Twice a week the Edgartown Council on Aging serves a hot lunch. On Fridays, it’s a full entrée, hot and homemade and anyone can join in. This week on The Local Food Report, Ali Berlow visits with the many people who help make it all come together.
Ali Berlow: I walk into the Edgartown Council on Aging on a Friday morning and it smells like home. There are big pots simmering on the stove and breaded eggplant sits on a sheet pan ready to be roasted. Diane Wall is the cook at the Council and she is in constant motion like cooks tend to be in those last hectic hours before a meal is served. It’s that dance of timing and details. Diane and the staff at the Council are expecting somewhere between 30 and 45 people, mostly seniors but not all, they’re coming for their weekly Friday lunch. And they are hungry.
Diane Wall: I always get nervous now. Just like when you entertain at home, you’re always sure it’s going to be awful.
AB: Every week this Council on Aging serves two lunches. On Friday’s it’s a full meal for $5.00. Tuesdays it’s $2.00 for a cup of soup and a sandwich. You don’t have to be a senior or even a resident of Edgartown to eat. Everyone is invited but preregistration helps and is encouraged (because you know, meal planning).
DW: I’ve been doing this now for almost 10 years and it was here before me….almost as a way to get people to stop thinking of a senior center as a place for old people. It’s really a vibrant community. I’m sorry to be moving around but I’ve got to get things done.
AB: All the staff is in motion. Paul Mohair, the administrator of the Council, is busy converting the common space that’s used for everything from mahjong to knitting groups to poetry readings, into the dining room.
Paul Mohair: I really get a lot of gratification out of seeing the people enjoying it and enjoying each other and actually commenting on the socialization and the time they enjoy spending with each other and just chatting and otherwise a lot of them wouldn’t just get out at all. So it’s great that way too and if nothing else they come for lunch. And Diane of course, is all about nutrition and good meals and tasty meals. She makes it all, nothing comes out of a box.
AB: A lot of the fresh ingredients Diane has to work with come from the Island Grown Gleaning program. That’s a network of Vineyard farmers and volunteers that started in 2009 to harvest and distribute produce that might otherwise go to waste. Since it began, the gleaners have rescued around 175,000 pounds of food for all the schools, the senior centers, elderly housing. Where ever it’s needed.
I ran into one of the gleaners in the parking lot. She was dropping off fresh veggies that will be used for the Council’s lunches in the next week.
Carol: Today we gleaned broccoli that I’m taking to all the senior centers and some peppers. My name is Carol. I’m a gleaner.
AB on tape: As well as a distributor
Carol: Yes, it’s a great part of it to do the deliveries because people really appreciate it and it’s just so sweet to see that your work is sort of rewarded in that sense. They’re so glad to see you coming.
AB: And as Diane points out, when you’re cooking with seasonal ingredients:
DW: You kind of have to be ready to go with the flow. It’s always fun to come in and find stuff to cook with. I use what I can and we give away some things if I can’t use them or we give them away first and I cook with what people don’t want so it works a variety of ways.
AB: People are starting arrive. Some come in early to help set the tables, put out cups, the salt and peppers. Jean Bishop gets the coffee cart going.
AB: So you’re one of the volunteers?
Jean Bishop: Yes, I’ve been probably for the last sixteen years down here trying to do something. I mean I don’t do that much but because I got the walker. I really mentally need to do this because it helps me out too.
AB: Diane is ready to serve lunch and it looks delicious. Looking out into the room reminds me how food can weave together so many fundamental things. The gleaning, which is a kind of reverence – sharing and not wasting – and offering honest, hot food, not for profit but for better living and good company.
JB: Her food is always fantastic. I tell you I look forward to it every Tuesday and Friday, it’s usually a big treat for me.
<bell ringing> Bon appetite!
I mean where else can you go and get eggplant parmesan, with soup, with a dessert, salad for 5$? On the Vineyard? I’ve never heard of it. No.
In case you didn’t hear it <bell ringing> Bon appetite!
Lunch crowd: We heard it! We heard it…