Food, Community, and $35 For the Week: Days Four and Five, Helping. Day Six, Rain Out.

Posted on November 12, 2011. Filed under: challenge, community, favorite, Uncategorized, video | Tags: , , , , , |

My earlier complaints about hunger seem very silly now.

On Day Four, I volunteered at the Jubilee Soup Kitchen. This is the experience that will resonate the most with me from this project. During my graduate studies, I’ve taken classes on food access and talked at length about privilege, status, elitism, and all that good stuff. All of this was educational, but none of it impressed me as much as seeing people waiting outside the soup kitchen for a free meal. The biggest rush happened right at the start, but there was also a steady stream of people for the entire two hour lunch service. What stuck me most was the atmosphere of the soup kitchen–it wasn’t an unhappy place. Perhaps it had something to do with the unseasonably beautiful November day, but I don’t think so. There was a sense of community there. I’m not trying to paint a picture of unicorns and moonbeams–it was still a soup kitchen, and there were certainly a significant amount of people who seemed to be in a very challenging place in their lives. But it also wasn’t as bleak as I’d thought it was going to be, and it seemed like most of the people there were just in need of a little bit of help and kindness to get them through the day. Don’t get me started on the whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” business; sometimes it takes someone to feed you a hot meal to help put things back together.

One of the things that really struck me was that at least half the volunteers used to (or still) rely on the kitchen for a meal. Conservatives like to frame the impoverished as lazy scammers, always looking for their next free handout from the government. That wasn’t the impression I got at all. No one seemed happy about taking something for nothing. One woman, who used to be homeless but now had a job, told me she “needed to come back here and help, because they gave so much to me when I needed it the most.”

And what a meal it was. We have this image of soup kitchens as places of horrible food, but, at least in this case, it was different. The chef takes a ton of pride in feeding people. He prepared a hearty dish of tortellini, ground beef, carrots, and potatoes. The dish was topped with cheese. It was wonderful. Served alongside green beans, salad, and fresh fruit. Nobody left hungry. It was the best meal I’ve had so far.

I’m really glad the Jubilee Kitchen is doing what it’s doing. Without a doubt, I’ll be back to help serve lunch. You should help, too.

Later that night, perhaps the UniverseKarmaSpiritbearWhatever needed to reinforce the notion that my food woes were simply self-constructed food woes: I Dropped The Beans. Words of advice: cooking beans late at night after a long day isn’t a brilliant idea. I didn’t have much of a choice, since my meal plan for the next day called for beans. So–beans I cooked. And oh, they were glorious beans. Flavored with leftover ham and smoke, texture perfect. After I dropped them I even considered picking them up from my kitchen floor. Nobody would know, right? OK. I did pick them up from my kitchen floor. They have since been sent to the compost bin, but I really was on the verge of eating them. Even though I’m aware this project is a self-constructed situation that has a firm end date, losing the beans because of a moment of clumsiness was a remarkably sad experience. I was on the phone at the time, and was totally unable to finish the conversation; all I could think about was how I lost three meal’s worth of food. I hope I’m never in a position where I have to eat beans that I scraped up from my kitchen floor.

On Day Five I volunteered at the Environmental Charter School. My friend runs the lunch program there, and she’s always in need of assistance. So off I went. We picked up a hot meal of mac ‘n cheese (with and without shrimp) from the cafe at Phipps Conservatory, because the school itself doesn’t have a kitchen. There are a few things to unpack from the last sentence. First: mac ‘n cheese with SHRIMP?! What a strange combination. Many of the kids thought so, too. More importantly: NO KITCHEN!?

Fun fact: Many schools in the United States no longer have their own kitchens–they rely on pre-packaged meals. ECH is an example of making the best out of a bad situation; the school works with local restaurants to serve nutritious meals made from quality ingredients. Most other schools in this situation aren’t so lucky. It’s a sad sad sad thing (that’s getting better, but there is still a long way to go).

It’s possible I might be in danger of losing jobs before I even get them. The Environmental Charter School has its own food critic, Riley. This kid is good!

On Day Six, the plan was to do a chef’s demo at a local farmers’ market. It didn’t happen. A combination of crappy weather and the market losing half its space to preparations for “Light Up Night” caused the demo to be cancelled. Sad news, it would have been quite fun. But no big deal–I am on budget and ready to see this through.

I’ve been cooking. Lots of cooking. I thought I spent a good amount of time in the kitchen to begin with, but nothing compared to the amount of time I’ve spent this week. Everything is cooked from scratch. The decision to eschew processed foods (well…alright, I did have a Top Ramen snack last night!) isn’t just a financial decision, it’s also an investment in time.

I made a wonderful puree of roasted Blue Hubbard squash (from our Eden Hall garden!), carrots, and turnips. I used a little bit of butter (accounted for), the broth from boiling the carrots and turnips, and seasoned with salt and garam masala. It was wonderful! I bought a wee bit of ground beef (.27lbs for $1.35) and put half of it into a soup made with the last of my carrots, turnip greens (bonus! there were still turnip greens in my garden!!!), onion, celery, tomato, and barley. It was remarkably satisfying. I also made a breakfast sandwich from two of my eggs and a tiny bit of my mozzarella. It felt nice to finally break into my cheese stash.

And I made Baked Penne! Yes, that is a link to a video of me showing you how to make this dish. Watch the video, make the dish. Anyway, I’d been hoarding my mozzarella, and had enough money left to afford a tiny bit of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I used some of my frozen tomato sauce, the last of my home-grown garlic, and had an amazing dinner.

I’m totally going to do this. And I’m eating pretty well, too.

Total Additional Money Spent: $3.50
$1.35 for beef, $0.30 for Top Ramen, $1.50 for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, $0.35 for pasta.
Money left for the week: $9.13


Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

One Response to “Food, Community, and $35 For the Week: Days Four and Five, Helping. Day Six, Rain Out.”

RSS Feed for This Man's Kitchen Comments RSS Feed

[…] about my day-to-day experiences, go to: The Preview Days One and Two The Great Ham Controversy Volunteering, Losing My Beans Share this:EmailDiggTwitterFacebookStumbleUponRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

Where's The Comment Form?

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: