|Volunteer Kim Bolshaw is one of the dynamic co-coordinators of the Common Kitchen, which feeds thousands of volunteers at the Fair. English photo.
from The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
Dec 2006 - Feb 2007
A Pilot Light in the Common Kitchen
by Marada Cook
“So I should take out what, a pound, two pounds?” asks a new kitchen volunteer. Kim Bolshaw transfers a ceramic mug of mashed potatoes and one-year-old Alice Bolshaw from her right arm to her left. She looks over her shoulder at a chest freezer of ground beef in the hall.
“Whatever is in there – something like 12 packages.”
“What do I do with them?”
“Walk around that wall – yup – look on your right. There you go. There should be some plastic bins. Put them in one and put it on the table to thaw. Then remind me to have you put it in the walk-in.”
Kim Bolshaw has been working in the Common Kitchen for nearly 16 years. For the last 10, she has coordinated Friday night meals, and when she’s not organizing a daily team of 30 to 50 volunteer chefs and veggie choppers, Bolshaw hops right in to assist the other coordinators. “It’s a marathon,” Bolshaw says. “I usually get here on Wednesday before the Fair, and I’ll stay through the Tuesday after.” Since the Fair moved to Unity, the number of volunteers fed by the kitchen for dinner has expanded to 350, and often balloons to over 400. “It takes a huge number of people to make this happen,” she says right away, naming her fellow chefs. “Each coordinator has their own style.”
Bolshaw hopes her style is something along the lines of on-sight skill assessment. “I hope to find what would both suit a volunteer’s kitchen experience and – call me selfish – get the most out of them for the kitchen.”
Kitchen volunteer and longtime friend Jules Corkery says Bolshaw’s style is better than simple skill exploitation. “Everything Kim touches has an extra dimension to it. It’s art and it’s beauty, and her volunteers love her. She can make anything fun.”
Corkery covered Bolshaw’s shift last year when Alice was days from being born. “I can’t really thank her enough,” Bolshaw says. In 1990, Corkery brought Bolshaw to her first Common Ground Country Fair. “It was the year of the pig shirt,” Bolshaw recalls, “And we got paint from the Children’s Area all over ourselves.”
After fingerpainting, Bolshaw and Corkery were assigned to parking. “Everyone just looked so cold, or so hot, or dejected, or something!” Corkery says. “Then Kim got out there and just started moving cars dramatically like she was a New York City traffic cop.” For a break, they headed to the Common Kitchen.
“Kim and the Common Kitchen were – are – a perfect match,” Corkery says. “It’s not like she’s some kind of weekend warrior in the kitchen. She cooks like this, lives high energy like this, all the time.” Some elements of that ‘perfect match’ come from Bolshaw’s background with whole foods cooking, and some from her ability to roll cheerfully with whatever is coming at her. “Because so much of the food is donated, we work with what we have, for the most part,” Bolshaw explains, “so a lot of times someone comes in with a recipe in mind and I have to explain, ‘Well we don’t have any bulgar, but we have barley. They come in with an idea for, say, a chili dish, and I say, ‘Great. Can you make 15 gallons of it?”