Monday, July 15, 2024
"Street food" during the Freedom Convoy. Photo supplied by Sandra
Guest ContributionsTrucking

Miracles from nothing during Freedom Convoy

Pots of soup, plates of food

by Donna Laframboise

Part 1: It Was a Prison

Photo supplied by Sandra.

At six o’clock each morning, when Sandra opened the tent and began cooking breakfast outdoors on a windy Ottawa street, she encountered the same two homeless people:

“I always have an itinerant inside the tent. All the time. With alcohol, and he sleep on the chair. ‘I’m sorry sir, I need to move you.’ And I fix a hot pad in his boots. ‘Please just move that way, I prepare breakfast and I give you some.’

“And the itinerant, he was so happy. There is one always inside and outside, beside the Starbucks. After, when I have the heater tent, they want to be inside, you can imagine. But they can’t go there. All the food was there.”

Sandra says donations for the truckers were so voluminous, a great deal made its way to the less fortunate. “You need some socks, you have some. You need some clothes, you have some. You need a blanket, you have one.” She pauses, “You know something? I have no words to explain the human exchange. It was incredible. An extraordinary time. We’ll never see that again in this life. Never, never.”

She describes herself as the kind of person who creates miracles from nothing. Under extreme weather conditions, with rudimentary equipment, Sandra kept hearts warm by feeding bellies. After cooking breakfasts of eggs, bacon, and sausages lunch was usually a massive pot of soup. At dinnertime there’d be shepherd’s pie, spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken fried rice, creole casserole, pad thai.

She laughs, “I’m a professional cook, so I have a system, you know. I have three coolers. If I do hamburger, I cook all my hamburger and I put it in the cooler to stay warm. After that I have my big pot with my burner, and I do my sauce with all my spices. I do onions in a pan for my meat sauce. And I do my baked potatoes on the barbecue, a full barbecue of potatoes.”

At each mealtime, she and volunteer helpers would fill 12 disposable plates at once, adding buttered bread that had been heated on the barbecue. Teams of runners delivered the plates directly to the trucks on her block. Of the 60 or 70 people she fed regularly, she says, “They are impressed. They eat so good.”

Photo supplied by Sandra.

When I tell her an occupant of one of the trucks had waxed poetic about her chicken burgers, she nods, “I do chicken burgers, beef burgers. One time, one guy come with wild meat. Moose. They do some cleanup on his freezer. Yeah, I cooked everything I had.”

Toward the end of the protest, Sandra asked someone to help her with a few cases of donated ramen noodles. The individual packages needed to be opened, with the noodles separated from the broth mix. “I just go to the grocery, buy a case of chicken and I take off the breast, take off the legs and put them aside,” she says.

“A nice guy living in Ottawa said ‘I’m a butcher, can I help you?’ Yes, sure. So he helped me.” Overnight this same chap, whom she believes was in his early sixties, took her knives home with him and sharpened them. 

In her experience, the media’s insistence that local residents were hostile to the truckers is false. “The citizens of Ottawa are so happy we are there. ‘You’re amazing. Do you need something? Spoons? A potato peeler? Do you need I wash your clothes?’ It was winter,” she says, “but some days it rained. Someone come with rain clothes, umbrellas. It was extraordinary.”

For three weeks, Sandra camped out in Ottawa. “I park my car there and I take off my license plate and I cover my serial number,” she explains. “Cuz the first two days I was there, I have two tickets.” For the first half the adventure, she slept in her car, even when the heater wasn’t working due to a faulty fan. For the second half, a family from Winnipeg invited her to share their hotel room.

She didn’t talk about it, she says. But when the truckers she was feeding realized she was sleeping in her car they chipped in and got her a room. “For one day, one night. That make me so happy because I see they recognize what I do.

“All the time it was like that. ‘Thank you, thank you.’ You can’t imagine how much love.”

*****

Donna Laframboise writes a daily blog at ThankYouTruckers.substack.com. It is a first draft of her upcoming book that focuses on interviews with Freedom Convoy truckers. She is a former National Post and Toronto Star columnist, and a former Vice President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.