Tag Archives: common ground community

Dinner Time at Common Ground

It was another culinary adventure at Common Ground Community. My middle child, Chef Zoe’, spent the entire day with me to provide this week’s meal.The rain kept a lot of people home, but we fed around 90 from the community plus all of the volunteers.

I dunno where the 70 pounds of pork loin went, but I’m sure there were a lot of full bellies.I’ll be serving up spaghetti for lunch tomorrow while my wife, Heather, coordinates a sort of mini VBS for the neighborhood children.

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In the Kitchen

Do you love to dance, sing, write, sculpt, paint, or debate? What’s your favorite way to express yourself, creatively?

(I have to thank the staff at The Daily Post for triggering Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ in my brain.  This will confound me for a couple of days just like when ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ by Cher was unleashed.  Well played, Daily Post.)

 

My favorite way to express myself is through cooking. Who doesn’t like cooking? Apparently a lot of people. My mom was a good cook. I say was as if she is no longer among the living. She is a good cook. I usually get to enjoy her food around Thanksgiving.

Around June, she will ask me what I want to eat. Since we stay three days, there is room for more than turkey. Chicken and dumplings usually hit the list. So do pork chops, egg salad, seafood dip, and whatever else I can get her to make. Still no salmon patties.  I may have to resort to threats.

The short order cooking adventure is always surprising as my mom hates cooking. She despises it. As long as I remember she has always hated cooking. I never watched her cook. I never learned her techniques. This skill is mostly self-taught.

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Black Eyed Peas I made for the Thursday meal at Common Ground Community. The neighborhood along with homeless people from the area come to eat and worship.

I believe I mentioned couch surfing for a couple of years. My friend who lent me his couch was also kind enough to let me watch him cook. I watched. And watched. When I got tired of watching, I watched some more. That’s all I ever did there. I remember I was allowed to stir gravy a couple of times. Woohoo! Actually, I was really jazzed. It took me years to get the gravy just right. It’s simple to make, but it is more art than flour and oil.

Sixteen years later, my fanaticism has only grown stronger.  Yesterday, my wife told me that she lost the three pounds that she gained from my recent cake spree.  She likes my food.  I have friends who take phenomenal pictures who will shoot my food in exchange for a meal.  This would be a bad trade if I made them a pan of Hamburger Helper.

The past two years I have spent volunteering with Mercy Chefs, and now I have finally decided to try my hand at catering. Hence, the name Cater It Forward.  We have a long way to go on, well, everything.  There is a lot more to this business stuff than slinging hash.

Making an income is secondary. The original plan was, and still is, to cater to raise money so I can afford to deploy with Mercy Chefs. The organization is 100% volunteer. This business can help earn gas money, hotel accommodations, airplane tickets, whatever I need so I can serve others through Mercy Chefs.

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Cajun pork loin, rice pilaf, corn and a layered brownie thing. This was one of the meals served in Colorado.

This organization has been to Africa. I went to  with Mercy Chefs. My good chef friend was in the Philippines recently to provide aid.

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On Nehemiah Vision Ministries’ compound just outside Chambrun, Haiti.

Am I starting to sound like a shill? Sorry about that. With all of this cooking, I think of that 80’s drug PSA.  Or was it the nineties.

“I do coke. So I can work longer.  So I can earn more. So I can do more coke.” Cue the sad trombone:  Wah wah wah waaaah. The infinite cocaine loop.

I cook. So I can serve others. So I can do more coke cook. It’s not perfect, but I hope I was able to illustrate my point.

(Featured image was a result of bartering food.  My good friend Josh shot the image).

Feeding the Masses

I am spending my day at Common Ground Community (CGC) today. CGC is a faith-based organization and It’s quiet as I’m the only one here. This evening will resemble a three ring circus with kids running loose and parents being ministered to by our volunteers. I’m in charge of tonight’s meal.

I guess I’ve been volunteering here close to three years. I typically volunteer to create supper one Thursday a month. I think volunteering here and with Mercy Chefs are what helped me become comfortable with catering. It’s only a fledgling business and I’m not looking to make millions, just enough to contribute to our household so we can finally melt that debt snowball.

Most people who come here don’t know who I am or what I do. I like it that way. I hope they came for Jesus, but I’m sure many just come to get some of their basic needs met.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to volunteer here as my wife and children have told me that on several occasions, they have heard people whine and disparage my food.

They hear this while serving the members of this community. I ignored what they said for a couple of years and kept making things like spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, BBQ chicken, and homemade bread. Along with the main courses were various sides and desserts. I usually don’t go all out on the sides, but the main courses and desserts have always been from scratch.

A couple of months ago, we were short handed. After I was done in the kitchen I went to serve meals. We serve cafeteria style to feed everyone quickly. That night I heard many negative remarks and only one positive remark. I’m not here to boost my ego, but I hope all of my effort is well received. I’m wasting everyone’s time if nobody wants to eat it.

After this experience, I looked back on my experiences with Mercy Chefs I served in Kenner, LA after a hurricane, West, TX after a plant explosion. (I think that was a feed plant.) I even spent time in Colorado after last year’s flooding. We have served thousands of meals and I have never heard anything negative on any of these adventures. There was only gratitude. Again, this isn’t about some pity trip I’m on. I’m just making observations.

I believe that the victims of disasters are so grateful because they just lost everything. The people I encounter in this neighborhood are victims of the system.

This system encourages government dependence. This system holds very little value for dads or for families with both a mom and a dad. This system encourages thug life where eight year olds try to act like their favorite hardcore rapper wif diamonds in their teefs.

Granted, there are many who come here and are struggling to raise their children properly. To raise them to have respect for their elders. To raise them to have respect for themselves.

Society as a whole can get locked in a groupthink mentality where they think it is best to throw money at the problem. To give handouts. CGC, a Bible believing organization, now appears to be transitioning from a handout system to one that encourages the individual to help himself. I’m not a fan of clichés but in a sense, to give a ‘hand up.’

Since hearing feedback firsthand for the food I expended so much love to prepare, I’m in a sort of transition. Maybe I should cook something more fundamental. Last month I made Hoppin’ John, a dish consisting of blackeyed peas and rice. Today, I’m making pinto beans and rice. Don’t worry, I’m going to have cornbread, too.

I still expend the same energy shopping, chopping, and cooking. These beans are going to taste out of this world, but for now, I’m offering two basic meals that we enjoy every week at home: beans and rice and rice and beans.

I can feed them today, but I hope they find the Bread of Life where they will never hunger again.