I help to run a cooking group at Covenant House’s Male Crisis Program. Each week we pick a recipe, round up as many participants as we can and head down to the kitchen for some cooking. Often the youth suggest recipes they want to learn how to make and we do our best to make it happen. This week however, no one had made any suggestions, so we decided to teach everyone how to make chili.
Jon, who had never come to a cooking group before was immediately interested. As soon as we got into the kitchen Jon asked if he could make his family’s bannock recipe to go along with the chili. Jon had spoken about this bannock recipe in the past and of how much he missed eating it and how it reminded him of his family. I told him that he was more than welcome to make the recipe, but that I have never made bannock before, so he will have to teach everyone how to make it.
I have always encouraged young people to express themselves in the kitchen and take the lead when they can as I believe it fosters a joy for cooking and gives them back an element of control in their life. Control is often one of the first things to disappear when living on the street. When you are alone, homeless and poor, you often have no control over your safety, where you will sleep, where and what you will eat.
When I told Jon that he would be in-charge of teaching everyone how to make the bannock, he beamed with happiness and sprang into action. He pulled out his recipe with a big smile and started organizing the other youth to help him. As he was mixing everything, the other youth were eagerly watching him. A few young people who were also First Nations had grown up with bannock and were so excited to be making it again and learning a new way to make it.
Jon described all the steps as he was baking, such as how much water to add, what the consistency of the dough should be like, and how to knead it. When the bannock was all baked and ready, Jon cut it up into pieces and gave some to everyone at cooking group, making sure everyone got a piece. He even portioned off pieces for people who did not attend cooking group so they could taste his creation.
You could see he was so proud to have made it and to have taught everyone. Jon, who often struggles with depression and anxiety was a beaming pillar of joy that night and well into the following day. It goes to show how a simple act of giving someone control over a seemingly insignificant task could have such a profound impact on them.
Shared by Jesse, Youth Worker at our Crisis Program