Thanksgiving, for the StreetCorner Gourmets, was a grand, touching, intense, lighthearted 3 days of kitchen-ing at its best, followed by a long 12-hours of celebrating and shivering in tempo with our street guests — most of whom had no place to warm-up afterward.
I’m Tired Mom – Are We Almost Finished
Then, 2 days of dogged clean-up. Even little grand-niece Ella needed a nap on mommy’s back in between performing her dances and drawings in the kitchen for the handful of us diehards while we cleaned up our acre of borrowed space and reloaded our truck with our unique collection of curbside “catering” equipment.
We had a record team of earnest, eager volunteers on the street this year, escorting our guests, one-on-one, for the entire day. What an inspiring exchange of hearts, thoughts, and truly believable caring took place during these spontaneous companionships!
Dozens of little kids played and nibbled together, pocketing small bags of happily prepared holiday candies for later.
Our stuffing-filled puff pastries appetizers were snatched up almost faster than our young servers could carry them up and down the line.
Smoked turkey “ham” kabobs with juicy grapes and mustard balsalmic drizzle were gone before you could describe them.
Hearty hunks of zesty corn bread, steaming cupsful of sweet potato bisque, and all the rest of the feast were dispensed cheerily to wide-eyed, smiling, personally escorted dinner guests for hours and hours, through sleet and snow and the never-drying soggy clothes that kept all of us shivering.
Home-made cranberry sauce was a big hit, as were the tall stacks of freshly made sweet potato pies. And the creamy mashed turnips and “ham”-spiked collard greens — GONE.
Candied sweet potatoes (“Heavenly Sweets”) and our signature apple-sage-pecan stuffing (“Stuffing From Heaven,”) cooked by students and their families and teachers in 2 NY prep schools disappeared like the wet snow, at about the same time.
Our baked apples-pears-figs compote with buttery caramel sauce and freshly whipped cream was gone long before we ran out of turkey.
Thanksgiving Late Night Crew
One thing we never run out of is the weatherproof comfort of love. Thoughtful, gentle, compassionate, untiring kindness has built a tradition on our street corner. Even people walking by feel it. This year, an unusually large number of our guests shared stories of how they first found us, and why they keep coming back, even though their circumstances now might be a bit better than they were then.
Wherever each of us was at 8:00 on Thanksgiving night, our inner ears already had heard the heartfelt, embarrassed plea of one man who walked by in the dark, after everyone except our core team of 3 had gone, as we loaded the last of our gear onto our truck, “I AM SO-OOOO HUNGRY — DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING AT ALL FOR ME TO EAT? — I WILL EAT ANYTHING”. This plea, for almost 50 years, is the root of our Thanksgiving tradition on the street. We had a small pan of fruit compote, a half-pan of stuffing, and a WHOLE Turkey from one of our Long Island donors that we packaged up for him . . . with deepest joy and simple hugs and jokes about the chilling night.
There’s nothing in the world like a StreetCorner Gourmets Thanksgiving-On-The-Street.
Years ago, I asked our hardy late-night StreetCorner Gourmets “Did you ever wake up dreaming that the world had become a place in which everyone just looked out for each other?” I answered for them, “It isn’t a dream. You just made it happen. For a few hours. On a street corner”.
You did it again.
My deepest love and thanks to our inspiring StreetCorner Gourmets teams who came to work in our Command Central kitchen, who came to dinner, who cooked and served, brought funds and funds and upbeat spirts,
- from all 5 boros of New York City,
- from the North and South Shores of Long Island,
- from the immigrant communities of the South Bronx and Queens and their older anchoring neighborhoods,
- from coastal Connecticut and the rolling Litchfield Hills,
- from Westchester, Rockland, Albany, Putnam, and Montgomery,
- from Bolton Landing on Lake George and Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain;
- from Bethlehem-Pennsylvania and dozens of towns strung across New Jersey,
- from Washington DC and Boston and Cincinnati,.
- from Sarajevo-Bosnia Herzagovina and Cairo-Egypt,
- from Atlanta-Georgia and West Palm Beach-Florida,
- from the village of Tralee on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula
- and my many long time business colleagues who reached to us across the entire U.S.A. from the industry meetings that I skipped in our nation’s capitol and in San Francisco.
THANK YOU, from upwards of 2,000 New Yorkers, many of them children, who had a very happy Thanksgiving at YOUR table, the StreetCorner Gourmets Table, a bench in a bus stop.