Dinner is at The Table
By Sue Van Slooten
I started working July 2, 2014, the day after Canada Day, at a local community kitchen named The Table, in Perth, ON. Actually, it is much, much more than just a community kitchen: It’s a food bank, gardens, an after school place for kids, provides advocacy for those in need, and yes, hot meals three times a week. That’s where I come in: Every other week on a Friday afternoon, I come in to volunteer three to four hours to help get the night’s meal on the table. Meals are also served on Mondays and Wednesdays. Menus and recipes are developed by Chef Judy Dempsey, a renowned chef in this area, and her recipes are simply, well, fabulous. There are a number of us who form a team to assist Chef Judy, and we come in to help get everything ready, served, and cleaned up. Currently, Chef Joanne is taking over for Judy on Fridays, as she has another Table event now on Thursday evenings, Dads and Kids (see photo).
The folks who come for dinner are a varied group: Seniors, students, young families, singles, a broad cross section of ages and stages. The meals are open to anyone who’s hungry, for any reason, such as not being able or knowing how to cook, low income, homelessness, drug issues, disabilities, it doesn’t matter. All are welcome. And what a fabulous group of people it is too.
Meals consist of a main course, such as a hearty soup or stew, a bun or biscuit, and a salad. There is a meat option, as well as vegetarian, and gluten free is accommodated when possible. Salads can be either fruit or veggie. Everything is made from scratch about 95% of the time by my experience, often with fresh vegetables either out of the gardens or from local farmers. The chive biscuits are not to be missed, and Judy’s salsa, ah, you’ve got to try it. Coffee, tea, and ice water are always available, the coffee custom blended for them at a local coffee company. (A $1 donation goes to the Table when you buy a pound.) If someone can’t finish their meal, we provide containers for them to take home and enjoy later.
The absolute joy of working at the Table is the people. And lots of fun. Make no mistake, this is a lot of hard work, as you are hopping pretty much the minute you walk in the door. The jobs you do range from chopping and cleaning to washing dishes to serving, but it’s all great, (although putting the sign board out is a bit heavy). We prepare enough meals each of the three days to feed anywhere from 50, to 107, like we had a short while ago. When I started, we would have thought 80 was a lot. The dining area seats about 48.
Everyone is very friendly, helpful, and supportive, not to mention educational: My knife skills, well, let’s just say under Judy’s tutelage, have improved immensely. It is also rewarding to hear all the positive comments from our patrons about the delicious food, and how much they’ve enjoyed it. Oh, and did I mention we usually get dinner to take home? We do, and I greedily keep it all to myself!
The Table info:
190 Gore St. East, Perth, ON K7H 1K3