Feeding the masses a local tradition | TheUnion.com

Feeding the masses a local tradition

Kristofer B. WakefieldGrace Knudsen checks the turkey roasts on Wednesday at Grass Valley Assembly of God.
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Is it possible to mix spirituality with stuffing?

On this Thanksgiving holiday, that’s exactly what Grace Knudsen plans on doing, serving enough of the savory turkey filling for 400 area residents who arrive at The Breakfast Club or a free traditional holiday feast.

Wednesday, Knudsen worked in the kitchen at the Grass Valley Assembly of God, presiding over ovens containing 137 pounds of turkey, stoves brimming with 1,250 ounces of giblet gravy and preparing 400 rolls that will likely be topped with 44 pounds of butter.

And that doesn’t even count the food her family will eat at home in Cascade Shores.

To be sure, Knudsen is using a bit of divine intervention to help cook for the masses – that and a lot of help from a host of church volunteers.

“To be able to help somebody and love somebody…that comes from God,” she said, wiping her brow. Preparing all this food “is wonderful. It makes me cry,” she said. “If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

This is the third year Mike Dillman, church pastor, is hosting the community dinner, which commences today at 11 a.m. at The Breakfast Club, 12072 Nevada City Highway.

More than 100 volunteers will help cook, serve and distribute meals at the restaurant Thursday, while delivering meals to the Nevada City Senior Apartments, the Grass Valley Senior Apartments, the Quail Ridge retirement center and the workers on holiday shifts at the local California Highway Patrol, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the Grass Valley Police Department.

Wednesday, the smells of savory stuffing and rich turkey broth filled the church kitchen, while dozens of pumpkin and other pies waited for dollops of whipped cream.

It’s no sweat for Knudsen, a veritable worker bee around the church kitchen.

“I get excited,” she said. “I love to cook food that makes people happy.”

The same could be said for San Juan Ridge activist Claire Grondona, who will again cook turkey and trimmings for a free Thanksgiving meal today at the town’s fire station on Reservoir Street.

There will be one seating at 2 p.m., and more if necessary, Grondona said. “It used to be like feeding the poor, but now it’s like a town party,” she said, noting that 150 came to eat last year. Meals will also be delivered to shut ins.

San Juan Ridge residents have donated salads, vegetables, pies and other desserts. Grondona is supplying the turkeys, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

“I never run out of food,” Grondona said. “I usually just sit back in amazement and watch it all happen.”

Today marks the 23rd year Thomas Coleman serves Thanksgiving dinner at his National Hotel in downtown Nevada City. He’s expecting 400 to show up between eight seatings that occur between 1-8 p.m.

It may be festive today, but serving dinner won’t be easy for Coleman and his staff.

“It’s looked at as a challenge,” he said, noting that “no one has a day off today.”

Coleman is cooking 43 turkeys, slabs of prime rib, mountains of rack of lamb, and a few choice roast ducks to go along with salad, vegetables, potatoes and dressing.

“It’s going to be intense from 8 a.m. on,” said Coleman, whose discriminating palate sampled the Thanksgiving fare Tuesday, part of approximately 12 meals a week he eats at the hotel.

“I’ve been tasting the meal, and so far, it’s good.”

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