What happens when computer geeks, a large art museum, and too many vegetables come together? Techluck Tuesday! Now a weekly potluck hosted by the Brooklyn Museum’s Technology Department Techluck Tuesdays grew out of a workplace conversation about what to do with an over abundance of vegetables from each department members’ Community Support Agriculture (CSA) shares. As colleagues began to share recipes within the department Shelley Bernstein, the Brooklyn Museum’s Chief of Technology, suggested beginning a weekly vegetarian potluck to open up the recipe sharing and vegetable abundance to a greater number of museum staff members.
Now Techluck Tuesdays are a highly anticipated weekly event that regularly attract 20 or more participants from all different museum departments. Each staff member brings a dish to share and their recipe. Recipes are posted on an internal wiki (this is an event run by the Technology Department after all) so that others can easily find out how to make a dish they enjoyed. The Techluck is not only an opportunity for staff to cook and eat a healthy lunch each week, but also an opportunity to come together and get to know each other better as colleagues, and maybe even as friends.
I learned about the Techluck through Shelley Bernstein’s Flickr stream and feeling envious (and a little bit hungry) I asked her, and her colleagues Paul and Vlad (who work in the Technology Department) and Sarah (who works in the Brooklyn Museum’s Digital Collections and Services) to share their favorite Techluck moments, recipes and advice they have for anyone who might want to do something similar at their workplace.
What do you think Techluck Tuesdays has brought to your department? To the Brooklyn Museum as a whole?
Shelley: Growing community at work is incredibly important and I think Techluck allows us all a moment each week to come together and have a little fun around food. I rarely hear people talking about work and I find that I’m getting to know participants on a more personal level. Techluck breaks down the department silos and that can facilitate greater communication in a large organization.
Vlad: To our department it’s brought a new understanding of teamwork and deeper level of comraderie. To the Museum as a whole I think it’s been a great social outlet in a professional environment. It’s an interesting, quick, and fun way to interact with fellow employees. You get to see a more personable side to people through what they’ve prepared and what they enjoy.
Paul: There’s that stereotype of the dark, musty Tech department strewn with pizza boxes and staffed by surly, bearded variations on the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. We weren’t quite that, but if we were a little, say, closed off, I think Techluck resolved some of that. It opened up our department to other departments. It got us talking about food – not about work – which humanizes everyone involved and makes talking about work (later) easier.
Sarah: TT has brought down a barrier to the tech department. There’s less of the feeling of Tech being unapproachable, which can happen in many organizations. The space creates a dialog about like-minded, forward-thinking coworkers interested in technological progress for the museum all while serving up delicious, sustainable food for everyone who attends.
Favorite Techluck moment?
Shelley: I was traveling back in the late summer and checked in virtually to see that Sarah had brought Bob a cookie to celebrate his birthday which was pretty awesome.
Paul: I really enjoyed the moment this Summer when we realized Shelley wouldn’t be able to attend the next Techluck and we wondered whether Techluck should occur without it’s founder. The immediate conclusion was, of course Yes, that Techluck had quickly taken on a life of it’s own – that it no longer needed a founder’s guidance. That’s community success.
Sarah: I liked the Techluck pie. My pie crusts always come out wonky, so I was pretty impressed that that blueberry pie had its own font.
Any advice for readers who might want to try something similar at their work place?
Shelley: Don’t worry too much about the details in favor of just starting something and adjusting as you go along.
Vlad: Don’t be scared. It will probably be the best meal you have all week. Bring anything. You don’t need to be a master chef; it’s the effort that’s appreciated. Just show up.
Paul: Vlad had the forethought to invest early in a set of dedicated plastic dishware for Techluck. At the end of lunch someone volunteers to run them through the dishwasher. This reduces waste and makes the whole thing feel kind of official.
Sarah: Keep it small at first and be sure to look out for the dietary restrictions of your coworkers. It’s not annoying; it’s like Iron Chef. You cook with some restrictions.
Favorite Techluck dishes or recipes to share?
Shelley: Beau’s Abstract Expressionist banana surprise
Kathy’s Vegetarian Sliders
To make the sliders you simply need: Little grocery store potato rolls, roasted butternut squash with sea salt, Irish cheddar (the white kind, but I’m sure any cheddar will do) and pickled red onions.
Deb’s Summer Plum Sorbet
Vlad: Kingman’s vegan zucchini bread (rules!) Thinking Vegan is fun. You don’t have to be vegetarian to appreciate it. It’s a fun (and cheap) way of making use of your CSA share.
Paul:Most of what I cook these days is from Moskowitz and Romero’s excellent Veganomicon. The recipe for black bean & acorn squash empanadas is right on. If you bake them in the morning they’ll still be a little warm by lunch.
Sarah: Vegan Tuna Salad!
* 1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and mashed
* 2 tablespoons Vegannaise
* 1 tablespoon kelp or kelp powder (what the tuna eat!)
* 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
* 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
* 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
* 2 small dill pickles, diced
* salt and pepper to taste
* sunflower seeds (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, Vegannaise, kelp mustard, relish, peppers, pickles, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Thank you so much for the Brooklyn Museum staff members who shared their Techluck success with me. Please let us know if you have tried something similar at your workplace!