Notes from…the community kitchen?

Categories:Ideas, Space
Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
Keep Out

I had a short, but good conversation with a local chef the other night at a party. I jokingly asked him when he’s going to start a restaurant in Three Rivers, which I’m sure he gets a lot. Turns out, it’s his dream (in retirement?) to start a free restaurant: customers will enjoy healthy, expertly prepared food in a beautiful setting and pay what they can. Turns out he’s also considered Huss as a location. “This is exactly the kind of project we want to see happening there,” I told Rob. It’s so ridiculous, it just might work–which seems to be a running theme.
So during our board meeting last Friday, when board members scattered throughout the school to read and reflect and pray, I ended up in the room where we’ve imagined a community kitchen. I could hear dogs barking through the broken windows and an occasional “ploop” as water dripped through the roof and into a plastic bin. A red and black sign on the window reads PEEK TUO to me, but to those who “should” be on the outside, KEEP OUT. I long for the day a sign can sincerely say, PLEASE COME IN. Sitting on the formica-topped desk that is the detritus of an institution that no longer serves this neighborhood directly, under a roof that’s determined to sag in all the wrong places, that day feels very far away. And yet, it doesn’t feel impossible. A sink in the corner reminds me that this room was once alive, with a controlled flow of water–that substance that is such a critical source of life.
In this room, hope is being able to peel the paper off the windows because we want people to see what’s inside. Hope is a rooftop greenhouse where children and adults alike can learn how to grow fresh food year round and be nourished by the fruits of their labor. Hope is a vision of abundance for those in this neighborhood who rarely set foot in a kitchen because there’s simply no food there to cook, much less eat. Hope is a multi-colored image of people from various economic backgrounds sharing conversations over a meal that satisfies all five senses. Hope is as small as a drip of water that, beyond our efforts can become a rushing stream…and hopefully, it won’t be coming through a hole in the roof.
God help us.

Author:
Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.