Sundays are meant to be slow. They’re supposed to be lazy, a small chance to rest after the trials and triumphs of the week gone and to prepare for those to come. I start Sunday with a lot of coffee, a pile of maple syrup covered pancakes on the kids’ plates and a newspaper, sat on the shabby chair next to the window, and I let Sunday meander along, finding its own course. Nobody seems to mind, or to care, if nothing much happens before eleven except newspaper-reading, cartoon-watching and coffee-drinking.
This week, we went off somewhere else at eleven and carried on doing much the same thing, just in a different place with some different people. And somebody cooked us lunch. A really very good lunch indeed.
There’s a community centre in Shipley, Kirkgate Community Centre. It’s been there forever, but I’ve never really taken much notice of it, until it started to host some interesting things such as an alternative market packed with good things, Saturday afternoons given over to building things out of Lego – piles and piles of Lego, a superb record club on Saturday evenings, a film club, a bread group – a chance to learn more about making bread and making it better.
And then, the Shipley Slouch … a pop-up community café, run by volunteers who clearly feed off the buzz of cooking for lots of people, of seeing people enjoy their food. A chance to sit around, talk, read, eat while the collected kids of the community run around, make friends, pile massive cushions six high to climb on top of. This, apparently is the best fun ever.
It’s a wonderful, simple idea, one that has clearly taken hold … fifty people last Sunday, a waiting list for tables … and hugely enjoyable, too. This was the second Slouch, and the first I’ve been to. The first had more of a breakfast orientated menu, which must have been hard work – eggs wait for nobody, and catering for fifty for breakfast out of a small kitchen must have been a complete nightmare for anybody who doesn’t bear the hard-won scars on their hands from working a professional kitchen for years. It went well, though, but this time was different, pushed a little more towards lunchtime, Turkish themed, and clearly easier to manage en masse.
I write a lot about food, and this part is always tricky for me. It’s hard to find adjectives that work, that describe what I think without sounding like one of those awful big-name food bloggers, with their syrupy prose and fawning style. I tend to fall back on Northern understatement too much, and underplay experiences that I’ve fallen for completely. Ask my family – “it’s alright” really means “best meal ever. Ever”. I say all this just to contextualise my thoughts on the Sunday Slouch’s food, and to highlight how far out of character what’s to come is.
I loved it. It was fantastic. Food that had been thought about and planned properly, food that was right for the event and cooked beautifully, food with heart, soul and attitude. A wonderful plate of Turkish food packed with flavour and punch. Two little fritters laced with feta cheese were the single best two bites of food I’ve eaten in months. Those, and a big plate of warm lamb meat, shredded and tender, next to a meze of salads and dips, piled high on a plate to share.
I can’t cook couscous as well as that. I just can’t do it.
There were shortbread biscuits and baclava to finish, pastry layered with all kinds of nuts, made by a local baker who’s trying to build up a little business. The Very Good Little Bakery should do well.
We sat and ate this wonderful food, and talked, and read the papers, and said hello to people we knew, and listened to the folky band do their mandolin and guitar thing, and watched our children play and have fun, and it struck me that we’re lucky to live in a place like Shipley, a place like Yorkshire, because its full of adventurous people who are prepared to build on their ideas and make them happen.
They try, and they take risks – cooking lunch for fifty people is a huge risk – and it works, inspires people to try their own thing, to take part.
And all this builds communities and makes them stronger, in its own quiet way.
There’s more information about upcoming events on the Kirkgate Centre’s website.