Cooking for Charity – A Lesson in Humility

I looked down at my feet. Then at her feet next to me. This picture told the whole story.

Maria, A yoga instructor of mine turned friend, started a charity here which teaches teen volunteers commercial cooking skills to fix plant based meals then delivered by volunteer delivery angels to clients with debilitating illness like cancer, or HIV, or uncontrolled diabetes among others. Maria introduced me to Ashtanga Yoga and somehow persuaded me to practice for several years. Read about my intro to her and Ashtanga here- “Ashtanga Yoga A Primer”

So, when she asked me to serve on her Board of Directors, who could say no? One of her expectations is that Board members come to a kitchen shift at least once a year. Even though I’ve cooked all my life, my first experience last year was humbling. Ok, embarrassing. Alright- humiliating. Multiplying a recipe’s ingredients by 10 or 12 is daunting. 5 or 6 people in a small tight commercial kitchen made my normal klutziness look like having seizures in ballet class. I picked up their last container of lentils by an unclosed top which came loose, turned over, and wasting half of their small amount of lentils left across the floor. I could go on but my ego is whimpering like a crated puppy next to a plate of ribs on a nearby table.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I’m a little more confident because I’ve been cooking everyday as part of my registered dietitians (my Food Parole Officers) “advice” to avoid takeout. (See my previous series of 6 posts outlining my journey with my dietary dominatrix). I walk in the kitchen promptly at 12:30 to Maria’s glowing smile and warm welcome. She introduces me to Sara, Sally and Suzanne who are her “all star volunteer cooks.” ‘All star’ like, “Meet Spider Man, our best amateur parkour athlete.” Or “Meet Maya Angelou, our best recipe writer”. Or “Meet Seal Team 6, our security”.

We divided in pairs to cook our respective dishes. Two women immediately paired off and Suzanne walked over to another station so remembering junior high Physical Ed when I was always last to get chosen to play, I joined Suzanne. Our task- Butternut squash and root vegetable soup. Suzanne offered to chop the butternut squash and other root vegetables leaving me to dice two cups each of mirepoix, (celery, carrots, onions).

Butternut Squash

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to peal butternut squash but it’s the armadillo of the plant world. If its shell was Kevlar. The butternut squash vivisection is so daunting a Google search for videos of how to autopsy the same yields 6,850,000 results. Suzanne starts flaying this squash like Robert Deniro in “Deer Hunter” and I’m glancing over, trying not to amputate a finger dicing celery while getting more and more squirmy over her knife skills. And brute strength. “If your husband goes missing”, I think, “I’m dropping an anonymous dime with Crimestoppers”.

I’m reasonably satisfied she’s not going to stab me for incompetence so I settle in to my mirepoix dicing. (I’m going to stab myself if she butchers 4 butternut squash before I can dispatch some celery, onions and carrots. Then I look down at my feet and see this:

I look next to me, at her feet and see
Clean. Spotless. Boot camp squared away. Perfect. Not a bit of dust

While not as embarrassing as getting violently ill in your bosses marble bathroom at the company Christmas party, it was close. I got the soup started and switched to washing cooking utensils. The other two ninjas had been washing and cooking all at the same time. I left appropriately humbled.

If you would like to hear more about this amazing non profit and it’s sweet mission, see Amor Healing Kitchen. Most of our clients qualify for free meals, and while much of our plant based foods are donated, your cash donations are appreciated and well used. Happy Thanksgiving!

Me and the Boss

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