JOIN AWC LONDON
It’s different things to different people. It depends on who you ask.
For rough sleepers, it’s a safe and welcoming respite from the streets, a place to come for a warm meal, mental health counseling, and more. For the elderly, lonely and poor, it’s a place to connect and find comfort in a big city where they often feel forgotten.
For AWC volunteers, it’s an opportunity to serve others, widen perspectives, make new friends, and make a difference.
For Rev. Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, Senior Minister at the American International Church, the Soup Kitchen is about much more than the meals. “It’s not just a handout, it’s not just the clothes. It’s about a sense of community, a place to belong... And for many of us, it’s about missing them when they’re gone.”
Bonnie Garmus, AWC Activity Leader for the Soup Kitchen, shares her sentiments. “People come to the Soup Kitchen ostensibly for a meal, but also for warmth and companionship. While some struggle with mental issues or addiction problems, most of them are simply down on their luck. As one of the guests once told me, ‘The Soup Kitchen is one of the few places where I can go, enjoy a hot cup of coffee, and not be judged.’”
Although Bonnie works five days a week, she carves out time to volunteer there twice a month. She says she always looks forward to seeing AWC friends, Soup Kitchen staff and the many guests they serve. “I’ve been volunteering at the Soup Kitchen for nearly two-and-a-half years," she says, "and out of all the experiences London has to offer, this remains my favorite.”
Conversation with Bonnie: It’s about friendship and perspective
How has the Soup Kitchen changed since you started?
In the last year, the number of people who seek our help has doubled.
What’s the greatest need? How can people help?
We’re in dire need of men’s jeans, trainers, parkas, and backpacks. Gently used, clean—no holes! But we also need fresh recruits to help prepare food, serve food and coffee, take numbers for the Clothes Closet, and generally just dig in and help.
What strikes you the most?
You start realizing how thin that line is—how homelessness can happen to absolutely anyone. Some of our guests have been faced with horrific burdens through no fault of their own—bad luck, layoffs, war, human trafficking, illness, the death of a loved one. I’m always amazed at how optimistic many of them remain. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have thanked us for simply being there—for smiling, taking their requests seriously, asking after their latest job application, checking in on their health, and especially, especially, for not judging them.
How has the Soup Kitchen affected you personally?
I count many of the guests I’ve met at the Soup Kitchen among some of my closest friends in London—which might sound implausible, but it’s true. You get to know people at their worst and it creates a bond that isn’t easily broken. A few weeks back, one of them waited patiently for his number to be called for the Clothes Closet, then once at the window, told me he didn’t really need anything. "I just came to see you and say hello." It made my whole day.
About the AWC and the Soup Kitchen
The Soup Kitchen feeds roughly 100 people, six days a week. Every other Monday (the busiest day of the week), AWC volunteers prep and serve coffee and soup followed by a warm meal for the 100-plus guests, followed by cleanup. It’s hard work, but also fun, and hugely appreciated. As one volunteer put it, “It feels good to feel useful.”
We need nine to ten volunteers each time: four or five to help serve in the cabin, one to call out Clothes Closet numbers, two to three in the kitchen, and one in the Clothes Closet. Join us!
Learn more about the Soup Kitchen here: amchurch.co.uk/soup-kitchen/
Twenty AWC members filled two long tables in Din Tai Fung, known for its dumplings, cult status and long queues to get in, last Thursday at noon. Many of us had never been there before, so it was a treat to have the whole thing organized by Eva, our longtime AWC activity leader and foodie friend.
The Covent Garden outpost of the Taiwanese restaurant chain did not disappoint! Along with dozens and dozens of xiao long bao, its famous Chinese soup dumplings, we enjoyed a variety of dim sum dishes.
At the end, Eva insisted we all try Din Tai Fung's signature dessert: salted egg-yolk custard lava buns. We're glad she did! They were amazingly good.
Stay tuned to the AWC Activities Calendar for upcoming Let's Do Lunch dates and locations.
Din Tai Fung to introduce its signature salted egg yolk custard lava buns to its London menu / Evening Standard, 8 May 2019
(includes a video of the making of the buns)
"The buns, which are decorated with a yellow stamp symbolising good fortune, are filled with a slightly salted, vibrantly yellow custard made with duck egg yolks. They get their unusual name from the way the warm liquid supposedly flows like lava when they are pulled apart."
