Soup and Bread

Soup & Bread TV, Episode #2: Common Pantry

Well, Soup and Bread TV has only been up and running for three weeks and true to form I am already behind!

Episode #2, an interview with the exuberant (still, even now) Margaret O’Conor, executive director of the Common Pantry in North Center, aired (“aired”) June 10 on the Hideout’s streaming channel, but you can watch it anytime on the H/O YouTube page.

I wanted to interview Margaret because she has such a force to what she does; her energy is contagious even when, as she notes, she is working sixty-hour weeks. Common Pantry is a very small operation, run out of a few small rooms in the basement of Epiphany United Church of Christ at the corner of Damen and Grace. It is Chicago’s oldest continuously operating food pantry, engaged in food redistribution for the past fifty-three years, and offers a traditional food pantry for perishable and nonperishable groceries, a hot meal, senior home delivery, and a produce day. All of this has continued through the pandemic, just with new protocols in place to ensure social distance, etc.

In March Margaret got in touch with me because she had an overwhelming amount of produce to get rid of, and had no space to store it. I took a vanload of it off her hands and with the help of Pete Ternes at Middle Brow Bungalow, set up shop on their patio. For several hours one sunny afternoon we distributed bags of Common Pantry produce to suddenly out-of-work, slightly stunned looking hospitality workers and all sorts of other passersby. (A writer for Good Beer Hunting happened by during this and wrote about it.) The rest of it I channeled to Jessica Romanowski, of Care Kitchen Chicago, featured in Episode #1.

Margaret and I had a wide ranging conversation about how their work has adapted to meet the challenges of the pandemic and the stay-at-home order. We chatted on May 29, as protests against the killing of George Floyd and the national uprising for racial justice were just gaining steam—which has included an outpouring of community food relief all over Chicago—were just gaining steam. The whole conversation is here:

Like all such organizations, Common Pantry relies on the goodwill and labor of volunteers to keep things running smoothly; for a recipe, Margaret provided the guidelines for a black bean dip created by one of CP’s regular hot meal volunteers, Jeff Bowman. Jeff hadn’t been able to volunteer during the shutdown, as he was in a high-risk category, and last week Margaret texted to let me know that, quite suddenly, he had passed away in his sleep. She, and I, are very grateful to be able to share this, his lasting contribution to the Common Pantry effort.

 

Hot Black Bean Dip
By Jeff Bowman

jeff bowman iayn 2018 aThis is a loose recipe, with infinite variations (add olives! green onions!), but here’s the gist, straight from Margaret, who says, “I challenge anyone watching to head into your pantry and find a can of black beans. Crush them, put them in a baking dish, add a little cheese and any other items you want.” Green chilis, are good, or olives, green onions, you name it. Add spices — maybe cumin one week? Or salsa and red pepper flakes another? Bake it for …. who knows? Let’s say 20 minutes until it’s hot and gooey. Serve with tortillas or chips. Thank you Jeff, for this gift.

Posted: Friday Jun 19,2020 08:57 AM In Soup & Bread TV

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