It’s a rainy and foggy Friday Nashville morning. The day brightens as I enter The Nashville Food Project kitchen, greeted by committed volunteers, Joyce and Marirae. The space is full of joy. On the menu: fish tacos, slaw, and sweet potatoes.
Every Friday, Joyce and Marirae work together to cook a meal to share with the residents of Vine Hill. One would think this pair has known each other since college, but after talking to them, you learn that their story starts here, in the TNFP Kitchen.
Joyce: Marirae and I met right here in the kitchen at TNFP when it was called Mobile Loaves and Fishes. We met about 6 years ago.
Over the years, the two have had various others join them on the weekly Friday morning cook sessions. Now, Joyce and Marirae cook together every single week and deliver that meal at least once a month.
The stories of how they joined the TNFP family are different, yet still bring them together for the weekly cook time:
Marirae: My story’s a bit funny. I joined a group of “food people.” One of them had a party at their house. I noticed a letter addressed to Mobile Loaves and Fishes (ML&F). I kept seeing the trucks and thought, “I want to do that”. After asking around, someone put me in touch with Tallu, and I began volunteering! In the meantime, this transitioned from ML&F to TNFP.
Joyce: I go to church at Woodmont Christian. After retiring from my regular day job, I had some free time and knew I wanted to volunteer here and work. I talked to Tallu about it, and here I am.
The kitchen gets warmer as the sound of sizzling oil in the pan starts to fills the room. When Joyce and Marirae are not at TNFP, they are very busy running their own businesses. Joyce is self-employed in accounting and rental management while Marirae is a personal chef that cooks and delivers healthy food. They make the weekly commitment to serve others in spite of their busy lives.
So I asked them: What is it that brings you back? What is your favorite thing about TNFP?
Joyce: My favorite thing about TNFP is working with Marirae.
Marirae: Working with Joyce, and I love the vibe. I love feeding healthy food to people instead of “junk.” I love Tallu’s good spirit, and everyone that works here is kind.
As the meal progresses, I watch the two move around the kitchen, working seamlessly to complete the meal in time. There is a calming flow to them that allows me to interview them all without being in the way. They begin putting the fish tacos together.
According to the pair, they “party like rock stars” when they have free time. They go on double dates with their husbands, go out to lunch, dinner, and see each other a lot. In fact, during the interview, the pair made lunch plans for that day!
Watching their cooking rhythm is mesmerizing so I asked “If you describe your cooking rhythm in a music genre, what would it be? Could it be fast like Hip Hop or slow yet upbeat like Jazz?”
Marirae: We have comedic rhythm.
Joyce: We laugh a lot.
Marirae: And I swear a lot!
Laughter and the sizzling of the tortillas continue throughout the small kitchen as I leave. Joyce and Marirae continue cooking, as they have done together the past several years. The happiness within their friendship is evident, and anyone that enters the kitchen can feel the joy. It’s enlightening to learn of a relationship that began at this organization and has been cultivated ever since. We could all stand to be a little bit more like these two.