Din Tai Fung London: Cult dumpling restaurant to serve vegan version of its xiao long bao / Evening Standard, 15 Oct. 2019
SquareMeal Review of Din Tai Fung Covent Garden / Bronze Award
"Din Tai Fung was the most-searched restaurant on SquareMeal in 2018 – not bad for somewhere that didn’t open until December. The Taiwanese dumpling specialist is famous for making what many say are the world’s best xiao long bao, for its Michelin-approved Hong Kong outpost and for having 150 outlets spanning Asia, Australia, North America – and now London, where it has become famous primarily for the size of the queues. It’s worth noting, though, that if you arrive off peak (4pm on a Monday in our case) you'll be able to walk straight in, with only Asian students and curious tourists for company."
Our May gathering at the Royal Albert Hall received much applause from members. In addition to a generous buffet lunch, attendees were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the magnificent 5,200-seat concert hall — all on the house.
The Royal Albert Hall is one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings. Tour guides took us through backstage hallways lined with vintage posters of The Beatles and other legendary performers, and then upstairs to see the best seats in the house: The Queen's royal box. Afterward we learned a quick history lesson about the Hall, from its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871 to the present, as well as its important role as a registered charity dedicated to preserving and promoting the arts.
In 2021, in conjunction with the Royal Albert Hall's 150th anniversary, the institution plans to launch a new 501(c)3 non-profit, Royal Albert Hall America, to strengthen Anglo-American ties, allow Americans to make tax-deductible donations, and broaden opportunities to engage with artists and exclusive events in the UK and America.
Thanks to Anne Kollar, Director of Club Meetings, for organizing another outstanding event. Bravo!
Click here to view an interactive "Who's Who" of famous artists who've conducted or performed on stage at the Hall. From Sir Colin Davis to Dame Shirley Bassey to the Dali Lama and Yo Yo Ma.
See the BBC Proms 2019 / Royal Albert Hall guide to learn more about the world's largest classical music concert series. Tickets for July and August concerts are now on sale.
This week's guest post, London Day Trip: Stonehenge & Salisbury, is from a former AWC member who recently moved back to the States. Check out her other posts on London Day Trips on her blog, Basic Bon Vivant: An American in London.
The Best Bars in London
A guest post by Jenn, a former AWC member who just moved back to the States, from her blog Basic Bon Vivant: An American in London
"London is a world-class city. There is something here for everyone. For those who like to enjoy a good cocktail now and then, London’s cocktail bar scene is among the best in the world, according to The World’s 50 Best Bars." Read more here.
Guest post from AWC member Jean Howarth Lindberg, from her blog My Lovely Life Abroad (featuring AWC star chef Debi Rubel, pictured here prepping her salmon leek pie recipe)
"What's not to love about eating great food and learning some cooking skills at the same time??
So, since I (pathetically) have still not figured out how to use my stove here, and because I am on a mission to try new things, I sign up for a lunchtime cooking class with Chef Debi Rubel and the wonderful ladies of the American Women's Club here in London." Read the full post here.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the 120 Year Founders' Day Charity Gala
What should I wear?
This is a chance to get dressed up and celebrate the past, present and future of the AWC while raising money for our charitable work. Go as fancy as you like but don’t let it stress you out. Dressy pant suits, cocktail dresses or evening gowns are all appropriate; black tie is completely optional.
What will others be wearing?
Whitney will likely be in a sparkly dress and designer heels. Sally will likely be in the same black yoga pants for 5 days running and will panic the day of and hit the local charity shops.
Can you wear yoga pants to a gala?
Absolutely not. One must draw the line somewhere.
How can I convince my partner to come?
Tell them that: 1) It will be fun; 2) everyone will be friendly (most are Americans!); 3) it’s International Women’s Day and you deserve to be honoured; 4) you were dragged to a foreign country, for heaven’s sake, so they can certainly be dragged out for one night. Jeesh.
If I go on my own will I feel awkward?
Not if we can help it. You’ll be among friends, some you may not have even met yet! Per party rules everyone will be required to reach out and speak to at least three people they don’t know. If you’d like to mix up the mingling, sign up for a volunteer shift to keep yourself busy.
Why is Founders’ Day important to you?
