by Sabine Rhyne
It was a cold and icy day outside, but inside the Global Village Cuisine kitchen, the mood was warm and comfortable, bolstered by a congenial group making curried vegetable samosas. “People tell you they want to eat the healthiest food,” Mel Hall smiles, “but the sales tell a different story.” Samosas are their biggest sellers, which is why the crew was busy making 1600 of them the day we stopped in. “Still, we use the best ingredients, fry them in sunflower seed oil, and fry them quickly so they don’t absorb much of the oil,” he explains.
Global Village Cuisine is all about making tasty ethnic “slow” food available quickly. As Damaris, Mel’s wife and business partner, efficiently forms the samosa dough into perfect pocket cones for the heaping vegetable curry that was about to be spooned into them by Michelle, Dan, and Peter down the line, she said, “Good food takes time to prepare. We are about slow convenient food.” Damaris spent time in her youth being trained as a chef in her native Kenya, and always dreamed of starting a food business. She met Mel when he was in Kenya, and they moved back to the Upper Valley about 23 years ago, where Mel went to school. They began cooking for festivals in the early 1990s, such as Bread and Puppet and ReggaeFest, making delicious African recipes, noticing that there was not much ethnic food available in these parts. For a time, they opened a restaurant in White River by way of an art importing business (“people came for the art, but were ultimately more interested in the food”), while catering on the side, balancing the needs of each business, and beginning to raise a family. Along the way, one of their children developed food sensitivities, and Damaris realized that her native food was actually rather “allergy-friendly.” So with few adjustments, she began experimenting with more nut stews, using safflower butter, and more. They opened a kitchen along the river in White River Junction and began making more recipes, catering and beginning the wholesale effort as Mel’s Gourmet with ready-to-eat meals. Their first customer was the Co-op Food Stores in Hanover and Lebanon, followed by the Hunger Mountain Co-op and the Brattleboro Food Co-op. Gradually, more and more co-ops and natural food stores picked up their products.
Then came Hurricane Irene. They lost virtually everything, save a three-bay sink. But they rebuilt, with the help of lots of neighbors and friends, in a larger kitchen about a block away, where they still prepare their meals today. They have expanded slowly, and about a year ago, added some staff and a walk-in freezer to assist them with ramping up production. They changed their name to Global Village Cuisine, to better describe the taste palette that they were working with, and off they went. They are now seeking regional distribution to better focus their efforts on their product line.
Although Global Village Cuisine prepares some meals with chicken, much of their food is vegetarian. Their meals, sold in the grab-n-go case of the BFC deli, include very tasty vegan options like Chickpea Vegetable Tajine with Garam Masala rice, and African No-Nut Vegan Stew. They also make delectable samosas, which are sold from the deli case. “Vegetarians are very faithful customers,” said Damaris. Perhaps because the Global Village Cuisine is “mouth-happy comfort cuisine, …celebrating the flavors of life.” Or perhaps it is that the care and friendliness that underlies the products can be tasted. Judge for yourself!
Meet the folks from Global Village Cuisine at the Co-op on Thursday, January 15, from 11am-1:30pm!