I don’t have a thing to wear…

8 Comments

I am going to be on television.  It will be a fleeting interview about a subject I feel very passionate about but I am now starting to sweat the small details.  Can I remember not to curse?  Will the 10 lbs the camera adds make me look like a beached whale?  And what the hell do I have in my closet that will help me not look like a road beacon or a clown?

I am that much of a self-professed nerd that I actually Googled what to wear on a TV interview.  It was actually quite helpful so I’m glad for my nerd-ish tendencies.  The cursing is another subject, all things considered, but I’m certain I can hold it together.

One of our local news stations is coming up to Muskoka to do a brief segment about the Crockpot Freezer Meals I have been organizing for our local food bank.  The news personality coming to do the interview actually did a four-day challenge to eat only the food provided by her local food bank and her struggles were palpable, to say the least.  She photographed her meals along the way and the results were far from appetizing.  There is only so much you can do with processed, no-name pasta, canned sauce, tuna and canned fruit.

I have always loved cooking.  Perhaps I have taken for granted my access to fresh meat and vegetables, but this project has made me truly value my good fortune and my goal is to help create some of the same good fortune for those who struggle through the winter months.

Our town is very seasonal with respect to many things and jobs are at the forefront of the shortages.  And some families who may find success in the booming summer months are left to visit the local food banks in the winter months to help supplement their supply of necessary items to make it through the tough times.  That, to me, seems egregiously unfair and the reason I began http://www.gofundme.com/dollarsfordinners

dollars-for-dinners

So, regardless of whether I look like a street clown or Shamu on a good day, I will face those TV cameras.   I will tell my story of Crockpot Freezer meals in hopes that other communities may recognize the possibility of doing the same thing in their small towns.

It takes a village, not only to raise a child but, to empower a community so we can all say we were an active part of making it a success.

 

The true spirit of giving

4 Comments

This afternoon I received an email from a stranger.  It read:

“Greetings from Dwight.  We were touched by your wonderful crockpot idea to help your food bank. We have decided to make a donation on your Go Fund Me page instead of buying gifts for a few family members.  Thanks for helping Muskoka families in need.”

Over the last couple of weeks, some friends of mine who are very supportive of Dollars for Dinners have been mischievous little elves and have contacted some local media outlets to share the story of our crockpot meals for our Food Bank.  I can only guess that this lovely woman heard the story on the first radio interview and contacted the station to get my information.

After I wiped the tears from my cheeks, I smiled.  What a wonderful gift from one family that will help create meals for several other families who are struggling.  That is what the spirit of the season is about.

the-salvation-army-red-kettle-bell-ringer-11302015

(image credit)

But when the holiday season is over, when the Salvation Army bells fall silent, when the donation Kettles are gone and the spirit of giving seems to be packed away with the extra wrapping paper and bows, that is the time that we need to remember those families who need our help.

The end of the holidays does not signify the end of the hunger or the need for a helping hand.  We need to keep the true spirit of giving alive and well and keep that glow in our hearts, the glow you can only get from helping others, burning all year long.

 

 

Goooood moooorrrnnning Hunter’s Baaay

8 Comments

Cooking has long been a passion of mine.   From the early days of watching my dad create things from a variety of ingredients in our fridge to my culinary classes in college, cooking has always been something I love to do.

I have spent my fair share of hours, and overtime hours, working in the food industry.  I have watched cooks and Chefs prepare anything from a simple crudite platter to an Amuse Bouche of Mousse Foie Gras with a Cognac foam.  I am not ashamed to admit it, I am a “foodie”….so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when my love for cooking and my enthusiasm for helping people collided into a serendipitous explosion.

chopfest2

Dollars for Dinners is a project I began about a month ago.  I took an idea that began as a simple gesture for a friend last year and evolved it into a new way of getting real food into our local food bank.  With the help of many friends and many donations, we are creating Freezer Crockpot meals that allow families to have a home-cooked meal once or twice a week made of REAL food and not just packaged, processed ingredients.

Over the last week, some friends of mine have been sending this story to local media outlets.   I have done live interviews with two radio stations, one of whom has done a food challenge to eat the food supplied by their local food bank for a week, sent my story to a third radio station and am in communication with a television station that may be interested in my project.  The best part of all of this news and social media coverage is that I have a friend who has recently said that she is interested in doing this same thing in her community.

This is the reaction I wanted.  I want more communities to realize that this is a process that simply includes donations from its members and a few volunteer hours to make a huge difference to families in need.  I am not looking for my fifteen minutes of fame…..I am merely looking to everyone to give fifteen minutes of their time to help Food Banks offer healthier and tastier options so families don’t have to survive on the things we only stock in case of the Apocalypse.

 

The Church of the Fish

2 Comments

Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for a Chef, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

church of the loaves and fishes

(image credit)

According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And that latest hotel guest, that new addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress in our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!

Get lost

4 Comments

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 ~~

There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.

I lead a very fortunate life.  I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy.  I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive.  Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand and in a way I felt I was best able to help.

There is no set of standards for helping others.  There is no rule book, no guideline and no complex set of algorithms.  It is a simple equation.  Time + Effort = Results.   And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.

freezer meals

A small group of people, including myself, spent a little over two hours of our time a week ago Sunday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for deserving families in our community.  It was two hours out of our Sunday.  We chatted, we had cocktails and we laughed.  And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference.  We created meals that will allow people to, not just feed their family during a tough time but, feed their family a home-cooked meal made with real food.  And next Sunday, and maybe every Sunday this winter, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the families we are trying to help.

If I can subsequently find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time.  I go to bed with a tired body, but with a full heart. And if my journey has taught me anything, it is that life is not defined by what you have.  Life is defined by what you give.

Getting the green light

6 Comments

The lodge where I am employed is closed for the season, our quaint little village resembles more of a ghost town with a few tumbleweeds rolling down the main street and the silence at night can be deafening.

But in these times of serenity, behind the doors of seemingly empty kitchens, a group of women and men are readying themselves to wield sharp knives and give even Gordon Ramsay a run for his money in the chopping department!

Our small group of devoted volunteers meet for a couple of hours over a couple of weekends to create crockpot freezer meals to help a few families who may be struggling, for whatever reason.  Last year, it was a young family who had lost their home in a fire just after delivering twins.  This year we are doing our best to spread the meals to a few families and not just one.

crockpot

There have been a few hurdles along the track to finding these families but the ribbon at the finish line is getting to be within striking distance.   Although the meals are being prepared in an inspected and certified kitchen, many of the choppers have not taken a food safety course, so there was a question as to whether the food bank was going to be allowed to accept our donations.

The joy of living in a small town is that you can literally ask your neighbors if they know of any families who could benefit from our knife skills and they will immediately give you a list of names.  And I have recently discovered that, as long as the meals are labelled with all ingredients (which they are), the food bank will give us that long awaited green light and accept the meals – so the only thing left to do is shop and chop!