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Friday, September 3, 2010

Chicken Soup

I started volunteering at the Chicken Soup Brigade kitchen last week.  My first shift was Wednesday afternoon and I helped package meals assembly-line fashion for an hour-and-a-half (there was a machine with a conveyor belt for putting plastic wrap over the paper food trays), and I peeled potatoes for an hour-and-a-half along with three other volunteers, two of whom had obviously been working there some time.  This was a big, industrial kitchen with seven paid staff who all looked like they were working pretty damn hard, and who seemed cool and friendly.  They make 450 cooked packaged meals and give out 450 bags of groceries per week, tailoring meals and food bags to meet different dietary needs.  The food looked appetizing, and the kitchen smelled great.  When I arrived, the lead cook was slicing fragrant roasted peppers.  We packaged Cajun chicken stew, brown rice, and a frozen vegetable mix, mostly broccoli.  The 160 pounds of peeled potatoes were going to be for roast chicken and mashed potatoes.

I first knew about Chicken Soup Brigade around eighteen or nineteen years ago when I shopped at their first thrift store in the Central District, near where I worked at Seattle Vocational Institute.  I was collecting stock for our future bookstore and storing it in the attic of the apartment building I lived in at the time.  Chicken Soup had paperbacks for 35 cents, or something like that, and I stocked up on clean fiction paperbacks.  For me shopping at thrift stores and yard sales started as a way to purchase books and quickly became the way Sean and I buy (nearly) everything, except for underwear, toiletries, and food.  On one side of the equation, such shopping promotes recycling and thrift, but on the other it's so easy to acquire things in the endless abundance of (slightly used) consumer goods.  We live cheaply, but we're certainly not ascetic or deprived in any way; quite the opposite-- in addition to kitsch and art,  we have three of all kitchen utensils, appliances, and gadgets.   Of course books are the ideal second-hand object, because they can be read over and over again.

Lifelong AIDS Alliance seems like a really good organization to support--besides feeding people, they help with case management, insurance, housing and AIDS prevention.  Lifelong is a big part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood and, lucky for me,  I can walk from home to the Chicken Soup Brigade kitchen in five minutes.

Reading Notes
I finished a book of short stories by Debra Dean titled Confessions of a Falling Woman.  I enjoyed the last story, "Dan in the Flannel Gray Rat Suit," about an actor who wins the role of a lab rat in a photocopier commercial.  I've also been reading Germaine Greer's The Change:  Women, Aging and Menopause.  I'm curious to find out more about Germaine Greer - I understand she trounced William F. Buckley on his own show, as he admits himself.


  1. Volunteering is such a great way to meet the community. I do so in a very small way. I drive a friend who is a senior citizen to the food bank every Wednesday. I've made many friends with the volunteers who manage the Food Bank here on Vashon.

  2. peeling potatoes? mashed potatoes with the peels taste better and have more nutrition...