The OCP Blog
We All Have a Place at the Table
As the new Kitchen Coordinator at OCP, I of course want to talk about food and its role in our beloved community center.
At the most basic level, sharing food is a primal way of demonstrating care. I believe that giving people a meal to nourish their physical body also nourishes their emotional self. At OCP, this act also gives us opportunities to work collectively and creatively. What do we have on hand? What ingredients have people been kind enough to donate? What could we make with this? Who is here to help? What are their skills that can be applied to the meal preparation? One of the coolest things about making food, in my opinion, is that it can be broken down into tasks accessible to almost anyone. Need to sit in a chair? You can run the smoothie blender. Need clear, simple tasks? You can slice these cucumbers. Not comfortable handling knives? You can butter the bread. I’ve learned a lot about sharing responsibility in this way at OCP. This sort of “complexifying,” as the former KC Alex calls it, allows many people to participate, which I think feeds our souls while we’re feeding our own and others’ stomachs.
OCP occupies a nifty little niche in the food web of the community – minimizing waste by providing a place where local growers, kitchens, and organizations can donate their extra food; and redistributing that food to anyone who needs it.
The kitchen at its best is also an educational hub. We learn about different cultures and backgrounds when someone shows us how to make their grandmother’s Virginian chow-chow, or their in-laws’ Sri Lankan curry, or their own tried-and-true Congolese peanut sauce chicken (mmmm!!). We can be introduced to new foods by someone from the county or another country. And through those foods, and the time spent chopping veggies and stirring soups alongside each other, we get a chance to hear the stories behind someone’s culinary knowledge and gastro-history.
We can also learn skills from each other to be used in the workplace or our personal benefit – such as through the monthly Culinary Skills classes, on-the-ground training at the Friday Lunch Restaurant and Night Out, or impromptu strawberry jam canning. Becoming familiar with different ingredients and cooking and preserving techniques – not to mention the physical and experiential wealth contained in that garden out back – increases everyone’s food sovereignty: our ability to provide ourselves and our community with nutritional food, where everyone’s food culture has a place at the table.