This is the kind of post that’s written at 3am, because I just got home from work, and the neighbours are having a loud party. Not the ideal situation after working for 12 hours on a Saturday.
Let me back up a little, because it’s probably normal for some people to work long/late night shifts at the weekend. We need to get some things straight. I want to write about my job a little, not because I think I’m a superhero – far from it – there are just a few things I’m still trying to figure out.
I work at a youth development organisation – 30 hours a week I’m an EA, run off my feet keeping the office ship-shape and the boss happy. The other 10 are my cooking hours. This is when I get to do what I love, and what I genuinely think is important. Over the past 10 months, I’ve been building a space where young people can come and grab some food after school, somewhere that there’s always decent food for all of the different people that come through our doors.
So far, I’ve turned our small, relatively unused kitchen into a place of great production, that each week is filled with fruit and vegetables, and bread that have seen better days – they’ve been donated by local food rescue organisation Kaibosh.
Sometimes I feel like all I do is make a mess in the kitchen, and offer to cook for programmes that used to do perfectly well with frozen pizza and filled rolls. But my colleagues are learning about the difference it makes to not only feed people, but to feed them well. We want to build relationships with the people we work with, and show them that they’re cared for. This helps them to care about themselves and the choices they make.
So far, I’ve made cooking from scratch seem more reachable for people. I’ve helped some people to learn a bit about food, and I’d like to do this a lot more. I’ve learned a great deal about what I can do, and how much this can impact on others. I have been blown away by the amazing work that I see done by my colleagues every day, and the importance of community in our topsy turvy world.
Tonight we were thanking a group of people that have been on a mentoring programme, each paired up with a young person that has been struggling for some reason or other. Rather than us getting the event catered, or buying food, I cooked. For 50 people, in our tiny kitchen with one oven. Now this was a crazy idea. Crazy. But I thought it was important, not because I wanted to show off my cooking skills, but because, for whatever reason, I find it wrong that we as a culture are so disconnected from the natural progression of food from farm to plate. My philosophy around this isn’t fully formed yet, but my boss and colleagues have got behind this food thing 100% (it took a little bit of coaxing..) and I’m willing to see it through.
This shy kid is learning how to be outgoing, so that I can get in the kitchen with some young people and give them the skills to cook for their families, and their futures.