April 7, 2022, 9:00 PM

Day 6 - A Bread Pudding Moment    

On April 1, the day Cheryl and I left to come to Poland, Cheryl’s sister Linda brought the most humongous and delicious sandwiches to Albany Airport that I have ever eaten. I ate that sandwich for two complete meals and I was so grateful to have it, especially when our plane was delayed and then we missed the connecting flight. We had no time for dinner. It was full of the wonderful flavors of roasted vegetables, fresh mozzarella cheese, and a pesto mayonnaise. Doesn’t that make you hungry just reading it? That sandwich was a true gift.

That’s the kind of sandwich we are making for the people who are crossing the border into Poland—memorable, rich, flavorful and calorie-heavy for the journey ahead. Food is love, food is hope, food is medicine.

So today was HAM day. Ham-a-lot! Ham-tastic! Ham-a-delic!! Yes it is very ironic that a woman who never eats ham spent a good six hours in close contact with ham of all kinds.

First we had a marbled ham that looked like it was actually attached to the pig only yesterday. It was smoky smelling and beautiful to look at. Each sandwich got three slices of this beautiful ham.

Then the Chef yelled out: “Meat people. We’re changing out the meat!”  We started doling out pepperoni,  but now 10 slices per sandwich, arranged in a circle. This was a much more complicated arrangement. And maybe it sounds kind of silly to you, but it really mattered to us and we needed to get it right because people were depending on that sandwich.

And then we heard “Demo!” Which meant that we all needed to stop what we were doing and gather to watch the newest arrangement of a ham product—salami this time. Six pieces and stacks of two each arranged in a triangle shape on the sandwich.

Maybe this sounds ridiculous, but we worked so darn hard on that ham line. We are both completely exhausted today. The work is so specific, and we have to work as quickly as possible while the chef follows us and encourages us. 10 solid hours no sitting down except for a half hour lunch break when the chefs prepare some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

Can we talk for just a moment about the bread pudding? I have never in my life eaten bread pudding as delicious as the bread pudding that they served us for lunch today. This is part of the big vat that you will see Lucy making in one of my pictures. It was warm and custardy and buttery and so extraordinarily delicious. When Cheryl took the first bite of her bread pudding, she held out her hand and she said “Everyone stop talking!
I’m having a moment with the Butter Bread!”

But they hadn’t made it for us. They had made it for the people who are coming over the border and we got to share some of what they were receiving. That’s what made me even happier. I knew how good this was going to taste to people who might not have had a meal in several hours. I knew how good this would taste if they were spending the night on one of the 700 cots in the Tesco center. I knew how special the spread was and how it was supposed to create a feeling of well-being, and of fullness that is hard to find when you are running from your own home.

As I made the sandwiches, I think again of the sandwich that Linda gave us, that wonderful, heavy two-meal sandwich, and I work harder and faster and harder to make my sandwich as much like the one that Linda gave us as I can.

I don’t know if you were getting bored of reading this blog but I still feel compelled to tell you more stories about the chefs who are volunteering their time, and about the well-known people who are donating their time in order to help others. In the past week we have met the head chef for President Macron of France. Cheryl worked alongside Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and so enjoyed her company without even knowing who it was. Cheryl just kept telling me how funny Jess was. One of the head chefs from the Food Network show, Chopped, Marc Murphy, is leading the Kitchen this week and has been at Przemysl since it opened at the beginning of the conflict. A lovely musician named Lucy Woodward is donating her time. You can listen to her music on Spotify or any music app, and she was one of the backup singers for a Rod Stewart. She’s the one stirring a huge vat of bread pudding. Today Cheryl and I also worked next to a film producer who lives in Italy.

So I also want you to know that there is joy in all that we are doing. Even our car ride has become a gift to us for now. We are experiencing so much joy in the midst of all this exhaustion. We are meeting so many new, compassionate people, and working on a team with the best volunteers.

So what are some of my specific joys? Prayer time with Cheryl in the car on our way to the Kitchen every morning. Every single reflection we read sounds like it was written with our two names at the top of the page. This is part of today’s reflection “God, help me to serve your children and embrace my purpose from a place of security and trust”. Isn’t that crazy?

I have also come to cherish Cheryl‘s friendship and feel very grateful that I’m traveling with her. We are both joyful as arrive at the Kitchen every morning to greet Alina, a young Ukrainian woman who heads up the volunteer corps and whose family is still in Crimea. We are loving lunch with the Gang, our fellow volunteers who share their stories and their reasons for coming to serve at the kitchen. Talk about holy ground! And did I mention that bread pudding? 

This morning Cheryl shared a great song with me that was supposed to ease some of the heaviness we still felt after visiting the Humanitarian Welcome Center last night, and I’ll end by quoting some of the lyrics. I’m loving it because it uses a forbidden word in Lent – hallelujah. I got such a kick out of these lyrics:  “Yeah I’ll be singing Halle-hallelujah, whether you like it or not”.

Well we are here serving in Poland, and we wake up singing hallelujah and we go to bed singing hallelujah because we are grateful that God has brought us here in order to see and to serve and to bless and be blessed. And so my friends I will end with this: Halle-hallelujah and I don’t care whether you like it or not, because we have to keep singing and we have to keep laughing and we have to keep serving. Today may seem like a Good Friday day, (war will do that) but I promise you Easter is coming!

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,