This is not Food TV! This was my first reaction to a question about cooking at Mary’s Home! While some girls are naturals, and many of us brag about our one-of-a-kind, best family recipe—mine is macaroni and cheese—making a meal or aspiring to be a home chef is the first thing to go when you’re on the streets or living in day-to-day crisis.

My name is Davina, and my seven-year-old daughter, Mercedes and I have been at Mary’s Home for six months. I love to cook, and I love to eat. My best food memory? I was little and one Thanksgiving my auntie bought a pumpkin crumble pie from Safeway, and we ate a feast of roast turkey, macaroni and cheese, green beans, yeast rolls, and cranberry sauce. Auntie’s apartment smelled of baked bread, and afterward we laid around like beached whales and watched movies. I love Thanksgiving best because even the shelters serve turkey and real mashed potatoes, and regardless of circumstances, everyone is of good cheer the whole day.

We are fortunate to have lots of advice when we move into Mary’s Home. Most of us grew up on fast food or microwaved frozen meals. You don’t realize how intimidating it is to step into a kitchen that’s yours for the first time. Seriously, the girls don’t know what to do with a carrot or onion or a raw piece of meat! This kind of thing wasn’t passed down to us. 

I had some experience from watching my auntie and hours of Food TV! In fact, my goal is to one day be a chef. So I cried the first time I cooked in my kitchen at Mary’s Home. I remember touching everything—the pots and pans, the sharp knives, the forks, spoons, and plates, and each of the fresh vegetables. It was as if God himself brought down heaven. I pulled chicken out of the freezer, chopped up the veggies, then let my home fill with the aroma of buttery potatoes, and the sweet scent of pie given to us from another resident mom. The smell and taste of that first meal will forever stick with me.

When you’ve been on the streets, it’s the little things that tell you you’re safe and stable. Sometimes these little things creep up on you and sometimes they hit all at once. For some girls it’s something simple like fluffing up a throw pillow on their couch or turning off a bedroom light after tucking in a little one.  For me, cooking represented “home.” As I made a meal for my family that first time, I nourished my child and felt a great sense of accomplishment—it’s as if life had finally decided to go our way. As I dipped chicken into beaten egg, spices and flour, then listen to it sizzle in the pan, I let the tears flow and said to myself, “Rest and just be.”

[Few women who come to Mary’s Home have basic life skills. With the community center built as a result of the Extreme Dream Campaign, we’ll hold cooking and nutrition classes. And we’ll also host community wide meals on the holidays, so everyone will get a little of Davina’s macaroni-and-cheese on Thanksgiving.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples at the water’s edge (John 21:9-13). Over coals and fire he had prepared fish and bread. He nourished his friends physically and spiritually. Cooking is a necessary life skill and part of our discipleship at Mary’s Home. It’s a sign of independence. With your gift, we’ll be able to continue to mentor women and their children, and work to change a generation one family at a time.

Dream Centers occasionally shares stories reflective of the real life experiences of women and families we have served. Please know that all names have been changed and descriptive life events edited to protect all actual parties involved. Dream Centers is unable to regulate outside subsequent commentary on or distribution of those stories. We value every woman and family we serve and are committed to doing everything possible to protect their privacy.