Say cheese

I've had a hard time convincing our camera-shy kitchen crew to stop working long enough to take their picture, but managed this week.  I neglected to tell them to "say cheese" but they smiled anyway - they're a pretty jolly bunch.   Had I thought of it I would have told them "say mac and cheese" because that's what they were preparing for the night's meal.  On the table you can see about a dozen platters of macaroni and Grace is holding a big bowl of grated cheese to be added.  Ahhh, mac and cheese: I couldn't imagine a more comforting meal on a wet, chilly spring day, except perhaps the ham dinner the week before, or Rose's fabled meat loaf the week before that or ... well, I think all the Community Meals are comforting.

By the way, I was curious about the origin of the "say cheese" expression and what words people might use in other languages to encourage smiles, so looked online  and wikipedia (sometimes a reliable source) lists the following:

Bulgaria: "say cabbage"
China: "say eggplant"
Denmark: "say orange"
Iran: "say apple"
Spain: "say potato"
Sweden: "say omelette"

Interesting that these are all foods.  Maybe that explains why the kitchen crew is always smiling.

Try it, you'll like it

Whenever someone asks about volunteering, I usually suggest they drop in and attend a meal as a guest to see firsthand how things work, feel the atmosphere, see who comes through the doors, listen to the conversations around the dozen plus dinner tables, see firsthand the good works of the Community Meal.  And, of course, enjoy a tasty meal served up with a smile.

A couple folks from Richmond Presbyterian Church (No. 2 Rd and Granville) who I knew as volunteers from the St Alban Extreme Weather  Shelter asked about the possibility of their church serving one night as a group.  I said sure, so they did and found it to be an enjoyable and enriching experience, so have signed up for a total of five nights this year.

Welcome, folks.  Glad to have you part of our Community Meal team.  By the way, in the photo below, two people from the Church also volunteer at the shelter at St Alban and two volunteer at the Food Bank, so a very caring and active bunch.

Sad realities

One of the sad realities of our fair city is that perfectly good homes are being demolished, trucked away to the dump and replaced with opulent boundary busting megahomes.   This has fueled skyrocketing housing prices and has also fueled some resentment towards those held responsible for these trends:  wealthy offshore buyers, specifically from China.  This has resulted in a common generalization that Richmondites of Chinese origin are wealthy.

From my observations at the Community Meal and out in the streets of Richmond, this generalization is wrong and an example of another sad reality.  Sure there are loads of Mercedes with Asians at the wheel, but I also see loads of elderly Chinese folks riding bicycles, some loaded down with empties they've managed to scrounge.  I see Chinese men and women delivering newspapers and flyers, I see them get on the bus loaded down with groceries.  And I see them line up at the Food Bank and at the Community Meals.

I've taken the opportunity to chat with some who join us at the Community Meal at St Alban.  

One of our regulars is a woman with a young daughter  and when I saw her last week I asked how her day went.  She said she's looking for a job and hopes to find work in a food court or restaurant.  She's a single Mom who lost her job a while back and her EI has run out.   But she hastened to add that she and her daughter are happy -- you don't need much money to have a good and happy life.

A young family that just recently started attending the meal from China and the father has found work but not in his profession.  He's trained as an Engineer but has found work as a production worker in a factory for not much more than minimum wage.  He doesn't like his job, but needs to keep it to provide for his family.

It's tough being a newly arrived immigrant, struggling to speak the language and adapt to new customs, but it must be especially tough to arrive in a country, with no job and very little money and be faced with a local population with the distorted view about Chinese and wealth, some who even question their presence at a Community Meal.

All are welcome at our Community Meal and that's one of the realities that makes Richmond a great place to live.