By Nicole Weldon

I love food – shopping, cooking, eating (ok, maybe not shopping) – and I really struggle with balancing my priorities of tasty food, healthy food, and ethical food. When those three essentials converge, it’s a little taste of heaven. Homegirl Cafe provides that tasty convergence, with their delicious, healthy menu made from “as local as possible” ingredients, and prepared and served by people who are newly empowered to learn job skills.

Hungry for a balance of tasty, healthy and ethical food: the Hungry for Life cookbook

Hungry for a balance of tasty, healthy and ethical food: the Hungry for Life cookbook


The cafe is a delightful dining experience, and their new cookbook, Hungry for Life, is full of ways to bring that experience home. Additionally, all the book’s proceeds go to Homeboy Industries, the cafe’s parent organization, to benefit their numerous programs. Homeboy/Homegirl operates under the premise that gang members who are given resources to change their lives are usually capable and excited to do so. They run several businesses, including the cafe, a bakery, and a screen-printing service. They provide on-the-job training, regular employment expectations and structure, while helping each participant on his or her own journey to employment. They also offer tattoo removal, legal services, high school/GED completion, and other life skills training. The environment is structured to teach and to also offer grace. If you visit the cafe you can sign up for a tour of the office and teaching spaces. My tour guide beamed as he showed me pictures of his baby and fiancée, whom he was finally able to support because of his job at Homeboy. He explained that he had struggled with addiction for a long time. When he made the decision to go to an inpatient treatment facility, Homeboy Industries made it clear his job would still be available when he returned.

I love the food in this book. The first two things I chose to make were Kale Potato Taquitos, and Upside Down Mango Cornbread. I have not had a taquito in the 3+ years I’ve been vegetarian, so I made these immediately. They were delicious on their own, but would pair well with the strong flavor of some Homeboy salsa!

Delicious kale potato taquitos and salsa!

Delicious kale potato taquitos and salsa!

The mango cornbread was amazing. I’m not even a huge mango fan, but this dessert lived up to its stellar reputation. It is a splurge on the healthy front, using quite a lot of butter and sugar, but if you’re going to eat dessert it’s more than worth it.

Amazing mango cornbread!

Amazing mango cornbread!

One word of caution on the book, read through your recipe carefully before grocery shopping and before you start cooking. It’s not the kind of cookbook where every instruction is spelled out to the letter so you can just follow along. You should understand what you’re doing before you start. However, the food is simple and intuitive; new cooks need not be intimidated by the beautiful photos and occasionally exotic flavors.

I love this book. I’m thankful I had the chance to borrow it and test it out. It’s on my wishlist now, something to save up for and buy in support of tasty, healthy, ethical food.

Nicole Weldon is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. She is moving to Chicago next week to become the Communications and Resource Development Manager at Paul Carlson Partnership, and is looking forward to discovering the restaurants of a new city.

Editor’s note: If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy those by Tammi Anderson and Tamisha Tyler, who also wrote about Hungry for Life.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

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