The ache in my belly as I arrive to work at 6 am is not from hunger. It is the unsettling emotions that flood my soul every time I walk inside the warm building while passing the young woman wrapped up in her sleeping bag, laid across the freezing cement sidewalk, snuggled up against the cold glass doors. She lays in the same spot where only a year and a half ago another homeless man was stabbed to death. A man just as kind and innocent as her. The reality of homelessness surrounds us, as encampments form only to get removed, and shelters are overflowing with new members of this displaced population.
What can we do? Such a giant problem with many unknowns. All I can say is, we are all given gifts, talents, and skills… use them. My passion to cook has led me to cooking school, not only for my palate’s gratification, but also so that I may serve others with the gift of food. Not just any food (frozen, canned or boxed), but food with spirit and love. Food that uses time, thought, and skill to evoke emotion on a plate.
I will never forget cooking two winters ago for a homeless group seeking shelter during a “code Blue” (freezing temperatures) night. I made my grandmother’s recipe for “Papa’s Rellenas” (Peruvian Stuffed Potatoes) and asparagus soup. The people we served were so grateful and polite. One woman shared with me that she was reminded of her mother’s stuffed potatoes and she smiled. To tap into a person’s memories and emotions with food is a gift that I hope to continue to share with others.