Sylvie loved her job. The pay was paltry but the aromas compensated. Now she surveyed the group of restless staff and bereft volunteers gathered for an impromptu meeting. Sylvie groped for words that would be constructive.
“We all love the Quirkery like family. And yes, we do not want it to change. But we need to see this predicament as an opportunity.” The soft murmurs of approval told Sylvie she had struck the right opening note. As she briefly considered her next words, the last two years of culinary memories wafted through the room.
A brilliant chef had founded the Quirkery cooking co-op ten years ago, when she retired from the Culinary Arts College down the block. Miss Beardsley wanted students to retain their first love while enduring the rigors of producing perfectly square chops of onion and chemically correct seasoned broths.
Here was a place for culinary students to experiment and play without fear of criticism and failure. Competition was as fierce as in formal classes, but here it was fun, even including an occasional food fight. Volunteers donated common and rare ingredients, students created amazing dishes without concern for grades, and everyone shared in the bounty.
Miss Beardsley passed away six months ago after 70 decades of creating quirky but fabulous offerings to appreciative gastronomes. Ownership of the co-op quietly passed to a handful of nieces and nephews who loved their aunt’s cooking but did not share her vision. They were social workers, ministers, business owners, teachers.
When the heirs visited the co-op three months ago they were polite but Sylvie was concerned by their perplexed stares at the dough gobs on the kitchen walls and the chocolate smeared counters. The happy chatter about Childs and Beard as students swirled batter and discussed roux was incomprehensible gibberish to these visitors.
Nevertheless, time passed with no consequences and the co-op continued to thrive… until two days ago. All co-op participants who had registered their e-mail on www.quirkycooks.com received the startling announcement of the new owners’ enthusiastic plans to turn the Quirkery into a soup kitchen.
This hastily gathered fan group today was Sylvie’s attempt to bring some sanity to the intense blogging response that had ensued.
“We should acknowledge that Quirkery’s new owners have good intentions. They just have a very different vision than their Aunt did,” Sylvie said. The accepting murmurs started to falter as one by one the participants voiced various concerns.
“That’s fine, but there are a dozen soup kitchens in this community. This cooking co-op is unique.”
“It belongs to the Beardsley heirs now…they should be able to do with it what they want. I think it is a wonderful idea to give cooking students an opportunity to cook for the homeless.”
“They can do that by volunteering at St. Stephen’s Church over on 5th Street. Where else can they go to freely experiment with quinoa?”
After several hours the conversation dwindled into a heavy silence. No one size fits all resolution would resolve this predicament.
Sylvie decided it was time to share her intentions. “I have told the family I will stay on as administrator through the transition for six months, and then assess whether I can incorporate this different vision into my goals, or move on.”
“I gave my two week notice yesterday,” said a staff person. “I already volunteer at my church’s soup kitchen. I’m going to look around for a new direction.”
“I guess I’ll wait and see if students are still able to play with food and experiment with wine,” said a volunteer. She shook her head to indicate her doubt.
A student cried silently before choking out her sentiment. “I live in the dorm. I have nowhere else to play.”
By midnight it was clear that things were changing quickly and the inevitable would happen. Some would embrace the new vision eagerly, some would take a wait and see approach, others would stay and work for compromise. Some would fall into bitterness and drift away, and others would use this predicament as a prod to create an as yet undefined new direction.
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