Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pork Chop Casserole at Veterans Village

(from a summer 2020 student)

For my assignment I chose to volunteer to cook a dish to bring to the Veteran’s Village in Tallahassee, FL. I chose this mission, mainly because I felt it was something I could fit into my schedule, but also because I wanted to actually be able to meet some people and not just send packages off, not to take anything away from those who sent packages, I just like meeting people face to face. Also, I am deeply grateful for the services veterans have provided for this country and was excited to be able to do a little something in return. Professor Soldani explained the details and gave us several opportunities to sign up on-line.
I decided to make one of my favorite recipes that my mom used to cook when we were having family dinners. The dish is pork chop casserole made with pork chops, potatoes and onions, with diced tomatoes poured over everything. It needs to be cooked for a couple of hours so I had to cook it the night before the dinner. Unfortunately, that is also the night of my almost 3 hour Spanish class, which means I don’t even get home until almost 9:00 pm. I still had to wash and slice the potatoes and season all of the pork chops! I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to finish everything! Fortunately, I got everything in the oven in record time and started working on homework while the casserole was cooking.
The casserole is basically layers of pork chops, then layers of potatoes so it is really heavy. The next morning, I had to get it out of the fridge and into the car, then figure out how to keep it from spoiling at work. Luckily, I work with great people and one of the guys stored the casserole for me in a spare refrigerator in a different building from where I work, (probably a good thing, in the long run since our fridges at work are usually full!) Then I had to get it back in the car, and get it over to the Veteran’s Village, not to mention find the place.
Well, I got there in good time and in fact was the first person there. Professor Soldani had assured me there would be people milling around that could help me get this 50 pounds of food up the stairs, but there wasn’t a soul around when I got there. There was a young lady unloading loaves of bread on a picnic table and I asked her where I needed to go. I parked and went upstairs looking for the right room. I went up the elevator and down the breezeway, but still didn’t see anyone milling around so, thinking I had gone on the wrong side, I turned around and as soon as I did I ran into a wasp. It stung me, pow, right on the ear! Ow! I haven’t been stung by anything in years; I forgot how painful wasp stings are! Well, needless to say, that freaked me out a little, so I went back to the car to see if I had any ice in the car.
1About that time, a young man came towards the car and asked if he could help me. (Finally, one of these people Professor Soldani had told me about!) I asked him if he knew where the dinner would be and he assured me he did and that he would be glad to help me take the casserole upstairs. He was very polite and friendly and he took me to the right apartment area for the dinner. I got the casserole in the oven and in just a few more minutes people did start coming up. I got to meet Professor Soldani face-to-face for the first time and she was truly a delight to meet! I also met another student around the same age as I am, (I think her name was Diane? – sorry I’m awful with names, but she was delightful too) and then several more veterans that live in the village.
Students and volunteers were bringing in more food, and I wasn’t really quite sure what to do with myself for a few minutes, but pretty soon there were more people coming in and more people to meet and talk to. The veterans were also getting hungry so I was trying to hurry the casserole along!
Next, the most adorable little Pomeranian came walking in with his owner. Apparently he’s a little bit of a mascot for the Vet’s Village. His name was Toby. I had a blast getting to know him and was so thrilled he actually let me pick him up! That really just made my night. I know I was there to meet the veterans and serve them a meal, but little Toby was the highlight of my evening. 2What can I say, I love dogs!
Well, the meal turned out great! The casserole was a huge hit; I even had someone ask for the recipe! There was also macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, fruit, banana pudding, salad and cupcakes. There was plenty for everyone and it seemed like the veterans really enjoyed themselves. And I’m pretty sure little Toby got some too!
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to learn more about the Veteran’s Village and to meet so many people that have served our country. I really did enjoy meeting everyone. I would like to actually pop in again one Thursday night and bring another dish over. It was nice to be able to do something special for such a wonderful group of people, and it really wasn’t that difficult to do. This experience has definitely helped me understand that there are always ways to make life a little more enjoyable to others.
It is easy for all of us to be self-centered and bogged down in the day-to-day issues of our own lives. However, it isn’t nearly as difficult as we think to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. And usually, what we do for others ends up helping us even more. 3It is truly good for the soul.