Building on the Traditions of Communal Food Preparation

By late fall, The Working Centre will welcome Maurita’s Kitchen into its array of Community Tools projects. Located at 66 Queen, Maurita’s Kitchen will offer a facility for:

  • processing harvest from GROW Herbal
  • offering natural food cooking and canning workshops
  • offering food safety training sessions
  • expanding bread making opportunities
  • preparing retail food products to be sold at the Front Window at 43 Queen
  • assisting new small food entrepreneurs

Maurita’s Kitchen will compliment Working Centre Urban Agriculture projects by providing a certified kitchen for processing, learning and gathering around food projects. These projects include:

  • GROW Herbal Gardens: Offers volunteers a half-acre garden of therapy, enterprise and training to maintain it. The GROW garden produces quality culinary and medicinal herbs, seedlings, herbal related products and herbal crafting workshops.
  • Queen Street Bake Oven: A wood-fired bake oven located at Queen Greens Community Garden in downtown Kitchener. The bake oven, built by The Working Centre, with a grant from ACE Bakery, offers baking workshops, pizza days, bread baking and community use. Volunteers contribute as bakers and fire builders.
  • Kitchen Community Garden: This one-acre garden grows bushels of fresh organic vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers for St. John’s Kitchen. Located on a farm, on the outskirts of the city, the garden provides a unique opportunity for patrons to participate in the work of growing food.
  • Whole Food Box Community Supported Agriculture: The Working Centre has supported a 50 member CSA food box program, supporting local farmers and providing a wide selection of seasonal, organically grown produce at affordable prices. Members participate in canning workshops, farm tours, workdays and more.
  • Youth Mentorship in Urban Agriculture: This summer up to 12 youth have participated in a training experience funded through HRSDC to learn first hand about organic market gardening, herbal gardening and herbal product development, and artisan baking and food preparation.

The Working Centre’s urban agriculture projects have as their main goal the teaching of the food cycle. As Wendell Berry makes clear, too few of us know where our food comes from or the way packaged food products are prepared. Through these different projects, we offer the combined experience of growing and cooking food. These two are usually separated but they need not be. Urban agriculture creates many opportunities for individuals to participate in the art of turning soil, compost and seed into vegetables and the art of preparing fresh vegetables and grains into delicious meals.

In a similar way, there is a gap between the hard work and skill necessary to produce food and how little that work and effort is acknowledged. Our society is poorer when it forgets that the food cycle is mostly a labour of love. Even if most want to ignore such labour, one of the most basic human means is digging up soil, adding compost, seeding and nurturing that plant as it grows. At the heart of communal celebrations are people coming together to prepare feasts that are served to all. Community builds from the traditions of food preparation that the many participate in.

These are the traditions and hopes that we bring to the establishment of Maurita’s Kitchen, a community kitchen that will build on the communal nature of food preparation. We are pleased that the name Maurita’s Kitchen comes from Maurita McCrystal, The Working Centre’s Board President for 15 years, who passed away after a two-year illness with cancer. For Maurita, social justice was ensuring that St. John’s Kitchen could serve a meal each day and that those looking for work or with few resources would have a community-based centre that would provide support and assistance.

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