What is more important; friends around the table or food on the table?

According to Carol Kihn with the Delburne Family and Community Support Services, participants in the Cooking with Seniors 55+ program identify the socializing as more important that the meals they take home.  This was a surprise to Carol who originally created the community kitchen in response to the absence of a meal delivery service like Meals On Wheels to support isolated seniors. In Carol’s words she” Put her thinking cap on”, considered the resources of the Village, got a grant from ARPA and launched CWS.  The group meets on the same day each week to socialize, plan and cook.  

The session begins with icebreakers like trivia, word games or giant crosswords so the participants get to know each other. Then the group plans a meal, determines healthy eating discussion topics, and cooks.  The coffee is on the whole time and hanging out is encouraged.  

The group has explored cooking childhood favorites such as perogies, cabbage rolls, butterscotch pie, latkes, chocolate pudding cake and apple crisp, always a favorite. Making bread and buns is mandatory (as in strongly valued by the participants) and the men who are part of the group are enjoying making bread for the first time.    

There have been many delightful, perhaps unexpected, outcomes from this weekly program.  The participants have enjoyed it so much they have furthered their exploration of healthy food by planting and tending a community garden together.   There has been the joy of discovering the support of the local community: businesses, grocery stores and farms are stepping up with generous donations of food.   The new friendships begun in the kitchen are gathering steam between cooks as the participants meet for coffee and potluck lunches. The following comments by one of the participants catches the magic of how friendships grow from working together. 

“‘Cooking for Seniors’ has just ended and it was Fun! Speaking from a senior’s viewpoint, it not only gave me the opportunity to meet some new people, but to also get to know some longtime residents – people I only said ‘hello’ to on the streets. Lots of recipes were shared and made into delicious meals to take home.”

“There were usually 10-12 people (men and women) in attendance each week, and we all had jobs to do – peeling and cutting up veggies, mixing and measuring dry ingredients, cooking at the stove, washing dishes and cleaning as we went along – everyone. busy, with lots of laughter and teasing.”