Monday, May 25, 2009

Chicago, Emmaus and Food

I notice that I write a lot about food. However, food is important. We break bread with friends, we have special foods for special occasions. During our worst of times it is food we most worry about. It is the greatest of gifts in the form of the Eucharist.

Well, that is all true here. It marks the neighborhoods and peoples I have spent time with. It unites us, the guys and the volunteers and staff at the Ministry ‘Center. It is a bridge during out reach, it unifies at the Kiao Community.

During out reach I have seen us connect by buying sandwiches for the folks who are seriously hungry. They do not ask for snacks. They ask for the biggest sandwich with the most meat and cheese they can get on it. They want it to sustain them as long as possible. I haven’t seen an out reach worker act superior by giving the guys food. Instead I have seen the workers feel privileged that they were around at a time when they could help their brothers.

The Ministry Center has many functions. However, my favorite is to unite us all by sharing a family-style meal together. I have cooked for all of us three times. I made a garlic-chicken and cheese meal, a thanksgiving meal with turkey and Korean beef. All of us workers and volunteers take our turns cooking. However, I am most impressed with the guys cooking. They are creative and disciplined. They get here early. They prepare the food, they set the table and they are here for the clean up. They are great cooks.

We sit around this long table and we share food and stories and jokes. We share hopes and fears. This is family.

At Kiao we each take turns making the meals. Tuesday is Kiao night. That includes the meal, prayers and discussion. It is a great night. Nicole made a Mexican meal, I made pastas and Brandon made wonderful wraps. Tomorrow we will all find out what Chris has planned for us.

Food triggers our memories. I had a thin slice of Chicago pizza and I felt like I was back in 1968.

I had a Chicago hot dog and knew I was experiencing hot dogs as they were meant to be.

Food is a way to experience other cultures and boy did I do that. While here I had:

Mongolian beef, I love it. I first had it, in Uptown, in the 1970s!

Ethiopian food, by far my favorite. I love the presentation of the food, I loved the flavor and I loved the people serving the food. I want more!

I had West African food. I ate Ogbono (a kind of chili mix with spicy greens and goat), and Fufu (a porridge made from cassava, a starch. It was rolled into a ball, you then mix it with your other foods for flavor. It takes the place of potatoes, pasta or rice). The food was very hot and very good

I had Lebanese lamb curry and I licked my fingers

I had a variety of Ukrainian foods starting with borscht and including blintz and sausages

I had Norwegian open face sandwiches, cakes and cheeses and I felt like I was a child at home

There so many other foods I could have had. The city is full of wonderful restaurants, cafes and out door vendors.

Occasionally food and space are both special. That was certainly true when I was eating Norwegian food at the only Norwegian speaking church in the city.One exception, in which the food was not that special but the setting made all of the difference in the world was the Rock and Roll McDonald's. We used it during outreach. Our guys used it. It was a great break with a great and unique look. Two stories of modern furniture and settings surrounded by interesting scenery outside.

Finally, I shared a meal with my niece and her family. It was great to be around the familiar to be with family. Erica is a great cook. The food was simple, shrimp and salad but it was good.

So, yeah, I talk a lot about food. However, it sustains us, it unites us and it makes us smile. So please, pass the bowl, I want seconds!

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