Archives for posts with tag: food service

A Small Coop Market Helps Local Farmers
by Beth Fox

How will they make it? I wonder,
when the pandemic hits the tiny coop
on a back street, in small town New Hampshire.
The struggle is on to find products
fill shelves, provide
what discerning clients want.

I watch events unfold. Online,
the eye-catching checklists
become easier to use.
Texting to check for timing
and product, it is so easy
to pick up bagged groceries
with the slide of a card,
smile behind masks.
To keep everyone safe, there
are free handmade masks
for anyone who needs one.

Meal planning goes back to
the old-time way; I use
what’s in the cupboard.

Then the coop fosters
the pop-up farmer’s market,
enlisting a vacant parking lot
at their doors. Windy Saturdays
in March, hungry locals drive thru,
wait in line for orders pre-placed.

We get better at it,
pick out the boys’ fresh catch,
fish that couldn’t be any fresher,
crusty bread and fragrant pastries
winter stored root vegetables,
potatoes with a little dirt on them,
First greens from micro gardens,
soaps, herbs and spices
and yes, the hand sanitizer
that’s been impossible to find.
I use my own bags
take products from gloved
hands, numb with cold. With a nod,
I applaud their teamwork, ingenuity
take home the spirit of community,
their unspoken gift.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Here are Tracey and Erin at The Wolfeboro Natural Foods Store. An active Board behind the scenes provides energy and support. This little coop amazingly provides everything I need, and more.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beth Fox has been published in Poet’s Touchstone, The Seacoast Anthology, Avocet, Prey Tell, and The 2010 Poets Guide to NH: More Places, More Poets. She was a finalist in the Center for the Arts annual poetry contest and Touchstone Member Contest. Beth contributed to an anthology for Seniors, Other Voices, Other Lives.  A retired teacher, she lives in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. 

johnston 1

The Quarterback of Team Food Service
by Joseph Johnston

There’s a Hormel factory in Beloit where
they make the canned chili we remember
from tailgating and a shelf-stable
pork spread sent to Guatemalans to
prevent them from starving.

There’s a manager at this plant
who stands twenty feet tall and
two semis wide. He’s the quarterback
of Team Food Service. He didn’t
choose this version of this life 

but he kicks its ass daily and twice
on Sundays. For real. On the day of
rest he shows up unrested to hand out
masks and take the temperatures of the
line workers lined up to process our food.

This is my best friend Bubs. He’s the
quarterback of Team Food Service. Back
in High School he was the center, but that
was just physics. In our minds he was the
chief. The natural leader. Holding court

like a Supreme Court judge, unrested but
tested, exhausted but rising and galvanizing
a harmonizing strategy through tragedy so
you and I can fortify and eat meat and repeat.
All hail the quarterback of Team Food Service!

NOTE: Matt Groves (left) and the author. Top: Recent years; Bottom: Back in the day. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My best friend Matt Groves is a manager at a Hormel Foods plant in Beloit, Wisconsin. We first met in kindergarten, playing marbles and T-ball. In high school we both joined Team Food Service when we got jobs as dishwashers for a local cafeteria. Then we went to college together, and five years after that we stood up in each other’s weddings. Twenty years after that, the pandemic hit and everything turned upside down. He has always been the natural leader of our ragtag gang of cutthroats and outlaws, the Bo Diddley to my Jerome Green, the Mick to my Keef. Hormel is lucky to have him, but I miss him terribly and worry about his safety every day.

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Joseph Johnston is a writer and filmmaker from Michigan. His work has appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, Midwestern Gothic, Matador Review, and elsewhere. He is currently figuring out remote public schooling with his wife and two kids in the Detroit area while working on a chapbook of prose poems about various points along the Interstate Highway System.

Miller’s Pub
by Jennifer Finstrom

“From one monotonous day, another day
follows, identically monotonous.”
–“Monotony,” C. P. Cavafy, translated by Aliki Barnstone

The first time you go downtown to
the Loop for brunch, you meet at
Miller’s Pub, close to your job on
campus and close to the Art Institute,
places you haven’t been for months,
and not so very long ago, sitting so
close to the street would have seemed
uncomfortable, not picturesque, but
now you watch cars and bicyclists
with attention, let the vibration and
rattle of the Brown Line above Wabash
bear you away from your own food,
your own cocktails, your own four walls.
You waited tables for twenty-five years
starting in 1989, and the man you’re with
asks how you would feel about working
in a restaurant now, and you really don’t
know. You have your first Negroni
in six months followed quickly by
your second, and the server seems so
happy for you you’re sure it’s genuine

PHOTO: Miller’s Pub, 134 S. Wabash, Chicago, Illinois—a downtown institution since 1935. Photo by Brandon Klein, used by permission. 


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I feel a real connection to food service workers after spending so many years in the industry. All of my outdoor dining experiences this summer have been so positive, but this one at Miller’s Pub really stood out to me. 

