Before food is prepared each day raw materials must be collected from the central storage area(s). When gathering food try to keep a balance of nutrition in mind. Our food is almost always vegan (no dairy, eggs or honey) so that the largest number of people can eat with us. Whether Food Not Bombs is strictly vegan or not is up for debate. You'll probably have to balance what kinds of foods are available with any vegan principles you may hold. Recovering food that would otherwise go to waste is central to FNB's ideals, so if it's not vegan you may want to serve it anyway. Or you may not.
An IDEAL MEAL would contain whole fruit and/or fruit salad, cooked vegetable dish, rice or some other grain, a bean or other legume, a green salad, and some bread or bagels. For smaller meals, use produce instead of dried beans and grains because produce is perishable and we usually pay through the nose for dry goods. Use some older food so it doesn't spoil from neglect.
Try to be aware of (or ask about) what other cooking is being done (for other meals/events that day/week) so as to not use up resources that will be needed later. In short, consider a well-rounded menu for the day's meal while keeping in mind that other days' meals will need to share the same resources.
1. Share your skills. Experienced people can help newer people so everyone becomes an equal member of the team. Everyone can be involved in decisions (how much, of what, etc.). People new to FNB and to working in a collective environment might not say much. It is the responsibility of the more experienced people to share their skills with the new folks. "Accidental hierarchies" suck.
2. Use older food first. Sometimes it is quite tempting to take the easiest route possible by using the best produce and leaving the slimier produce for the other cooks. If you are cooking on a day when you are screwed for help, all will understand you had to be efficient. However, most of the time you will find more can be accomplished in one cooking session than you at first expected. If everyone leaves the "dirty work" for someone else, it will result in wasted food, which is obviously in direct conflict with one of our main objectives: that is, to not throw away perfectly edible food when so many hungry mouths exist.
3. Food review. Each day's cooking group should begin by looking over the food and working out a plan/menu or general direction. With this plan in mind the cooks du jour should delegate themselves and begin working on the various tasks laid out. Don't be afraid to alter the menu as you go; sometimes the best ideas come up mid-preparation.
4. Cook more than less. It is better to cook more food than less, as no one should go hungry. There are places to bring extra food.
5. IMPORTANT: Stay aware of time. The first thing cooking should (generally) be the day's bean (legume), the second should be the grain, then vegetable matter. If you are doing a fruit salad be aware that cutting up fruit takes longer than you might think. Green salad is generally the easiest, least time consuming. In general, the denser the food, the sooner preparation should begin. Ex. Making vegetable stew? Prep the root veggies first and get them cooking, then the veggies you have the most of (zucchini, for instance), then the veggies you want to saut before adding to the stew - garlic, onions, peppers. You will find the better you get at prioritizing the tasks and cooking food in order the smoother your whole day will go.
6. Salty or spicy. People seem to prefer salty or spicy. Recognizing that we have to cook for a variety of dietary needs, it is good to keep from over-salting or spicing, but no one wants to eat bland food. Making sure you bring salt to the serving will keep the salt-a-holics off your back(s).
7. Chop small. Chopping veggies in fairly small pieces (3/4" dice) is beneficial: they will cook faster, be easier to serve, and will be easier for people with bad teeth to eat. Sharpening knives will make cutting veggies easier as well.
8. The Magic of Blenders. Blending potato or root veggies (after cooking them briefly) makes for a great soup base, as do squashes such as pumpkin or butternut (though these must be peeled). Mushrooms or broccoli can be blended and doing require cooking first. All blending, remember, should be done with some water!