As a cook for a Motley Crew that serves the homeless in Uptown, I have come across a lot of recipes that I’d never eat. They include Indian curry using beef scraps from an Italian diner. I’d always be afraid I’d find a pinky ring in the scraps…still attached to a pinky. Then there’s the recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts for three hundred and fifty, which means leftover over Brussels sprouts for two hundred and forty nine. Then a recovered addict shared the recipe for “Shake n Bake meth”, which I won’t be making ever.
But my favorite new recipe is for something I’ll never eat, but will definitely make.
These lumpy socks are heated until they are toasty warm, then are distributed to the residents of Uptown’s Tent City on cold nights.
The assorted tube socks, argyles and knee highs are picked up each afternoon by a few humble guys at JPUSA.org and reheated every night. Many Tenters have written their names on their socks, to make sure they get their favorite knee high or argyle bed warmer.
I joined these guys on Friday –the first snow fall of the year –and the experience was magical.
David, one of our kitchen’s dish washers, faithfully brings leftovers from our meals to feed the assorted folks of Tent City. He smiled when I showed up in my raccoon hat and cooler full of socks.
“Hey, everybody,” he hollered, “the socks are here!”
It reminded me of the scene in Wizard of Oz when all of the munchkins came out of their homes to meet Dorothy. The curious and cold came out of their tents, bundled up in colorful Chicago Bears caps, homemade scarves and layers of last year’s coats.
“This is Ginger. She’s the woman who cooks for you.”
Their eyes lit up, “You’re the cook?”
“Yes, but today, I made you socks. Trust me. Don’t eat them.”
My eyes got teary as they rushed to meet me. One woman–about the size of my mother–gave me a hug. Maybe she’s the one who eats the Brussels sprouts. Her leathery face was dwarfed by a Sherpa style knit hat.
Finally, a stocky woman with a short blonde hair hobbled over and plopped down on the cooler.
“Sorry if the crew is a bit cranky, but we are out of money for necessities,” she chuckled,“Mainly cigarettes.”
Her humor warmed melted the snow. “I’m Laura.”
Laura is the unofficial mayor of the village, her short yellow hair reminiscent of Billy Idol’s in the 80’s .
“Are you hungry?” she asked. “We just got a donation from a Mexican restaurant.” She pointed to the open containers of assorted salsa lined up by her tent. “It’s pretty good.”
Tent City wasn’t short on food that night, they were just hungry for acceptance.
It’s sad how society judges them by their zip code–or lack of it–as if we are all realtors for Century 21. I started to think of all of the people who I interact with everyday–the cashier at Target, the weatherman on the news, authors who I read– and how I know squat about where they live. I couldn’t tell you if Dr. Seuss lived in a house like the Cat in the Hat or in a box with a fox. Or the guy on the news with the Doppler Radar–I don’t know if his house has drafty windows or if he lives in an igloo. But when it comes to those who live on the streets, their home is their measuring stick of worth.
And that’s our loss.
I left Tent City feeling blessed and with a new favorite recipe.
And here it is:
ONE ORPHANED COTTON HEAVY SOCK (preferably one where the grains of rice cannot poke through)
Two cups uncooked rice
One small cup water
- Place the white rice in the sock.
2. Tie it off so the rice can not come out.
- Place a small cup of water in the microwave along with the sock (to add moisture to the heating process).
- Heat three to five minutes until hot. The rice will retrain heat for several hours
Share it with your coldest friends!