Lately I've been pondering the dilemma of how Derek could acquire the last couple of volunteer hours he needs, (to fill his high-school-graduation-quota of 75) preferably before the current academic year ends. (And we move...to another state...where hopefully the "time served" will transfer and he'll still be finished, at least with the "official, gotta fill out paperwork to get credit" sort of volunteering, though not with the "supporting our fellow man and/or the environment just because we want to and we should" kind. If you know what I mean...) I've always wanted to find something like a soup kitchen, since obviously food is extremely near-and-dear to a 13-year old boy's heart--and presumably he could empathize with those who don't have enough to eat, and feel the pleasure of providing nourishment to hungry people. So I did a bit of digging on the wondrous Internet, and found that there's a homeless shelter in a nearby town. Perfect, we are eager to help, sign us right the heck up! But there was just one teeny, tiny glitch: this particular building doesn't have cooking facilities on-site, so they rely completely on already-prepared meal donations brought to them from outside sources...enough to feed up to 200 people a night! (Slight pause: Y-I-K-E-S!!)
Feeling quite daunted by this information, I nevertheless contacted the nice lady who coordinates the food service. She assured me that they accept contributions of any amount, and we could commit to as few as 20 meals to be awarded Derek's service hours. (Whew!) We promptly arranged to assemble and deliver 40 bagged breakfasts over Thanksgiving weekend, then a hot dinner for 20, this evening. Now, obviously some of the work fell to me, as the one who needed to shop for all of the supplies. But once I had gathered bagels, individual cream-cheese-packets, fruit cups, granola bars, and juice boxes (all I can say is: thank goodness for the bulk-food-heaven that is known as "Costco") the brown-bag-elves--I mean "sons"--and I got down to work, packing and stacking what ended up to be a...mega-mound...of morning munchies. Granted, it wasn't exactly what you'd call "strenuous work"...but I believe we still experienced a collective sense of accomplishment and...I don't know, "warm fuzzies?"...when we dropped off the overflowing Rubbermaid tote at the front desk of the shelter. I, for one, enjoy the idea that someone who might not have been able to eat breakfast will have that opportunity because of what my family provided.
The next task involved quite a bit more planning, organizing...and (gasp) actual cooking. I decided to make an easy version of chicken parmesan (using breaded patties....still counts, right?) with sides of spaghetti and steamed green beans, and pumpkin snack cake for dessert. Um...yeeeaaahhh. Keep in mind, I'm the woman who considers cooking for her own household a chore, who attempts to throw together the simplest healthy meals possible for her family, who buys prepared food for parties rather than slaving away in the kitchen to please a crowd of people. And yet, somehow I thought it'd be a swell idea to cook a full meal...for 20? Who knows, maybe I hit my head that day, because that does NOT sound like me at ALL. Oh well, since I (or perhaps my Evil Twin--that would explain it) agreed to do this, there was no alternative but to roll up our sleeves and get busy. All joking aside, I realized that this would be a real chance for Derek to learn something...since he's never cooked anything in his life thus far. (I'm actually embarrassed to admit that...and yeah, it's waaayyy overdue. On it...) I mean, c'mon, he had to do all kinds of stuff that was new to him: follow a recipe...measure and mix ingredients...boil water...preheat the oven...um, set the microwave...etc...
I swear at one point I glanced around and marveled, "This looks like amateur night on Chopped, or something." We had multiple pots on the stove, utensils and bowls and huge roasting pans taking up every inch of counter space--it was a big honkin' mess, I tell ya. (That's a sure sign of creativity in the kitchen, right? Or just...a disaster waiting to be cleaned up...sigh...) But in the end, the chicken oozed with gooey deliciousness, the pasta hinted at buttery goodness, the green beans wafted a pleasant...garlicky...ness, and the pumpkin bread added a sweet cinnamon parting note. (Let me just say: Wow, did my car smell like an Italian restaurant on that delivery drive!) Somehow we pulled it all together in the nick of time before the appointed drop-off hour, and all was well. While we were gone, the Dishwashing Fairy--I mean "Husband"--even tidied up the culinary scene for us. So once again, quite a satisfying experience. We got Mother/Son bonding, we did something--even a little bit--to alleviate hunger in our area, and we managed to practice a few life skills in the process. For our next feat: Derek will demonstrate his newfound talents to whip up a feast...for a family of four! (Mwah hah hah...)