Letter to a Sister – Lunch Club

How was your week? I cooked at Lunch Club. Usually I make a syrup sponge, but I thought I’d try something different this week, so I used tinned pears instead of syrup and added some ginger to the sponge mixture. I was a bit worried about cooking tinned pears – they might have turned to mush in the oven. It was okay. I thought it was a bit lacking in taste, tinned pears are a bit bland, but it wasn’t horrible, which is the main thing. I might try marmalade next week.

I cannot tell you how much I dislike cooking dinners for large numbers of people. However, Lunch Club is something special, and I always come home happier than when I went, even though it’s also really hard work (as you know – I believe you told me that if you ever agree to help again I should shoot you!) This week the ‘kitchen team’ were mainly men, ranging in age from about 65 to almost 80. That says it all really!

Each week we produce a healthy meal for forty people, and they pay £3:50. Some weeks we are an efficient productive team. Other weeks I feel like I have wandered on to the set of a Dad’s Army film.

I am by far the most stressed member of the team. Maybe when you have lived through a war and survived, it seems less important if the potatoes don’t cook on time. I am also the bossiest. The kitchen is inspected regularly for hygiene, so we have check lists of things to do. I am always nagging people to wash their hands ( even if they have just washed them when they used the loo, they have to wash them again when they reenter the kitchen.) They now tell me whenever I see them, “Yes Anne, I washed my hands.”

Whoever is cooking buys the food, then arrives at the church early to start preparing. Gradually the rest of the team arrive, some by bus, some via ‘Dial-a-Ride’ and some walk or drive. Everyone is pleased to see each other, so it’s quite a social time. It’s also the time when we hear about ailments. The team are mostly not young, so it’s not coughs and colds – they will quite casually mention that they “had a minor stroke in the week” or “had bit of a heart attack so had to call an ambulance.” I am always amazed how they seem to take in their stride, to carry on with life as soon as they feel well enough.

They also laugh a lot. At some point, before the ‘oldies’ arrive (who are actually no older than the team some weeks) we have a quick prayer. This is always more enthusiastic when I am the cook (need all the help we can get!)  When I got there this week, one of the team had rolled up his trousers to show some injury, which led to a general discussion of scars until I called them to order and suggested that we should get on with praying. Slightly worried as to where the conversation might lead. Like I said, I am the bossy one.

This week one of the church members popped in with his little boy. The oldies love to see children. They are, I have noticed, quite competitive with how many great-grandchildren they have. I can’t really chat to them when I’m cooking (too busy trying to not burn anything.) But when I’m not the actual cook, I love listening to them, they have so many tales about growing up during the war, living in a world that has changed so much.

I love how enthusiastic they still are, how they will arrive excited that dog-racing has started in the next town, or there’s a new club they can join, or even a new knitting pattern has arrived. Their obvious enjoyment of life makes me realise that growing old doesn’t have to be scary, there are still deep friendships and loud laughter. Especially laughter. Friday lunch times are always some of the happiest, and most exhausting, hours of my week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

PS. Going on a trip to Poland. Never been there before.

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