LA GRANDE — Mona Esquiro had plenty on her mind Thursday morning in La Grande, but her focus was on one thing: “Gravy, gravy, gravy,” she sang.
Lots of gravy. Turkey gravy. Somewhere around 10 gallons of the stuff.
Esquiro headed up cooking the annual community Thanksgiving dinner at the Presbyterian Friendship Center, just as she has the three years prior for the charitable nonprofit Neighbors Together, which organizes the event.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I have so many volunteers. I just have to tell them what to do. It’s really good.”
She had the hard part out of the way. Esquiro said she spent Wednesday in the center’s industrial kitchen cooking 10 turkeys, each about 15 pounds.
“I had all the ovens going. It was so hot in here,” she exclaimed.
And there were the 100 pounds of russets for the mashed potatoes, and 50 pounds of yams, and the rolls and cranberry sauce and more. And the pies for dessert. Esquiro said volunteers would provide anywhere from 50 to 75 pies.
All together, she said, the goods make about 200 meals. So there has to be plenty of gravy.
“They love my gravy,” she said. “And of course they put it on the potatoes, the stuffing and everything.”
Hanna Voetberg said she is all about the gravy. The president of Neighbors Together, she told Esquiro she wants her mashed potatoes “swimming in it.”
Esquiro replied she’s a stuffing person.
“I can always have mashed potatoes and gravy,” she said. “But stuffing?”
The event opened to the public at about noon and started serving around a half hour later. Voetberg said the meal is for anyone who wants it. Neighbors Together took over the event four years ago, and that Thanksgiving members of the EOU football team came.
“Those guys could really pack it away,” Voetberg recalled.
And this year, the university’s women soccer team attended. The team is getting ready for a return to the NAIA national tournament’s final location in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Kathleen Hollingshead said she has been coming to the community meal year after year for two decades. While the food always is tasty, she said it’s the community that keeps her coming back. She may not be able to donate, she said, but participation matters. If no one shows up for these gatherings, the events tend to die out, she said.
Couple Destiny Fouts and Chester Wilson said they were first timers. Wilson said he was happy he didn’t have to clean and do the dishes this Thanksgiving, and they both said the dinner had everything you could ask for.
“Kind of like Grandma used to make it, really,” Fouts said.
Fouts and Wilson ended up with a fair bit of dessert. During the event’s raffle, she won an apple pie.
Going home with extras is just fine with Esquiro. She said the aim is to provide for those who need it.
“Nobody goes hungry here,” she said.