I'm thankful for this macaroni dish

November 13, 2009 

I was probably about 6 years old when my father took me with him to deliver Thanksgiving dinners to the “poor people.” It was the day before Thanksgiving and, now that I think about it, Mother was busy cooking and probably asked him to take me along just to get me out of her way.

Our church had donated these meals, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, for needy families in town. I was excited to go along on such an important mission with Daddy. With a carload of boxes and turkeys, we headed off to bring Thanksgiving to those who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Most of these families lived in a section of town that might as well have been a foreign country to me. The houses were small and run down, the yards were barren and dark coal smoke rose from their chimneys.

We parked the car and began to go door to door with our bounty. I’ll never forget the smiles of happiness on the faces of the people in those shabby houses when we handed them those dinners.

It was a cold, blustery day and dogs barked at us, but I didn’t care. We were bringing Thanksgiving to people!

It felt great.

I don’t think Mother and Daddy ever realized how that day changed my life. I learned the joy of giving. No Sunday school lesson could have been more effective.

I’ve taken that lesson with me through my life and have found great satisfaction in it. I’ve been involved in lots of outreach activities over the years, but one event in particular stands out in my mind. It had to do with a soup kitchen.

After hearing a woman speak about our local soup kitchen, I was moved by her poignant stories and impulsively volunteered to serve a meal there. Immediately I realized I had volunteered to feed 60 to 70 people lunch without any idea what I was doing.

Desperate, I ran home and searched through my cookbooks for a dish that was easy, satisfying, and could be stretched to serve an army. I found a macaroni recipe that was perfect for the occasion.

Several of my adventurous friends pitched in to help chop, slice, dice, cook, and serve a meal to the masses. It was fun, actually. As we served lunch that day I was touched by the smiles of gratitude and the occasional “God Bless You” we received from those coming through the line. I had experienced this feeling somewhere before. I’m pretty sure it was on a cold November day long ago when a little girl went with her Daddy to share Thanksgiving with the poor people.

It felt great.

The Great Macaroni Dish 1½ pounds lean ground beef 1 cup chopped onions 1 large green pepper, chopped 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cups beef gravy 1 can (15 ½ oz.) kidney beans, drained 2 cups cooked macaroni ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Add more if you like) Brown the ground beef. Add the onions, green pepper, chili powder, and garlic and stir until the vegetables are tender. Add the gravy, beans, macaroni, salt, and pepper and stir until combined. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart baking dish (12x8x2 inches) and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Stir it, top with cheese, and bake until the cheese melts. Joy Smith of Fort Mill, an English teacher until she became a mother, refined her culinary skills as a homemaker and now has a fully stuffed and still growing collection of recipes to share.

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