Friday, March 27, 2009

Cooking at a Manhattan Soup Kitchen

At the risk of sounding pious, the best thing I’ve done this year was spending two hours yesterday evening in a church hall kitchen on the Upper West Side. Along with a friend, I cooked supper for a group of great guys at a soup kitchen & homeless shelter.

As we arrived the recipe and ingredients were waiting out for us: minced beef, onions tomatoes and seasonings to make Sloppy Joes, corn, salad stuff and oven French fries. It didn’t take long, and we doled it out from big cauldrons to the long line of men, before washing up and tidying the kitchen.

In one corner of the room, screened by a floor length curtain, camp beds were set up with sheets and a pillow. By each was a plastic chair and, when we left, I could see a small bag or backpack resting on each seat. That was all the possessions most of these men had.

I had been expecting a group of street people, but what we got were normal guys in Levis and sweatshirts. Sure, some had obvious learning difficulties, but for the most part these were just average Joes who were down on their luck. It was a chastening experience. In this economy all one can think is there but for the grace of God go I.