Guest blog post by Kitchen Assistant Phoebe Little
I arrived on Hurricane Island on a stormy day in early June. I carried with me a small bag filled with warm clothes, a sleeping bag, a pair of rainboots, my red headlamp, and a cookbook containing my favorite recipe for lemon scones. It was the beginning of my summer adventure working in the Hurricane Island galley as the kitchen assistant.
Now, five weeks later that cold day I arrived on Hurricane seems an impossibly long time ago. The paths that once felt so foreign to me are now familiar and well traveled by my feet. The brisk June weather has warmed into sweet, sunny, July afternoons complete with ocean swims and island hikes. I’m a frequent traveler on the local ferry from Vinalhaven to Rockland.
I remember washing dishes after my first dinner on the island and having to ask other island staff members where each dish, piece of silverware, and equipment was stored. Now I’m so familiar with the contents of the galley that I help direct our program participants in putting away dishes after every meal (all while dancing and singing to the tunes of Michael Jackson and Beyonce).
I’ve enjoyed cooking in the beautiful Hurricane Island galley this summer. The kitchen is warm, bright, and spacious, it has a wall of windows that look out at the ocean and nearby Greens Island. The room is rarely quiet because we usually cook while listening to music. I happen to think that food is the tastiest when made listening to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album.
In the kitchen with me is our head chef Philip, and our cook Julie. We prepare delicious restaurant quality food every single day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the Hurricane galley is unlike a restaurant because we don’t work off of a set menu. We provide our participants and staff with a wide variety of healthy and delicious meals. When I was younger I did a lot of cooking in my own home, but I hadn’t experienced making food on a large scale until this summer. Unlike cooking for my family of three, on Hurricane we usually have between 25 and 45 people present at each meal. Although, sometimes on special occasions, we have as many as 100 people on the island! Cooking for a large quantity of people with a variety of dietary restrictions has made my work in the galley challenging and exciting.
Another unique part of the Hurricane kitchen is the offshore aspect. Our little island is 9 miles off the coast which means that all food deliveries need to be planned well in advance. Twice a week Philip orders food that is later dropped off at the Hurricane office on the mainland. We transport the food by boat to the island. On Mondays and Fridays, our island staff members await the radio notification that the food run boat has returned. We all make our way down to the dock where we form a fire line style chain and pass boxes of food from the boat up the ramp to the island. Opening those cardboard boxes filled with delicious ingredients is possibly even more exciting than opening presents on your birthday.
Each night before dinner is served the everyone on Hurricane joins hand in a circle. It’s a moment to come together as a community and reflect on the day. More and more I find myself taking this time to reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunity to live and learn on Hurricane. I’m originally from the greater Portland Maine area but now go to school in Western Massachusetts at Smith College. When I was looking for a summer job I knew I wanted to work near the Atlantic ocean that I miss so much when I’m at school. I wanted to find work that would challenge and inspire me. I love baking for my family so was hoping to work in a kitchen where I could improve my cooking skills. At school, I study environmental science and government so I was hoping to work with a nonprofit organization doing environmental research I admired . At The Hurricane Island Foundation, I’ve been so lucky to find all that and more. My summer on Hurricane has been a summer of growth, community building, and so much learning and I’m so grateful to be here.