What would you do if you find out that you have to throw away all your turkey just a few hours before a big Thanksgiving meal that you were going to serve to more than 100 guests? That was a scary moment, but what happened next was even more amazing. But I’m getting ahead in my story. Let me start from the beginning.
In a moment of pride, I took this picture. It is the roasted-to-perfection result of what was 120 pounds of raw whole turkey only a few hours earlier. A handful of volunteers met me on a Sunday to get a head start on our Senior Lunch Thanksgiving celebration the very next day. On this cold but pleasantly sunny afternoon we butchered the turkeys, we roasted them, and we mixed up pumpkin pie filling. We packed up all the food and went our separate ways with the satisfaction of a job well done.
There was a good showing of volunteers at the Monday morning prep session, which is good because there was a lot to be done. I debriefed the crew on the menu and everyone split up to work on different recipes, as they do every Monday. I reached into the refrigerator to pull out the roasted turkey and, after a moment of denial, was stricken with a wave of panic. The fridge was not cold. It was not even tepid … it was warm! It had broke down overnight rendering all the turkey and all the pumpkin pie unfit to consume. The two highlights of the classic Thanksgiving meal had to be thrown out. It was around 9:30 am, and our big meal was to be served at noon. I asked for the everyone’s attention and could barely deliver the news. All their efforts from the day before would be for naught. All the food would go to waste. And, more importantly, we only had a couple of hours to assemble a meal for our guests.
That was the low-point, but I am happy to say that the story takes a turn here. The prep volunteers are committed to the safety and happiness of those they cook for, and no obstacle would stand in the way of this special meal. Long time volunteer and board member Jerry Berger took notes of what was lost and dashed off to the nearest wholesale grocer and returned with replacements for everything that had been lost (at astonishing speed I might add!). The volunteers made quick work of the new food. Everyone focused on what needed to be done at that moment. When it came time to serve the meal only a few diners knew our story. The meal was our largest by far, as we served 119 meals. Even though we were still lamenting the wasted food there was no doubt that the meal was enjoyed by all. One diner told a volunteer that it was the best Thanksgiving meal she had ever had. Thankfully, this scary story had a happy ending!
This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful to be surrounded and supported by such a committed and caring community who work so hard to serve the very best meals week after week after week.