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The Bridge: It’s All About The Planning 0

With cookbooks scattered all around me…I carefully craft, what I think will make a perfect dinner for folks who will stand in line under the bridge tomorrow night waiting for a plate of food.

There is always a great deal of planning that goes into a trip to the store to buy food for the homeless. It takes a little ingenuity to feed 150 hungry folks on a budget of less than $150. Money isn’t flush, and if I have to take cans back or cash in loose change from the glass pickle jar on the dryer…well, that’s just what we do to make this meal possible.

In two hours I can be in and out of the store, gratefully unloading my purchases and stacking all the ingredients on the counter. Big, huge cans with their labels proudly displayed, all the parts of the sum, the elements [if you will] – just bursting to mix and mingle, and create!

I grew up outside of town a bit. Not a long ways out of town, but far enough to feel like I lived in the country.

Gramma baked bread on Thursdays. In the summer there was always a berry pie cooling on a rack on the counter … and you could be guaranteed to find an assortment of frozen homemade cookies waiting to be discovered in the freezer. Waiting for company of course – or when dad had a sweet tooth after dinner.

I come from homemade candy at Christmas time, and fresh squeezed lemonade in the summer.

Dad worked until dark, and dinner was called supper.

We canned every kind of vegetable, meat, fruit, and jelly known to the “meat and potato eating generation”. And here’s what I learned…Food creates an emotional reaction. Food, prepared deliciously (and with love)…was powerful.

Standing back from my fixings to get a better look…I absentmindedly twirl a loose hair around my finger. Lost in thought, I’m trying to build a good vision of what I’m going to create; I see the cobblers coming together first. Tonight before I go to bed, I’ll pop them in the oven and get the smell of cinnamon and peaches wafting through the house.

Before the sun comes up I’ll be whipping together dressing for coleslaw and chopping onions and garlic.

The fridge is bursting at the seems with food

Hamburger, twenty pounds of it anticipating greatness…patiently waits on the glass shelf of the refrigerator.

Stacks of butter peer through a clear drawer at me as I gently wedge bright green cabbage into a corner of the vegetable crisper.

Closing the fridge, I plop myself down on the freshly washed kitchen floor and mentally go through the steps of putting together “hot turkey buns”. In my mind, I watch the dough rise under the towel on my sunny kitchen table as I go about the business of cutting out biscuits, and assembling the sauce for cowboy casserole.

Adding details to the vision in my mind…I expertly make my way through 30 pounds of yukon gold potatoes, peeling, slicing and dicing…my hands are a blur of activity.

No time to waste, as my vision deepens I eyeball the clock.

The clock and I always do a precarious dance on Wednesdays. You see, I have to be out of my house (with my husband Jim, who has just rushed home from work to help us serve), and headed for the bridge to feed the homeless no later than 4:15pm. Most Wednesdays the day starts early. The smell of coffee fills the kitchen, and I sit down to a big whiteboard and write out the schedule for the day.

Lately, I’ve had amazing people come to my house and help me cook. I must be organized and ready for them by noon. There’s always a bit of chaos when you put a bunch of folks in the kitchen together…the more organized I can be…the better.

I briefly allow my mind to play a video of the day as it unfolds – feeling the feelings of love for all these people we cook for. Knowing this may be the only meal they eat that day.

In my mind…I watch as the apple crisps slide into the oven at 7:30am.

Hamburger will be sizzling in the frying pan at 9am sharp. The spicy aroma of onions and peppers cooking in another hot pan on the stove — clash with the sugary smell of apple crisp in the oven. It’s delightful. The heat builds along with the fragrances and soon the kitchen is alive.

Leaning back on my hard kitchen floors, hugging my knees to my chest I glance up at each recipe that I’ve taped directly to the cabinets. I have written the names of each of my helpers on the recipes so they know exactly what to do.

In my mind, everything goes perfectly.

Piping hot peach cobbler oozing with lazy buttery sweet syrup. The warm apple crisp with its brown sugar oatmeal topping calmly rests on the counter.

Cheddar cheese, all brown and bubbly, stretches out on the top of my cowboy casserole, as I pull the large pans from the Traeger grill. The whole house takes on an air of expectation.

Satisfied with my plan, I heave myself up off the floor. Grabbing a notepad, I make a few notes – important things I surely won’t remember in the morning.

Tomorrow, it all comes together. Tomorrow the stove will be working over-time and the mixer will be giving me everything it’s got. Smiling faces will arrive to partake in this event and the whole house will fill with love.

Times a wasting. There are belly’s to be fed.

Here’s the menu for the bridge – 5pm Wednesday, June 6th.

Ham and Cheese Bake
Cowboy Casserole
Turkey Buns
Hot Dogs
Peach Cobbler
Apple Crisp

I look forward to seeing all my volunteers! And if you’re on vacation or out of town…no worries, we’ll see ya next time.

If you’d like to donate and support our efforts we’ve made it easy!! Click the link to send us a few bucks. https://www.paypal.me/wipgirl

My heart is full tonight. Thank you to all of those who donate their time to help us serve under the bridge…and thank you to those who have previously donated to our cause. Your kindness and generosity are what make all this possible.

With that – I’m off to get the cobbler going!

Jennifer Montgomery
“Everybody Eats On Wednesday”

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