Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Table Where Rich People Sit: Community Meals

There are days when we do not want to come here, especially when the sky is threatening one of its Pacific Northwest out-of-nowhere showers. Yesterday was one of those days. But we came anyway. It’s our job. We volunteer here.

This place is Food For Lane County’s Grassroots Garden. It’s perhaps the most amazing place within a 100-mile radius of our home, and we’ve been delighted to be a part of it for four years now. About every other week (sometimes more often, when the weather is really bad less often) we come out for about 3-4 hours. We dig in the dirt, discover the creatures living there, weed, haul leaves, plant vegetables from seed and start, harvest (nearly 40,000 pounds of produce each year), and perhaps most importantly, with the other people who come here ages 0-80, from all backgrounds and of all abilities, we create community together while helping to grow a meal for those who need it.

While sometimes I long to get my hands in the soil more, I often get asked to work the kitchen, and become the one overseeing the preparation for the lunchtime meal for 30-40+ people, a monumental task for someone used to cooking for 3-7 people. I came this day all excited about planting, like these lucky souls:

And instead, I got asked to work here: the lovely and relatively new outdoor kitchen that I have seen so much of lately.

I smiled and said, “Sure” and got to work, this time without all the usual helpers. The garden is usually bustling with teens and children eager to help out. This time, Zeal was the only one under 15. It didn’t stop him from helping out though.

or playing:

It just meant I was in the kitchen mostly by myself: a strange and lonely rarity. Where’s my community, I thought to myself, but got to work, realizing quickly there was very little yet to harvest from the garden and I would have to get creative with what we had so early in the season.

The solution: sautéed leeks, a mustard, chard, and redleaf salad, a large pot of beans bulked up with some stored carrots, potatoes, celery, greens, and chipotle chilies, and a quick dash to the store for a large stack of corn tortillas.

Lunch takes longer when there are fewer hands, but it eventually makes it to the table for all the many hungry garden volunteers who have all spent their entire morning on their knees in the dirt, hauling leaves, or building new shelters for tools. They emerge from their digging places, and the food hits the table. Once again, we all enjoy a meal across generations, across abilities, across the table - together - “where rich people sit.”

There are days when we do not want to come here, but we are always glad, and grateful, that we did.

No comments:

Welcome! Here you will find simple recipes, inspiring ideas, personal stories, inspiration, and tools to experiment and explore the kitchen together.  So enter the family kitchen with absolute abandon, and begin your journey towards thinking outside the recipe!