When I was five I was confident I knew where my life was heading, where my talents would lie. I remember telling my mom that I was going to be a bus driver….or a waitress. At 17 while choosing colleges I imagined where my life would take me and I was sure that my calling was to help others and to care for the sick. I was going to be a nurse…until I remember that blood made my nauseous and needles scared the crap out of me. Upon graduation from college? I was going to change the world from the top – I knew I was destined to be a mogul. And at 27 I realized how happy baking made me.
I don’t know why this was such a revelation. I grew up in the kitchen. One of my first memories from childhood was from when I was four or five. I was kneeling on a kitchen chair so that I could reach the counter and I was helping my mother make homemade noodles. In another early memory we were making divinity – that sickly sweet candy of sugar, egg whites and pecans – for the holidays. And I have a scar right here on my chin from the night I was trying to look into the electric skillet to see what my mom was making and I got just a bit too close. My mom and I have always bonded over cooking. The recipes she taught me are some of the same ones her mom taught her. On weekends we’d bake cookies or brownies. We’d make dinner together – Chicken and broccoli au gratin. Mostacolli. Boneless skinless chicken breasts, pan fried until they were crispy, served with canned green beans from grandma’s garden and homemade mashed potatoes.
In fact, I don’t remember not knowing how to cook. It’s always been a big part of who I am. So it wasn’t until I became part of the Holy Covenant family just over a year ago that I realized that not everyone just shows up with a plate of scones and hopes someone will want to eat them.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. I should go back to about four and a half years ago when I realized that baking was what really, truly made me happy. When I’m mixing batter or have my hands immersed in dough I find my happy place. I forget about my stress, my sadness, my fears and I get lost. In January of 2007 I took the biggest risk of my life. I signed my life away to Sallie Mae and went to pastry school. It was an amazing experience. I realized that not only did I love baking, but I was good at it and an externship taught me that although I’m quite capable of handling the production requirements of a small bakery, I’m not quite sure that I want to handle the egos and personalities that come with it. After graduation I walked away from a profession in the culinary world but I felt lost and guilty – like I was selling myself out. I had been lucky enough to realize what made me happy – what fulfilled me – and I was walking away.
Fast forward back to that January day in 2010 – almost two full years since I’d left the culinary world – when I showed up at Holy Covenant with a plate full of scones and asked timidly if it was ok that I’d brought them. My world hasn’t been the same since then. Bringing those scones was the first step for me to become more involved with Holy Covenant. Between bringing homemade treats for hospitality and participating in the first “food group” small group, it didn’t take long for me to realize that not only was baking my passion but that sharing my talents and feeding people was indeed a ministry.
Holy Covenant helped me to realize that by doing what I’d always done I show people that they are loved. By taking the time to prepare cookies or to share a meal, I am helping to live out the mission of Holy Covenant. It is this place; this community that showed me that by feeding others I am sharing God’s love. Through my involvement here I’ve become more aware of opportunities; of ways to share my skills and passions with others in spite of the fact that I’m not working in the culinary industry. In fact, the people I’ve met and the ideas that have been shared here at Holy Covenant have helped inspire me to truly think about the ways I can use this passion, the impact I want to have on the world and how I can make the world a better place.
I can start a non-for-profit bakery that not only creates tasty treats but also teaches job skills to those people who are deemed otherwise untrainable or unemployable like the homeless, recovering addicts, and ex-cons. I can help rehabilitate others, while sharing my gifts and God’s love. Every day things and ideas are re-imagined in my head. As food trucks gain popularity I can’t help but think “ How awesome would it be to make a profit selling something during the day to all of the workers in the loop like say, and then reinvest the profit so that the truck could do double duty – bringing fresh meals to the homeless across the city.” While I’m not in a position in my life to undertake either of these lofty goals right now, these are ideas that keep me inspired.
In the meantime, I’ve started to focus on what I can do. Last April I started investigating different volunteer opportunities including working with Cooking Matters, an organization that teaches low income kids, teens and adults how to cook nutritious and affordable meals. While waiting for a session to occur that fit with my work schedule, I began to feel restless. Everywhere in Chicago there are hungry people. What can I do now? I began investigating programs that fed the homeless and came across The Night Ministry. The Night Ministry is a non-denominational organization that serves the homeless by providing support services such as free healthcare, housing assistance and supplies via an outreach van. The Night Ministry does not feed their guests but rather reaches out to volunteer partners to serve meals alongside them. I’ve organized two events in which I’ve recruited a small group of volunteers to prepare a hot meal for the guests at the Wicker Park stop. We set up on a folding table and serve all who come by – right there on the sidewalk. For about sixty dollars and five hours time, we serve a hot meal to a group that otherwise might not eat. Never have I embodied the spirit of the “Change the World” portion of our mission statement as I do when I stand on that sidewalk, serving soup made with love and chatting with the guests. Not only do I get to do the things I love – choosing a recipe, grocery shopping and preparing food, but I get to live out the ideals of Jesus. Here I am, feeding the lambs, taking care of the sheep and feeding the sheep; taking care of those who are unable to care for themselves right now, knowing that any day our situations could be reversed.
Some people don’t believe that one person can make a difference in the world. I believe that one person can set forth a chain of events that can change the world forever.
I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t know if I’ll ever cook professionally or if I’ll run that not-for-profit bakery or food truck. I can tell you what though, I will continue to make sure I reach out to those around me and pass along both my love and God’s love through food.