Friday, May 24, 2024
May 24, 2024

‘Heart and soul’ goes into Gabriel’s Kitchen

By Marcia Jansen

Driftwood Contributor

A growing mix of Salt Springers gets together every Thursday to cook and share dinner at the All Saints by-the-Sea Anglican Church. Gabriel’s Kitchen is an initiative from Kajin Goh and the Chuan Society and is named after Gabriel Bonga. Bonga, who died in a boating accident in 2020, fed members of the community through his Stone Soup program in Peace Park for several years.  

“Gabriel was a good friend of ours,” said Goh. “This is a tribute to him. In the five years he served soup through his Stone Soup program in Peace Park, he didn’t miss a single day.” 

The first dinner of Gabriel’s Kitchen happened at the beginning of October 2023, with a Thanksgiving potluck. The project has been growing ever since.  

“We started at the Gulf Islands Families Together building with 40 people and now we’re at 65,” Goh said.   

Gabriel’s Kitchen aims to move from food insecurity and scarcity towards food sovereignty and abundance. Through a collective model, local farmers and growers, concerned community members and others can connect through a framework which infuses the act of nourishment with social meaning and relationships.   

The initiative is a welcome addition to the food program at Island Community Services, who estimate Salt Spring Island has one of the highest homeless populations per capita in B.C.  

“It is significantly different from a so-called soup kitchen; I like to call this a relational kitchen,” said Goh. “The project emphasizes sociality and connection as a vital aspect of eating. Building community, fostering relationships and nurturing mental wellbeing are the extended aims of our kitchen. There is a lot of stigma attached to poverty, but when you actually talk to people and hear their stories, it changes the perception.”   

A mix of different people comes out to eat and cook together every week.  

“This is a place of radical inclusion,” said Christina Chua, another council member of the Chuan Society. “We see people that live in a shelter, live-aboard-dwellers, people who live in tiny houses and don’t have access to a full kitchen, but also families with young children and single people who like to eat with some company. Everyone is welcome.”  

Every dinner there is a rotating crew of 20 volunteers who cook, set up, serve and clean up in shifts. Often three or four courses —  soup, salad, a main course and dessert — are served and once in a while theme nights are happening.  

“You pay a lot of dollars for this kind of food in a restaurant,” said volunteer cook Keith Delaney. “People put their heart and soul into these dinners.”      

The long-term vision for Gabriel’s Kitchen is to one day run as a daily operation on a permanent site.  

“Until then, we run our kitchen weekly in the fall, winter and spring,” said Goh. “In summer we will have change of pace with community BBQs and burgers in the park.”  

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