Tunisian Luncheon Benefit for Golden Magnolia Sanctuary

Tunisian lablabi and accompaniments (photos by Werner Elmker)

A group of talented volunteers and dedicated businesses have come together to create a tasty Tunisian lunch to raise funds for Golden Magnolia Sanctuary and support its efforts to reduce food insecurity in Jefferson County. The meal will be held on Monday, June 10, 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. at Golden Magnolia Sanctuary, 200 S. Main St. in Fairfield.

“If you’ve ever had Tunisian lablabi, you’re in the know. If you haven’t, we promise this lunch will go straight to the top of your list,” says Bill Witherspoon, one of the organizers of the project. “And as you are eating this delicious meal, you will know that your supreme foodie experience is helping Golden Magnolia Sanctuary, one of Fairfield’s visionary community service endeavors.”

Tunisian Lunch Benefit

The special lunch will start with lablabi, a chickpea dish slowly cooked in a flavorful broth. The piping-hot dish is then ladled over over cubes of crusty sourdough bread, which will be freshly made using a three-day process.

Carrot salad and lablabi

To that is added traditional toppings provided by the Mahjoub family, specially imported from Tunisia. These include preserved organic lemons, organic sun-dried tomatoes, organic Meski olives, organic harissa (a paste made from sun-dried tomato, sun-dried pepper, garlic, salt, coriander, caraway seeds, and extra virgin olive oil), organic wild mountain capers, toasted cumin, and Les Moulins Mahjoub olive oil.

The lablabi will be accompanied by carrot-coriander salad and a traditional dessert—orange olive-oil cake. Gluten-free options will be available.

What is Golden Magnolia?

A nonprofit grounded in community ownership, connectivity, and skill sharing, Golden Magnolia Sanctuary is entirely staffed by volunteers, and relies on community support to operate. Their popular Stone Soup Community Kitchen serves nutritious, plant-based meals every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening. They recently added an outdoor community fridge full of donated meals and snacks, providing food access all day, every day. Meals are available on a pay-what-you-may basis. At a time when food insecurity is growing and everything is more expensive, this is a vitally important service.

According to Laura Sivels, Director of Development, Golden Magnolia has been serving roughly 13,000 meals a year, which works out to around 100 meals a night. Laura says they stayed open during the massive snowstorm this past January and provided 128 meals, offering warmth and companionship to those in need.

As a volunteer-run organization, Golden Magnolia is fueled by dedicated community members. Laura says kitchen volunteers have contributed roughly 3,000 hours a year, with volunteer board members contributing countless hours towards running the entire organization.

Golden Magnolia provides a community supported space open to everyone; they host the indoor winter Farmers Market and offer space for creative events. Executive Director Tammy Haessler, who runs a preschool in addition to managing the community center, will be unveiling a Creator Skill Share Space in August. There will be a room dedicated to creative expression, with space for painting, fiber arts, and skill shares. She plans to have experts in various creative fields come and teach classes as well.

“People have discovered what Golden Magnolia has been doing and want to help,” says Bill. “There’s no shortage of goodwill, and more and more people are finding ways to join in and help.”

The Tunisian benefit lunch is one example. “It takes a lot of volunteers to do a benefit like this,” Bill adds. The vast team includes volunteers to coordinate tasks, prepare marketing materials, and prep, cook, and serve the food.

All dishes will be freshly prepared for the June 10th lunch.

“It ends up being quite a project,” says Bill, “but everyone is having fun. There is something remarkably freeing about joining with others to support a truly worthwhile cause. This is possible in large part because Golden Magnolia is a diverse, selfless-service organization. It is inclusive of everybody—absolutely everybody. There’s nobody who isn’t welcome here.”

RSVPs for the luncheon are required no later than Saturday, June 8. Tickets are $20 at the door or online at GoldenMagnolia.org. All proceeds go to Golden Magnolia Sanctuary.