Small Bites

Getting the munchies: The Westside Munchie Machine delivers everything from beer to fine meals from West Asheville businesses. Photo by Jonathan Welch

What to do when you have the westside munchies

You're sitting at home, drinking with friends. You need more beer. And maybe a seven-layer burrito — or maybe a cheese pizza would hit the spot. Who do you call so that you don't have to hit the road after tying one on? Call Bethany Evens, who owns the Westside Munchie Machine, a West Asheville delivery service, and Sweet B's, the Machine's late-night counterpart. "We stay sober so you don't have to," says Evens.

Evens, a former accountant, kick-started her delivery concept after spending some time assisting West Asheville's Favilla's Pizza with their high delivery volume. The Munchie Machine grew somewhat organically out of that enterprise, taking on more and more West Asheville businesses — now Evens will deliver from any West Asheville restaurant.

Delivery service includes the Magnetic Field, Westville Pub, The Hop West (including the almost-famous ice cream for dogs), Viva Deli and more. If it's open, says Evens, you can order from it. "We want to offer delivery of the unique foods of West Asheville to help the small businesses grow," says Evens. "The point is to market to the local community to advertise and support the local businesses — to put them out there so people think to choose local restaurants when they purchase food."

But the delivery service is not limited to food alone. The West Village Market and Deli lies within the delivery area, says Evens. Could someone conceivably order a box of maxi-pads, a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate, I ask? "Absolutely," says Evens. "We try to limit it to five items or less, especially if we have other deliveries to make."

Though the business model is designed to focus on and promote independent West Asheville businesses, both the Munchie Machine and Sweet B's will pick up just about anything, including tobacco products, beer and fast-food drive-through fare. Sweet B's, says Evens, specializes in delivering late-night party essentials. "Pretty much anything that's legal and available for purchase," she says. "It was really started with the intention to try to limit that amount of drunk drivers that are on the streets out here at nighttime."

For now, only West Asheville-dwellers can use the service (the Munchie Machine website has a helpful map so that you can determine whether you qualify). "For now, we deliver to West Asheville and the River Arts District. We're not sure how long it will take, but the intention is to bring the West to the rest, eventually. We're starting out small for now, and growing in our local community before we get too big."

Late-night delivery is available from Sweet B's Thursday through Saturday, from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. The Munchie Machine is available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Visit the website for payment details and delivery charges: westsidemunchiemachine.com. For more about Sweet B's, visit sweetbdelivers.com or call 458-5993.

A FEAST of the senses

We recently got a visit from a VIP of the food world: Josh Viertel, the President of Slow Food USA, a grassroots organization that champions real food and all that it involves, recently visited WNC. Viertel traveled here in part to learn more about FEAST, an Asheville-based program that teaches families, many from low-income communities, how to cook with healthy, local food. (FEAST stands for fresh, easy, affordable, sustainable and tasty.)

"It's so important that kids grow up knowing where food comes from, how to cook it, and how to experience it with others," says Viertel.

He attended a FEAST class at Asheville Middle School, hoping to glean ideas for national programming. "The best ideas come from volunteer leaders who work on the grounds," Viertel says. "I find it inspirational."
 
About 20 sixth-grade students in Sara Monson's Exploring Career Decisions class split up into teams to make hummus and baba ghanoush using fresh herbs from the school garden. They also made bruschetta, peach salsa, kale and salad with strawberries. Local growers supplied the greens and fruit.

Monson says that FEAST classes tend to be the students' favorite part of the curriculum. "The parents I talk to say that the kids try things they learned in cooking class at home, and even correct them on the proper way to cook," Monson says. "It's a good change from the regular classroom — something different."

Taking lessons from the classroom to the home is one of the program’s chief aims, according to FEAST Director Kate Justen. "Children are likely to choose healthy food if they have helped prepare it," she says.

After the completion of a series of classes, students should know how to follow a recipe, understand which foods are in season locally and choose moderate portions, Justen says. They often figure out the types of food that are good for their bodies (which typically means a decreased refined-sugar intake). As they cook, students practice kitchen safety rules, and incorporate elements of math, science, language arts and health.

Justen founded FEAST three years ago with Cathy Cleary, co-owner of West End Bakery, in conjunction with the local chapter of Slow Food. They realized quickly that the classes are as much about communication, problem-solving and compromise as they are about food. "In reality, it's a social-justice program," Cleary said.

Justen and Cleary work with volunteers to hold classes for both children and their parents in the Shiloh, Pisgah View and Burton Street communities, as well as the City of Asheville's 21st Century Learning Center. When possible, they incorporate community gardens in their programming so the families can connect to their food before it leaves the ground.

"We were thrilled to share a FEAST experience with Josh," Justen said. "Support from the national Slow Food organization is essential as FEAST expands and is replicated in other areas of the country."

Viertel was in Asheville to discuss strategies concerning national agricultural policy with leaders in food justice. His work to create a healthy food system has been recognized globally.

Slow Food USA is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the food traditions of North America. Organization leaders believe that pleasure and quality in everyday life can be achieved by slowing down, respecting the convivial traditions of the table and celebrating diversity in food. For more information about the local chapter, visit slowfoodasheville.org.

The general public will have an opportunity to support FEAST in the fall. Asheville Affiliates is hosting a "Feasting for FEAST" fundraising event at The Venue on Market Street on September 22. For information about the event or opportunities to volunteer and donate to FEAST, contact Kate Justen at feast.avl@gmail.com.

— Send your food news and story ideas to Mackensy Lunsford at food@mountainx.com.

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