Remembering my Aunt Grace’s kitchen always brings on a wave of nostalgia. Gourmet was not on the menu, but good ingredients, prepared with love, went into every dish on her bountiful table. Anyone who showed up unannounced was offered a seat at the table.
That same atmosphere of warmth and welcome is on offer at NANA, “a comfort food and craft cafe run by older ladies” from the area around Clapton in the UK. Who wouldn’t want to drop in to a place that describes itself this way:
We want to make a space where everyone is welcome – regardless of age, income or whether you have a screaming child on your arm. NANA sits at the heart of the community, serving up all the nostalgic treats from your childhood. Think dippy eggs and soldiers, homemade soup, ‘proper’ sandwiches and freshly baked cakes.
NANA started as a pop-up cafe, hiring a pub for five hours a day. Then they leased an old public toilet and set up shop. A Kickstarter campaign got them the funds they needed to install a commercial kitchen and all the other amenities required by a restaurant. And, as part of offering comfort to the community, the public toilets are open again.
Helena Drakakis wrote a piece for The Guardian that made me dream of starting a place like NANA here in Kelowna, where the senior population is large and growing. She wrote:
The cafe recruits women aged mainly over 60 and who are on the cusp of being socially isolated. Each Nana works a set shift each week and after three months each will take a small share in the profits. Among the teapots and cake stands, soups and stews, plans are also afoot to host craft classes in knitting, crocheting, embroidery and sewing.
The idea came from Katie Harris, a 29-year-old social entrepreneur inspired by her 88-year-old grandmother. In addition to the cafe and the public toilets, Harris had a roof-top garden built on the second floor. And as part of making the operation viable, Nana turns into a bar named The Convenience at night, selling craft beers and wines.
When I got to this paragraph in Drakakis’s article, tears sprang to my eyes:
And for Harris, the benefits don’t stop at re-engaging older people back into the community. She has discovered the cafe serves a dual role. Women who are made to feel they are on the scrapheap suddenly have purpose…
These Nanas have years of experience. They bring their skills and talents to a place that knows how to use them, whether they cook familiar foods, offer a hearty welcome to a lonely customer or help a young mother with a screaming baby. And the Nanas probably ease some of the fear of among the young diners who walk through the door.
May they thrive and prosper and inspire copycats everywhere. They give me hope.