This week Nana agreed to help me take dinner to the shelter in Redmond. They have recently increased their bed count, so now we take dinner for 20-25 hungry young people, which is bordering on too much. Well, perhaps not too many people, but it requires a lot of planning, and careful choices about menu. And you know who I want on my team when there is a cooking project that requires planning and choices? Nana. This week I decided to go with pulled pork, which is crockpotted in 2 crockpots, baked potatoes and salad. My fatal error was to also deciding to cook an apple crisp.
I picked up Nana at 5, and we
got back to my house to start with dinner around 5:30. We figured we'd
assemble the crisp, cook it, and then do the potatoes (which I foil
wrapped beforehand), so that the potatoes would still be warm at dinner.
It's ok to laugh a little at this point- we need to deliver dinner at
8:30, and that stuff is simply not all going to happen in that three
hour window. Nana and Matt started slicing apples while I made the top
and preheated the oven. The crisp went in the oven around 6:30, and I
was already starting to think better of my plan. Instead of turning the
oven up (since a crisp can pretty much cook between 350 and 425), I just
threw the potatoes in there as well. This will get us to the punchline
in about an hour.
Next, we shredded 16 pounds of meat. I
was feeling good about this- it was tasty, and for once seemed like
plenty of food. At about 7, I nuked up some lasagna and the three of us
had a simple dinner. Matt kept bragging to Nana that this was special, I
usually forget to feed us on the nights I take dinner to the shelter.
7:30, I got up from the table, ready to start thinking about how we
would move all this stuff, and wondering why we weren't overwhelmed with
the luscious smells out of the oven. Picture this, I have a 15x11x4
foil pan brimming with apple crisp on the bottom rack, surrounded by
foil wrapped potatoes on all sides, and above that is a tray of more
foil wrapped potatoes, which is also surrounded by potatoes. (Dinner for
25, right?) The edges of the crisp seemed bubbly but the middle was...
still crisp. Gulp. I figured, if the potatoes were done, I would just
pull them out of the way and the heat would get more even in the oven.
Worse news, the potatoes are also crisp. My eyes are getting bulgy now.
There is a moment, usually about 7:30, when we are planning to take dinner to the shelter and I think, "Nevermind. This won't work. Is it too late to cancel?" This was that moment.
breezes in to the kitchen and says, "Hm, why don't you turn up the
oven? And can you nuke those potatoes?" and then she goes on to cleaning
up from all the dinner and cooking. Yes and Yes! By this point Matt
has looked up a real recipe for making baked potatoes (1hr at 425), and
we crank up the heat. He starts pulling potatoes out of their foil
jackets in pairs and throwing them in the microwave for a couple minutes
at a time, then rewrapping them. Matt is watching the clock like a
hawk, but I'm confident that dinner can be served eventually. I start
loading up the car. Juice. Buns. BBQ sauce. Butter and sour cream.
Lasagna pan full of pork. Salad. The longer the potatoes have been in
the oven, the less nuking they need. The crisp is starting to soften and
smell lovely. We get the last soft potato in the car and hurtle down to
Redmond to serve.
I'm feeling grateful that I can
afford to donate dinner, and that I have family to support me in the
effort, but still a little bashful that we might be a couple minutes
late and a fair bit frazzled. When we arrive, the shelter is dark. For
one second, I wonder if I misread the calendar, but no, homeless
shelters don't take days off. Turns out, we aren't the only ones feeling
flustered tonight, the key has gone missing, and the staff are waiting
for someone to let them in.
As we wait patiently, more
people start hanging out in this dark parking lot, and I'm feeling
really glad that we have a trunk full of tasty food to share. Once the
door is open, we breeze in like this is no big deal, unpacking and
delivering while the now flustered staff and trying to recover from
their shortened prep time as well. By the time we left, it seemed like a
huge crowd was waiting outside. Several of the guests thanked us for
bringing dinner, and we slinked back to out nice warm homes. The next
day I got an email that they had more people than beds that night, but
they were able to offer dinner, even seconds, to everyone who was there