PHOTO: The authors’s first (or second) Negroni in six months, enjoyed in outdoor seating at Miller’s Pub, downtown Chicago. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Finstrom is both part-time faculty and staff at DePaul University. She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for 13 years, and recent publications include Dime Show Review, Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, Rust + Moth, Stirring, and Thimble Literary Magazine. Her work also appears in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and several other Silver Birch Press anthologies. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram

peel photo

Wrapped in Warmth and Kindness
by Marianne Peel
            Dedicated to Kendra

She didn’t just recommend entrees –
she brought them to our table,
waved the pan-fried grouper under our noses:
olfactory delight smothered in spring asparagus
     from the ditch garden out back
slathered with Hollandaise sauce.
Greek lemon potatoes on the side,
     Chef Dimitri’s specialty.

You’ll never be sorry ordering this dish, she tells us.

And the coffee kept coming,
     fair trade from Kenya.
A wicker basket of Greek bread
      with pats of real butter.
Fig jam in ramekins.

And for dessert, plate after plate floating by
     for our sweet-tooth inspection
     as she delivered to other tables.
We cannot decide between the baklava
     and the key lime pie.
So she brings both.
By the time the check arrives,
our fingers are dripping with honey,
our lips lined with graham cracker crumbs.

And when the pandemic shutdown begins,
the whole town transforms into carry out only.
Masked Chef Dimitri concocts familiar favorites,
satiating the demand for comfort food for thirty years.
Kendra, our waitress, delivers dinners through lowered car windows.
She is now a car hop without benefit of roller skates.
She includes extra packs of oyster crackers
     for the lemon rice chicken soup de jour.
Always an extra serving of Greek dressing.
Always a peppermint for an after-dinner palate cleanse.

In our Covid quarantine, I take up the crochet hook
     and the ancient art of making afghans.
Muscle memory in my fingers, from when my Nana
taught me single and double crochet stitches
while she and I watched Jeopardy together in that coal-mining town.

Kendra once told me she hankered for midnight blue,
     a color that offered her soul-deep peace.
After a twelve- hour shift, serving customers
     with suggestions and smiles
     and trying to keep coffee mugs brimful for the whole meal,
she needed that midnight blue to sink into once home.

And so I pass this safe space crocheted blanket
from my hands to hers.
No one has ever done anything like this for me.
So special. So personal, she tells me.

I wrap the blanket around her shoulders,
secure her in this sanctuary of yarn,
this midnight blue blanket,
enfolding her in my gratitude.

PHOTO: The author (right) and Kendra, who is draped in the midnight blue afghan the author crocheted for her. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw the call for PRIME MOVERS submissions, I was immediately compelled to write about Kendra — a member of the waitstaff at a small, family-owned restaurant in Florida.  Kendra was always very personable, and she truly wanted every customer to leave feeling completely satisfied, cared for, and even loved. When the pandemic hit, the restaurant tried to survive via carry-out service, but they ended up closing until the pandemic is over. I wanted to let Kendra how much I appreciated all her hard work, her dedication to the happiness of her customers, and her willingness to really get to know her clientele. So, I crocheted an afghan for her, wanting her to be wrapped in the same warmth and kindness she shows customers every day.  This is my gift of gratitude.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit. She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009), and participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016).  Here poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, and Jelly Bucket Journal, among others.  She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2020 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.

Neva Austin
Soul Sustenance at Aggie Mae’s
by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske

At 4:00 a.m. every morning, the lights come on at Aggie Mae’s bakery in Grand Ledge, Michigan, which is home to the 300-million-year old sedimentary rock ledges for which our town is well-known. At Aggie Mae’s, everything is made from scratch and from locally sourced ingredients: soups, sandwiches, bakery items, and a variety of tasty homemade breads, such as oatmeal, sourdough, risen cornbread, classic rye, French country, and many more. During the Covid-19 pandemic, baker and owner Neva Austin continued to open her store and serve the public through carry-out, online orders, and curb-side pick-up.

Before life as I knew it changed, and I was forced into isolation alienated from my friends and family, including my daughter, a third-year law student, I used to stop on the way home from the college where I teach to sit at one of the tables, sip a café latte, and enjoy a respite from grading papers; perhaps, just to read a book for pleasure. The ability to feed and nurture my soul became rare. Once, I learned that my favorite store was still open, I called in to order a Hungry, Hungry Hannah sandwich, Chicken Pot Pie soup, and a Death by Chocolate cupcake, a death I would much prefer than from the coronavirus, if that is what I had to face.

While other front-line workers helped to keep us all safe, doctors, nurses, police men and women, and over-the-road truck drivers who worked 24/7 to stock the grocery store shelves, Neva Austin gave me and other community members a different perspective. As I enjoyed a warm, slathered-with-butter slice of seeded sourdough bread, I was returned to a semblance of normal, my soul once again nourished and comforted.

PHOTO: Neva Austin, owner of Aggie Mae’s in Grand Ledge, Michigan.

Photos of Aggie Mae's

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  Neva Austin has been baking from the time she was a little girl learning next to her mother in the kitchen of the family’s Eaton Rapids farmhouse.  She started selling her homemade breads and pastries at local Farmer’s Markets and opened her Grand Ledge store six years ago.  Aggie Mae’s is named after her mother.  When my quiet house or working at home becomes overwhelming, I call in an order and drive over to Aggie’s for a few minutes of conversation (masked, of course) and to partake of homemade soup and a slice of her delicious bread. With the warmer weather, I braved sitting outside at one of the sidewalk tables to enjoy a bit of sunshine with my lunch.