“2019 marked the start of seven years as a member of the AWC. This will be my fifth Founders’ Day to attend, having missed only a couple due to travel for family and friends’ weddings. I’m excited to be in charge this year as it’s always been an incredible event where I have a wonderful time with friends and make new friends. In fact, Founders’ Day was one of the first events that I attended as a new member and I met some of my best London mates that evening. Over the years, many have moved back to the States but the bonds we made through the club have endured distance and time. It can be tough to be a “long-termer” but by staying actively involved with the AWC, I continue to build new friendships and can help support those new to this fabulous city!”
– Whitney, Founders’ Day Chair and Director of Special Events
“I love volunteering at the Soup Kitchen and am thrilled that the proceeds from this event go to our three chosen charities. And I support the AWC because getting out of my apartment and being social is good for my sanity.”
– Sally, Founders’ Day Marketing & Publicity
Learn more about Founders' Day and register for the Charity Gala here: www.awclondon.org/Founders-Day-2019
Guest post by AWC member Jean Howarth Lindberg / My Lovely Life Abroad
Get up at 5:30 for a 6:30 meeting across town? Heck, yes!
Although it is awfully dark (January sunrise is 8am here in London), here I am, wiping the sleep from my eyes to meet Thirty-nine American Women's Club members on a bus, for a day of pottery shopping in Stoke-on-Trent, the historical home of English Pottery.
Quick History lesson: Stoke is known as "the Potteries", and its residents are "The Potters". There are 6 towns that comprise Stoke-on-Trent, and its residents even have their own dialect. Stoke-on-Trent is known as the British capital for china and pottery, and dates back to the 1600's. The area still produces china and pottery, and you will probably recognize some of these famous brands, originating here--Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Spode, Burleigh, Aynsley, Royal Stafford and Portmeirion.
(Read more here....)
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the day that precedes Ash Wednesday. The name Shrove Tuesday comes from 'shive,' which means absolution for sins by doing penance. It's steeped in religious history and has everything to do with feasting before fasting during the Lenten Season.
But Why Pancakes?
In the past families would rid the house of such tempting ingredients, such as eggs, sugar, and milk to prepare for the 40 days of Lent. Not wanting to be wasteful they would serve up a filling, festive meal and pancakes were the perfect way to do this.
Right, Where to Eat?
Pancakes in the United Kingdom are quite different than those found in The United States. Often times resembling crepes, pancakes are slathered with chocolate spread and topped with various fruits and nuts. It can be difficult for an American girl to find the perfect pancake, here are my favourite spots for Pancake Day or any day.
The Breakfast Club
If you want American style pancakes and don't mind a queue this is the place for you.
The Breakfast Club is a small chain dinner with locations in Soho, Southwark and Canary Wharf.
Looking for a filling pancake but want something a little less traditional, then head to Granger & Co. with locations in Chelsea, Notting Hill, Clarkenwell, and King's Cross you'll be able to fill up any day of the week.
With a full menu that will meet many picky eaters, Granger & Co is popular at any time of day, any time of year. Ricotta hotcakes served with banana and honeycomb butter will definitely tick all the pancake day boxes
The Book Club
Located in Shoreditch, The Book Club is a hip eatery that often reminds me of my age. Head here if you want a traditional thin and slightly crispy pancakes that are over the top.
Pancakes, here, are served with caramel sauce bananas, fresh berries, blossom honey & berry compote. If you want to try something a little more decadent and exclusive to Pancake Day order the espresso-martini pancakes. Slathered with Kahlua cream and topped with vodka and chocolate coffee beans these pancakes are not for the faint of heart.
So where will I eat this year.
I'll be seated at my dinning table where my husband will play chef and delight the kids by flipping pan sized cakes into the air while I cringe at how close they come to hitting the ceiling. He and I will guestimate how many pancakes our son will eat this time, while our daughter will complain about her pancakes being too dark or too light. We will pass around a £7 bottle of Aunt Jemima and I'll watch in horror as both husband and son take a £2 pour. I will remind my children to 'use your fork' and get up half way though the meal to hand out napkins all while I shake my head saying "what do you wipe your hands on? DON'T ANSWER THAT!" Its not just a Shrove Day thing for us but a weekly ritual and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Photo credit: The Breakfast Club, Grabger & Co, the Book Club
"The American Women's Club of London" is a non-profit organization. +44 (0)7853 810 email@example.com