Pots, Pans, and Best Friends


“It's something of a sacred space, not because of any ritual or tradition, but because of the comradery and joy that well up there...”

– by Elisa Dorman

The Ranch kitchen isn’t really much to look at. Sure it’s kept clean and out of it’s double swinging doors come trays and pans and bowls of food to satisfy on long hot summer afternoons and cold winter nights. Inside spoons and spatulas are entangled with whisks and tongs on makeshift hooks fastened to a thin over hanging pipe, creating a swaying centerpiece of sometimes-clattering tools. The walk-in fridge ekes a gentle, familiar rumble over the faint buzz of florescent lights. Other than one upstairs dorm room that some misguided soul painted a deep teal, I wouldn’t be far off to call the kitchen the least beautiful place on property to spend time. Yet somehow it is one of my favourite places. It’s something of a sacred space, not because of any ritual or tradition, but because of the comradery and joy that well up there.

Throughout the retreat season we do the dishes together – sometimes for 15 and sometimes 150. When it’s a big group everyone files in to help out. Someone scrapes and lines the dishes into racks for the washer, others put away, scrub pots, wipe tables, put away left-overs. After a short-lived battle for control over the playlist, music blares and dancing ensues. It’s amazing what ordinary kitchen utensils can offer in terms of dance moves. We get the work done fairly quickly – as there are lots of other things to do in a day. Yet somehow Mr. Wilkes usually finds time to creatively re-purpose cardboard boxes from the recycling pile into costumes. That is if you can call 100-ways-to-put-a-box-on-your-head costume design. The open spot near the microwave and mixer has a tendency to become a place for teaching sparring techniques. If there is a duo scrubbing away, hip to hip, at the pan scrubbing sinks, it isn’t uncommon for percussion to find it’s way ringing out from atop the suds. Someone new stands in the middle of the kitchen holding a grater attachment or a whats-a-mahoozle asking where it goes. No one really loves dishes all that much, but we do love each other and singing and serving.

There was one time last summer when an outdoor meal’s dishes were forgotten and had been piled, teetering and sticky, on the dirty dish table. I went to flick out the last of the lights and noticed the grimacing pile at 11:08pm in the middle of a LONG week. The cheery kitchen dish-time hive of bustling friends was no reality in that moment. I took a deep, I’m-a-grown-up-now-so-I’ll-suck-it-up-and-do-this breath, rolled my sleeves and took to the sprayer, whistling to myself if only to stay awake. A few minutes in a friend who must have heard the commotion peeked in, noticed the daunting pile and my half smile. I didn’t have the heart to ask for their help, they were tired too, I don’t think they slept much the night before. But I didn’t have to say anything. In total silence he walked to the sink, washed his hands and started putting away. A minute later, another friend stuck their head in, saw the task at hand and without needing an explanation, without asking who was suppose to have cleaned earlier, without even a sign or grimace, but with a compassionate smile, she slipped on an apron and started scrubbing. By the time the last table was wiped, our crew had grown to five. And with sleepy high fives we were off to bed. We care about each other in that kitchen, we know that scrubbing the grill and saran-wrapping pickles is loving Jesus too. It’s no big deal to thrown on an 11:30pm apron, but it’s powerful because it means “I’m in this with you”. Likewise, washing hands and getting to it is just apart of life, but in a sleepy mid-summer moment, it means, “This mission is worth it”. And thus, it isn’t the grandeur of our little industrial kitchen that is nice, but, as classic as this sounds, it’s the friends and the songs and the love that make it feel like home.

Elisa Dorman is the Program Director at InterVarsity Circle Square Ranch Big Clear Lake. She studied International Development at the University of Ottawa before coming to the Ranch in 2016. She is passionate about outdoor adventure, Jesus, friends, church, justice and of course, summer camp!

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