From the monthly archives: May 2012

Judith- farmer extraordinaire with vegetable soup made with her farm's vegetables!

If you are one of the little group of roughly 100 people that read my blog,then you definitely saw the crazy videos of Dinner Club’s 8 year anniversary in the metro. This January was our nine year anniversary and we were perplexed as to how to out-do our metro stint. What could be bigger than using the public space to celebrate food, drink, camaraderie, free-thinking and action? Well the only way to move up on the scale was to bring in the joy of good deed and sharing and climb up a moral rung. Ameur Manceur, one of our take the bull-by-the-horns kind of members, suggested we cook for the homeless. Yes! We had it! Sharing our love and joy with Montreal is great, but sharing our food and cooking with those who actually need it seemed even more precious. The members agreed, and most importantly, Majiza, Suzanne and Tisha making the main meal were all for it.

Suzanne, mother of Tisha and Majiza

I called around. Benedict Labre House was closed on Friday January 20th, the day we had agreed upon. The Old Brewery Mission was enthusiastic, but we settled on The Welcome Hall Mission in Little Burgundy as it was closer to home for most of us in the Southwest of Montreal. We would cook dinner for 170 homeless people for 6pm on Friday January 20th.

Har har- Matt the Grubby Sailor Bergeron

The tasks were distributed under the theme of “stick to your ribs” aka comfort food. Majiza, Tisha and Suzanne would make chicken macaroni and cheese with 20 lbs of chicken breast cubes donated by the Réseau d’entraide de Verdun. Ameur would bring a medley of frozen vegetables, Judith a vegetable and barley soup with vegetables from the farm D-Trois Pierres, Jeremy- biscuits mixed at Wing’s, me and Gisèle each a dessert (Hazelnut and chocolate brittle that came out as a toffee and a chocolate and bacon cake…cochon!) Shahram, Michelle, Pierre, Dunja and my friend Matthew (who came as a surprise!) all brought drinks and came as special guests.

Majiza co-ordinating the Chicken Mac and Cheese main dish

This was a daunting task for most, but everyone was up for the challenge. The three days preceding the event I started getting calls asking about quantities and whether all of the necessary equipment would be on site etc.

Mass Production

We all trickled in slowly the day of. Jeremy was the first and was there with his hair net, as if he’d always worked there. Their regular staff was very helpful and took us in and guided us through and responded to our questions and requests. The members were all a little anxious about not having enough, but mostly, we were very excited. In fact, we had all been so worried about the feat that we all chose very easy dishes and so spent a leisurely time cooking and socializing and dancing to the music on the radio (“Another Night, Another Day”, “Rhythm is a Dancer”, “Beat it”, “Time After Time” It was as if they put one of my party mixes on the radio).

Arrived in advance with a hair-net, biscuit dough mixed and a mass-production attitude: Jeremy the man!

New and Occasional Members moved by the cause and to help out

We were right on time, and everything but my dessert went smoothly….The dinning room tables were cleared out and a plastic retractable curtain separated us from those waiting to eat. Each course was lined up so that the people eating would pass and get everything on their tray all at once. We were all lined up ready with spoons, ladles, dessert plates and glasses of juice. They opened the door and then we saw the crowd. A crowd of 170 people isn’t necessarily impressive, but 170 people who really need this meal and are waiting for charity is a humbling and sobering experience. Everything had to function just so and security is there waiting in case mayhem breaks out. People are hungry, on edge, some are sick, and many down-trodden.

This is going to sound harsh, but it seems like they are “other” humans- like they have been reduced to an animal life,  living just to satisfy their basic carnal needs. When you give food to each individual, though, you realize they are just like you and me. Their souls shone through and were closer to the surface than ours. There were all ages and people of different social and ethnic backgrounds. For many, you could tell that their life had gotten routed onto a precarious track. I could see myself in their place. I knew that in the trick of a few sudden events that could easily be me. It also struck me how much most of us find to complain about, but these people were so grateful for the food we had made them. I’m capable of having some terse words or thoughts about food that I find unsatisfactory, but these people were just happy to eat. The food was simple and heavy since it is too difficult to go all out financially and technically on that scale, but they made comments like “C’est comme Noel” (It’s like Christmas!) and many came back to thank us after the meal. Even though starch and sugar is what feeds the masses and also keeps them in a bad glycemic cycle, that’s reality when you’re trying to give people what they need to survive. Local, organic, vegetarian, etc, etc. Guilt guilt, etc. are all the food accessories and luxuries that disguise the fact that food first of all is sustenance. Anybody could be there… and was there, waiting for charity: the well-versed, the meticulous, the beautiful, the charismatic, the young- anyone and everyone. Count your blessings!

Ready to serve and be served... a Reality Check

We ate quickly and quietly in the place where they had eaten, and the staff took care of the dishes. We all felt good and many members told me that the experience was very special to them, but we experienced a much quieter and more soulful contentment compared to the 2011 boisterous euphoria of eating in the metro. We weren’t making a public spectacle, but remembering our place and what we had. There is a good chance the experience will become annual. They got a nice meal made with love and we got to feed our souls…

Thanks guys. I'll always remember it...

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