Not Pete Seeger’s “Little Boxes,” but rather, cereal boxes…, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you what happened.
Not only do I cook here at Simply Bed & Bread for our B&B guests, but on Mondays, one can find me at The Community Table here in Chestertown. A free meal (with requested donations from guests who are able to give) for the community at one of the local churches, The Community Table really is what it was designed to be: a place for people to come together to share a meal with those they wouldn’t ordinarily find around their own tables. Diverse across many lines, it’s a happenin’ place where some very cool things occur. I find when I keep my ears and eyes open, I can learn a lot.
A new piece of information might come from Gloria and Jeffrey, retired librarians, who seem to know pretty much everything, from cooking around the world (with all kinds of tips for those of us in the kitchen) to the name of a drummer in a music group from the 60s. John, who’s always got a tune on his tongue, serves up practical advice by just doing what’s in front of him with the pot on the stove, since before he was retired and in the kitchen at First United Methodist on Mill Street, he was serving up suppers for firemen on Long Island. And before that, he was a butcher. So the man knows meat. And don’t be fooled; he knows a lot of other things, too. And these are just a couple of those in the kitchen. I love hearing pieces of their stories as conversation flies around, and sometimes, with the light-hearted banter, other “meat” is served up – like yesterday.
I had my gloved hands in a giant stainless steel bowl filled with flour. Another of our regulars was sitting at the end of the table where I was, so because he’s quiet and I’m not, I was asking him questions about himself and he was answering. Everyone else was quiet. Well, you know how one things leads to another and we started talking about cereal boxes, those cute, little ones that must’ve come out in the 60s, called “variety packs” – wonderful, cellophane-wrapped boxes of Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, Lucky Charms, along with the kinds no kids in the family wanted, like Raisin Bran, because it didn’t have as much sugar, and since one of our volunteers had brought in some left-over ones from when her grandkids visited, we had some on the give-away table for guests to take. So we started reminiscing about our memories connected to these pre-packaged portions of yumminess. Growing up, our small family of 4 didn’t have very much, so we didn’t hardly ever have these variety packs, but every now and then, we did. And so the love contained in those little boxes has stayed with me all of these years. One said that her grown son had said that it was one of his favorite memories from going to his grandmother’s house when he’d been a little boy. We all had something to say, including our quiet volunteer, Fred (whose name has been changed to protect his privacy). He simply said, “There were 10 of us and there wasn’t much.” Little boxes of individually packaged brand name cereals would’ve been impossible to have been found on his breakfast table. And it hit me squarely in the face what I was seeing, and learning: privilege. We in that kitchen had all grown up privileged. All but one. It was another friend who said that seeing something through someone else’s eyes makes you see new things in a way not possible otherwise. She was right.
No cereal here at Simply Bed & Bread (unless especially requested), but since it’s “all in the presentation,” hopefully guests receive the offerings of cereal lessons..