Poem by Céleri the Clown performed by Barbara Rufo from Coop Interface, presented at the RCCQ’s 25th Anniversary Convention, May 31, 2016. The poem is a kaleidoscope of words inspired by the first plenary meeting and sewn together in a thoughtful tapestry.
We rise early in the morning to discover sensitive and beautiful souls. Women with ladles and men also busy in the kitchen who, despite mislaying their glasses, lose neither their heart nor their head.
We come together in a circle to share about our favourite things and achievements. Senior members in the middle, newer members on the outside learning and supporting while also sharing with those in the middle who energize and are energized. The singing starts in the manner of the first nations where each gives a pearl of the necklace of precious things that are held and of which one is proud: I love my family, I love others and I want to cook for the pleasure of being together. The sense of community is important to me, especially when combined with solidarity, mutual help, sharing, fairness and trust. It’s so much fun to have easy recipes that I cook with passion so I can be autonomous and share my knowledge in a spirit of comradery and generosity, with a little dash of kindness. Feeling real affinity and affection for the group leader because it’s fun, yes, but also because of all the favourite things shared, and shared so much that it’s hard to find news ones. We don’t just gather, we also make new friends, from here and elsewhere, from near and far, but always close to our heart because collective cooking is open to everyone. It’s a form of creative networking and a way to say no to the scourge of capitalism. And never forget to laugh, and laugh three times if you want to…even if democracy, empowerment and popular education are serious matters and we want more of these, as a way to grow, alone or collectively, while discovering one another and acquiring new knowledge, with respect and good cheer. So we come to the table to rise up to the challenges we face. At the regional table, of course, because we are always stronger together, and we take the opportunity to express our affection for our director! We also take advantage of every opportunity to help one another and increase our social awareness so that we can navigate the twists and turns of politics and the economy. At the same time, we help break the isolation and we promise to always be there for you, whether in the forefront or the background, spreading human warmth across Quebec and around the world.
Distance can also be an issue, because sometimes, when too great, we can’t find the ingredients for our recipes. You could call it a dietary desert. Imagine if you had to go all the way to Rivière-du-Loup or the Îles-de-la-Madeleine? And if you took the bus to go gardening or cooking collectively, then you had to leave with your plastic container and everything. It’s not at all practical! There’s a complex system at play with many societal questions and lots of talk around education and the environment, not to mention public transportation. I have a friend who brings her brother, but he doesn’t know much about cooking. So just start by just enjoying the food and good company. And even if you’re financially secure, you are still welcomed with open arms. That’s the difficult part. Making people understand that collective kitchens are not only for the poor. Take my mother, for example. She just likes to be around people, especially since her husband is no longer there, and if she had been told that she was taking the place of someone in financial difficulty, she would never have participated.
So let’s be bold. And let’s get organized in a way that we can do more than just respond to emergencies and help people make ends meet. Let’s create solidarity markets where people can eat healthy, organically and locally. And while we’re at it, let’s do away with the junk food that poisons us and all that packaging that clutters the planet. We want to get closer to the land and plant gardens to increase the food autonomy of everyone. Let’s contribute to the new food guide and keep advocating for a real food policy, until it becomes so unavoidable that we will be the number one force to be reckoned with by the government. We can pressure the government to get its act together to start reducing our ecological footprint, while we multiply the number of collective kitchens and make them available everywhere – neighbourhoods, schools and universities. And let’s advocate for the return of popular education, which would go a long way to stamping out hunger. Let’s not be afraid to see the RCCQ as the leader in food rights, good budget management and the redistribution of wealth until a minimum income is guaranteed. Then everyone can enjoy a descent standard of living and be certain to meet all their needs. And families can get informed and enjoy the solidarity of forming buying groups, because good health is not a luxury. While we’re on the subject, the RCCQ could become a one-stop organization for collective kitchens as a whole to ensure their access to core funding and subsidies, and help them become more autonomous and retain their freedom to act. All they have to do is choose a spokesperson who would work to have collective kitchens in every municipality. And while taking the time to dream and thinking of the UN, WHO and UNESCO, let’s dream even bigger!
If, up to now, I have chosen your words to reflect on the morning, let me offer you some thoughts of my own. I have been involved in the community sector for more than 20 years, from the inside as an activist and the outside as a consultant, but, I still find you unique: you are sensitive and respectful, committed and passionate, accessible and not complicated. One truly feels that what you are fighting for makes sense. And it’s good to know that, at a time of competition and austerity, there’s a refreshing oasis of hope in the fight against poverty and an oasis that promotes solidarity from the land to the plate, from the outermost regions to the Island of Montreal. And it acts with empathy, conviction and generosity. I came with the intention of playing the clown to entertain you, but it’s my tenderness you have elicited. May your light continue to shine brightly and ever stronger across Quebec and far beyond, like a rainbow of infinite happiness.
Céleri the Clown says thank you and best wishes!