Funny motivational speaker
Cooking is fun for me. I get a kick out of trying new combinations like curry stew with a melted banana, and Sriracha peanut butter Thai sauce, and oven-fried pickles.
I enjoy entertaining. Should I use Great Grandma Robinson’s hand wash-only china or dishwasher-safe glass dishes? Placemats or tablecloth? Eclectic mismatched candles or an elegant flower bouquet for the centerpiece?
So I got excited about cooking Sunday dinner for our local women and children’s shelter. Days before, I changed the menu 17 times. “Didn’t you just decide on the tator tot thing?” Steve said, trying hard to steady his rolling eyes. I ignored him.
Minnesota is the land of the covered dish where we continue to discover new uses for cream of celery soup. Goggling casseroles, I stumbled upon Gold Fish Casserole, Kitchen Sink Rice Bake, and Cheese-it Taco Dish. Searching “recipes for a crowd,” I found ways to braise, bake, and broil pinto beans, penne pasta, and potatoes.
I finally decided on a simple meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy fresh bread, and cupcakes. The cooking day arrived along with my nerves. Are the mashed potatoes lumpy? Is the chicken adequately cooked, not too dry, and well seasoned? Is the bread too heavy, the Bottom too brown? Is the gravy too thin?
My team comprised Steve, our 16-year-old son Zach, and my 85-year-old mom. We arrived at the shelter early to haul in roasters, crock pots, and Tupperware filled with food. By 515 pm, there was a blur of people either dishing up food or eating in the dining room.
I grabbed a plate and sat down to join the group. During our meal together, one woman told me about the new job she’d landed, and another gave me tips on keeping fried chicken crisp. I got to hold a three-week-old baby and feed mashed potatoes to a little 11-month-old dumpling. A group of us oohed over pictures of grandchildren and offered advice on teething toddlers. Time flew, and before I knew it, Sunday dinner was over. We packed up, said our goodbyes, and left with warm hearts and happy memories.
Today I am still smiling because I know that all my worrying about the food was silly. I’ll always enjoy searching for the next best Sunday meal, but now I know that the best part of Sunday dinner is the connection I made with the people I served. Reminding me that when volunteering, I get more than I give.