Located in the heart of Middlebury, Charter House provides free community meals seven days a week throughout the year, as well as housing and sheltering services throughout the winter months. Charter House is a multifaceted organization with a number of moving parts and divergent programs that, when woven together by a number of hardworking individuals, fit together to provide a beautiful, largely self-sustaining service for our community. As the intern this summer, I’ve had to opportunity to engage with the people and processes that make our programs run so smoothly.
The majority of my working hours are spent in two locations: the garden and the kitchen. Charter House has two sizable organic gardens that serve as a sustainable, nutritious base for our community meal programs and are used to teach environmentally responsible farming and food preservation techniques to volunteers. In addition to manual work of my own, my job involves coordinating volunteers to help plant, tend, and harvest the thousands of pounds of produce that we grow throughout the summer, ranging from lettuce, tomatoes, onions, summer squash, zucchini, garlic, carrots and kale to beets, broccoli, cabbage, and more!
Then, in true farm-to-table fashion, I get to use these harvests within our community meal programs. Throughout the week, I help prep, cook, and serve meals to the 40-50 guests that we receive on a daily basis. Our home-grown veggies serve as healthy (and tasty) complements to the wide variety of dishes that we have donated to or make onsite at Charter House. Our guests are always well fed—we never say no to seconds and are always happy to package additional food in take-home containers to keep our guests nourished throughout the day. And still, there’s always enough food for me to grab a plate and be able to sit, eat, and talk with our guests, which honestly is the best part of my job.
I’m extremely grateful for the fact that my summer intern experience thus far has been so comprehensive, and I think a big reason why I’m having such an incredible time is because the people and processes that I’ve become acquainted with are teaching me practical skills and down-to-earth realities. It’s hard to capture the full scale of the lessons I’ve been taught and the ways in which I’ve been impacted within a mere sentence, and so, instead, here is a list of just a few of the things that I’ve learned thus far:
-Zucchinis can grow up to the size of a small child if you neglect to pick them for too long.
-Sometimes it’s easier to let the dishes soak and come back to them, rather than scrubbing incessantly to get them done right then and there.
-Sometimes you’ve got no choice but to scrub the dishes incessantly to get them done right then and there.
-There is an exponential relationship between the amount of responsibilities that you have and the number of emails coming into your mailbox.
-When using a rotary tiller, you’ve got to be submissive. It knows how it wants to till the ground, and if you try to make it do what you want, it will show you who’s boss.
-It’s great to follow a recipe, but, to me, cooking is an improvisational process.
-There are times when you should talk, times when you should listen, and times when you should smile—and the frequency of those actions should correspond with that order.
-Sharing a meal around a table is truly an equalizing experience and food is one of the most satisfying ways to make people happy.
– Doug Wilson ’19