is allowed.

The Meatless Monday movement touts the health benefits of eliminating some meat from our diets: limiting cancer risk, reducing heart disease, fighting diabetes and curbing obesity. There is also an environmental component citing, for example, the amount of water used to raise livestock (an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef) and our need to reduce dependence on fuel used for transporting animals and bringing meat to market.For some of us going meatless is about saving money by using alternative ingredients in main courses.

Justin Hall is a chef at Sutter Coast Hospital and has been involved in developing the "from scratch" recipes that the Del Norte County Unified School District has introduced into the school lunch program this year. Anne Boulley lives in Brookings, teaches cooking classes in person and online and writes the Artisan Cuisine column for the Triplicate. Charlie Fore is the chef of the not-open-yet Porcini - the restaurant rising from the bones of the former Bistro Gardens at the harbor.

Everyone's invited to sample and judge their best efforts and our votes will count toward the coveted "People's Choice" award. There's also a panel of "official" foodie judges who will pick the Meatless Monday Cook-off King or Queen. To participate, just come down to the Arts and Crafts Building on Monday, Oct. 22, from 5 to 8 p.m. The chefs will serve you and answer any questions you may have about their dishes. They will even share their recipes. Self-proclaimed food aficionado Rene Shanle-Hutzell will be the emcee.

Whether you're ready to go meatless one day a week or just want to see what it's all about, I promise the Meatless Monday Cook-off will be a lot of fun with some fabulous food. I hope you'll join me there. For more information about Food Days events, keep reading the Triplicate, listening to the radio and checking the Wild Rivers Coast Food Days 2012 Facebook page.

Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate's publisher, at mthomas@ triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.