A taste of home

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  • Published 20100302
  • ISBN: 9781921520860
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

THE FIRST TIME I visited the Matthew Talbot Hostel, in the inner-Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo, was Christmas 2005. My husband had received a thirteen-kilo ham from his boss. As I’d already ordered a five-kilo ham, we thought we’d give the larger chunk to the hostel. Walking down the alleyways towards the entrance, I recall tensing up as I spied downcast men sitting alone or in groups on the footpaths. I forgot for a moment where I was going and what I was doing, and felt like turning back. But I didn’t, and dropped the ham off to a worker sitting behind a desk protected by glass. He said it would be much appreciated by the guys. I wondered how the residents felt about eating off-cuts from the tables of the over-catered.

Four years after the ham drop, I returned to the same spot, albeit to the Ozanam Learning Centre, a sleek $20-million institution run by the St Vincent de Paul Society, and connected to the hostel by a walkway. Food was bringing me back, but this time I was there to observe one of the centre’s cooking courses for homeless people.

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