PHOTO: Aggie Mae’s, Grand Ledge, Michigan.


Rosalie Sanara Petrouske is a poet, writer, and photographer, who has two chapbooks of poetry with Finishing Line Press, and has been published in numerous small journals and anthologies.  Her most recent publication was with Silver Birch Press’s LANDMARK series.  She is a professor of writing at Lansing Community College, and lives in Grand Ledge, Michigan, where she can frequently be found walking the ledges or along the Grand River, when she’s not enjoying a treat at Aggie Mae’s.   Find her on Facebook and find her books at Finishing Line Press.

Author photo by Eric Palmer

waitress licensed lisa f young
The Waitress
by Barbara Eknoian

It’s 2 a.m. at The Star Diner.
The waitress pours coffee
for the cab driver
at the counter on his break.
She banters with her customers
about politics and local gossip.
She’s a new widow who never
had to work before,
with a few years left to retirement.
Her family has scattered:
A daughter moved across country,
her son joined the Merchant Marines.
The waitress raises a teenage son
alone and worries
that she’s lost control.
She used to shop at elegant stores;
now she hurries home to wash
her uniform for next night’s shift.
She used to buy filet mignon
from Sam the butcher;
now she serves franks and beans.
Customers have no idea
that their pleasant waitress,
who trades quips with them nightly,
is struggling to get by.
She is good at hiding her fear.
When she gets home,
she’ll sit in the recliner,
rest her legs, and count out
the sparse tips from her pockets.

PHOTO: “The Waitress” by Lisa F. Young, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My poem is about my mother, who had to work as a waitress just before retirement, when she became a widow. This fact makes me think about other waitresses that now have to be brave and work, regardless of the pandemic, because it is necessary to make a living.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Eknoian’s work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, Cadence Collective Anthology, Red Shift, and Silver Birch Press’s Silver, Green, Summer, and Self-Portrait anthologies. She has been twice-nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has attended Donna Hilbert’s poetry workshop for 30 years.  Her recent novel, Hearts on Bergenline Avenue, is available at Amazon. She lives in La Mirada, CA with her extended family, where there is always room at the inn.

EdnaShinnandCafeWorkers copy
Cafeteria Couture
by Sue Mayfield Geiger

It was white, short-sleeved and belted,
with a collar and button-down front below the knees.
The handkerchief of the day—petite cross-stitched pansies—
shared a dresser drawer with dainty cousins and clung to the
left pocket held tightly by a costume-jeweled pin.
White work shoes caressed crooked toes attached to feet
that stood achingly in front of steam tables where hungry
young minds were fed the likes of white rice and fish sticks,
banana pudding and small cartons of milk.
Afterwards, crusty pots and pans were scrubbed, water boiled
and floors mopped; big buckets, rag mops, and disinfectant put away.
Smells linger now, triggering memories of backbreaking chores
and a tired body that walked three miles home
where the uniform was washed, starched, ironed, and hung
awaiting the next day’s accoutrements.
Fingered softly; pinned with care.

Previously published in The Binnacle, University of Maine, Ultra Short Edition, 2012.

PHOTO: The author’s mother, Edna Shinn (bottom photo), and Edna (top row, left) with fellow cafeteria workers above.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in a blue color burb on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, where my dad worked as a machinist and my mom was a lunch lady at the elementary school cafeteria. Most moms were stay-at-homers, and mine was too, until I was in the fifth grade, when she announced she wanted to get a job. Cooking was what she did best, so she applied, got the job, and she fed hungry mouths every day, Monday through Friday, for 25 years. She knew all their names, but mainly called them “honey” and “darlin” as they came through the lunch line. I don’t think my dad ever made more than $600 a month in his life, but I never lacked for anything. I have no idea what mom made, but the timeframe was the mid-1950s when she began working, so it was probably about a dollar an hour. If you look up Annual Federal Minimum Hourly Wage for 1955, it was 75 cents! Although my mom is no longer with us, the “lunch ladies” are still around today, and working just as hard as ever. With Covid in our midst, I am sure there are new rules in place and many of them may be out of a job until things get back to normal. My mom loved her job and loved the “kidlets” and always had stories to relay to us. Lunch ladies do so much more than spoon out meals, because when the lines have cleared, their hardest work begins, with scrubbing pots and pans, mopping floors, taking out heaps of trash, and in my mom’s case, walking home on tired feet. She never learned how to drive a car. She lived to be 99, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

Sue Mayfield-GeigerABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Mayfield Geiger is a freelance magazine writer living on the Texas Gulf Coast. When not writing about home décor, fashion, or a new restaurant opening, she reads and writes poetry. Her literary publications include Grayson Books, RiverLit, Dos Gatos Press, The Binnacle (U of Maine), Of Burgers and Barrooms (Main Street Rag), Red Wolf Journal, Waco WordFest Anthology, Perfume River Poetry, THEMA, Silver Birch Press, and forthcoming in Odes and Elegies: Eco poetry from the Gulf Coast, and others.