Bonnaroo’s BonnaROOTS Community Dinner 2016

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Prior to six o’clock on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, a farm table is assembled under the winding pergola of Planet Roo, smack in the middle of Centeroo. Lace table cloths are draped, place settings are set, and behind the scenes volunteers are preparing a meal for 150 attendees. This is the scene of Bonnaroo’s BonnaROOTS annual locally-sourced, feast under the stars.

The BonnaROOTS Community Dinner helps support two  nonprofits: Oxfam America and Eat for Equity. “Oxfam’s mission  is to help with poverty and injustice,” stated Eat for Equity’s  Executive Director and co-founder Emily Torgrimson.

IMG_6080“They work  in 90 different countries to provide water, sanitation and housing  where disaster strikes. They also do a lot of policy work  nationally. Come up with solutions for poverty and injustice. And  Eat for Equity is based in Minneapolis and addresses inequity.  Not just organizations that revolve around food, but organizations that help better the environment.”

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Bonnaroo supports these dinners in so many ways, including paying for all of the food costs so 100% of the proceeds from each ticket sold go directly back to these organizations.

“We started working with Bonnaroo on this a few years ago,” Torgrimson said. “We did a pop-up test four years ago in the campground right outside of Centeroo with everything that I could fit into a Prius, driving down from Minnesota. So we did three dinners for 30 people. Bonnaroo knew that we were doing it and heard good things about it and they invited us to do something more formal. So that’s what started a couple of years ago and is  what we now call BonnaROOTS.”

This concept is based on bringing back the roots of America and local farming culture. It’s also a rare opportunity for Bonnaroovians to sit at the same table together, in the middle of all the festival chaos, and connect on a deeper level over one of the most unique meals they will ever enjoy.

Four course meals were served on both Thursday and Friday nights. The first course included fresh pickles (cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower), local pimento and Sequatchie Nickajack cheeses, Benton’s aged ham, Grilled Bread, and beet caviar.

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The second course was a beautiful colorful mixed greens salad with herbs from the Bonnaroo herb garden, flowers, cucumbers, radishes, and drizzled with  golden dressing.

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For the main course, barbeque Sea Island peas were served over parmesan grits, along with Benton’s pulled pork with a buttermilk herbed slaw on top.

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Last, but not least, the best course. We will never again have pies like the ones served that evening at the BonnaROOTS Community Dinner. Ice cold berry buttermilk pie, banana cream pie with the freshest and lightest whipped cream, and Coffee Country cream pie.

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On Saturday, there was a special salad-only course that was a visual feast and an unforgettable way to eat your vegetables. The rainbow of vegetables, greens, cheese, nuts and flowers come from as far away as 200 miles from Bonnaroo, to as close as a few steps away in the Bonnaroo Learning Garden.

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“I always like to try something new every year,” said Torgrimson. “This is what we’re calling the ‘World’s Longest Salad.’ The salad is stretched from end to end of the table and is a really beautiful, artistic and fun way to get your vegetables.”

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These unique meals were prepared by volunteers, not a team of professional chefs.

“A team of artists and furniture makers, college recruiters, and people coming together and volunteering their time, coming together to make a meal. People coming together regardless of their skill set because they love cooking and they love bringing people together,” Torgrimson stated.  “It’s a very rare experience, everybody is at the same table, enjoying the same meal. It really is accessible. And even through $50 can feel like a lot, it’s a lot of great food, a lot of great local food, and there are other ways you can get a seat at the table too, by giving a gift of your time.”

It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.

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