Cooking With the Troops Recap

Heather says:

I thought that this weekend’s event would be a fun way to give back. I thought I would fly home Sunday evening and dive back into normal life. I thought that Thursday’s Quick Note would be the only thing I would say here. I didn’t realize how profoundly a small deed like preparing a meal as an act of gratitude would affect me.

I grew up a military brat; I knew military life. However I was lucky, my dad served mostly during the Cold War. He went out and always came home whole and safe.

Those I met this weekend were not so lucky. Many of those I met this weekend gave up their limbs and a normal life so we could continue to live as we do. The families I met at the Fisher House (it’s like the Ronald McDonald House for military families) were painfully young. So many of these soldiers are just so terrifyingly young, newly married with brand new families and now futures a world apart from the one they planned.

I don’t have any pictures of the men and women I met, to share those would be to compromise their dignity and that is something I will not do. What I do have are pictures of the team that came together, from all over this country, to work together and prepare a few meals. I cannot begin to convey how much I admire and respect these people.

I wish I had thought to take pictures of all of the regular volunteers at the Warrior Family Support Center. Wounded soldiers are often assigned to a transition battalion and during this time their job is to get well. Their job is physical rehabilitation and they are stationed at places like Ft. Sam Houston and BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center). The building (if you go through the above link, there are pictures) is intended to be a home-like environment, a place unlike sterile hospital and therapy rooms.

The facility is beautiful. Don’t ask about the butterfly theme unless you have tissues within reach. I’m not usually a crier, but I spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling and blinking back tears.

Volunteers like Rachel cannot be thanked enough. I wish I had thought to take pictures of all we met.

Val Prieto of Babalu Blog and Dos Cubano Pig Roasts roasted four pigs in La Caja China -boxes specially designed for pig roasting. As an aside, I spent four days immersed in Spanish, cursing every moment I wasted on French in high school.

Yes, it was still dark when they got started. (This picture was taken by Val)

What you don’t see is that it was over 100°F.

I wish you all could meet Marta and her wonderful family. I will teasingly mention that if you’re an introvert you may find sharing a car with them a tad overwhelming at times. Carrie Ferguson Weir, a mutual friend, had sent me a message to be on the lookout for Marta “She’s a Cuban you, you’ll love her.”

Meet Marta, whose heart is many times larger than the tray of 300 Marta’s Pastelitos de Guayaba.

Marta’s amazing family. Special thanks to Amy (left) for introducing me to Cuban coffee and saving me from the “dirty water” the motel was trying to pass off as such.

The following picture isn’t the best from a technical perspective, but I find it captures the environment better than any other I took over the weekend.

I want to introduce you to Ellen Adams of Red Hot Dish. She’s a personal chef in Webster, NY. We bonded as foodies and as fellow red heads. She’s an amazing woman and I wish you could spend time with her. Not only did she create the menu and prepare dinner on Friday, she also taught the first Home Front Support cooking class, which was a wonderful success. (This class is a huge part of why I am a part of Cooking With the Troops)

If you needed proof I did more than stand around and take pics, rest assured I would have many more if I hadn’t been neck deep in prep work,  pot scrubbing and epicly -yes made up term- large batch of couscous making.

I want to mention Mike Russo who had a joke for every lull in the conversation and in the evenings, when we cut loose, he generously served as designated driver.

Photo Courtesy of Cooking With the Troops

 I don’t have a picture Meet  Bob Miller.

I’m scared if I tried to describe him to you, I wouldn’t do him justice and it would leave you with a caricature of who he is. He’s one of the outstanding men behind Cooking With the Troops and it was an honor to work with him. Blake Powers, CEO of Cooking With the Troops, worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition. I can’t thank him enough and ridiculous as it may be, I don’t have a good picture of him, either.

I’m still processing the experience. I don’t have the right words to explain how tough it was to be told “Thank you,” when really, “thank you” was why I was there in the first place. The experience was so incredibly rewarding that there is no way it can even begin to be an expression of the gratitude I feel for those who we were trying to serve.

It will never be enough.

Thank you, Home Ec 101 Readers for being here. If it weren’t for you, I never would have had the opportunity to be involved in this project. This won’t be the last time I work with CWtT.org and I am deeply indebted to you for the privilege.



21 Comments

  1. HeatherSolos on July 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

    @mydwynter I’d love to.

  2. mydwynter on July 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    @HeatherSolos ::cough:: You can practice your Spanish with me…

  3. BurninLoveBBQ on July 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    You guys ROCK! Looks like you put on an awesome shindig, and I’m totally going to try those Pastelitos de Guayaba!

    Thanks for takin’ good care of our heros!

    -Perry

    Perry P. Perkins

    Author

    “La Caja China Cooking”

    “La Caja China World”

  4. HeatherSolos on July 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    @Marta I don’t have anyone to practice with around here, well I suppose I could make it a joint effort with my kids. . . hmm Now you have me thinking.

    I can’t wait until we can do this again.

  5. MicheleChestnut on July 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    @HeatherSolos No I don’t believe that. If you truly love what you are doing in the moment… it should be fun! Plus, do you think those families really wanted to see somber faces walking around? I’m glad you had this opportunity and so proud of you!

  6. HeatherSolos on July 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    @MicheleChestnut Thanks Michele, it was an amazing trip and I have this weird conflicted feeling that it was much more fun than it had any right to be.

  7. HeatherSolos on July 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    @farant There’s nothing wrong with French, however it has never served a useful purpose in my life. I could read signs when I was in Toronto, but they also had English signs that said the same thing.

  8. farant on July 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    God bless you for this (not the French part though)!

  9. MicheleChestnut on July 18, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Oh Heather! How amazing! Okay you gave me tears… it has to be so humbling to be part of something so precious as this. I think they chose a wonderful person like you to be part of this, okay I’m bias cause I heart you! I’m thankful to have friends like you that care about things like this. xoxo

  10. Marta on July 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Thank YOU, Heather. This was a beautiful recap of this amazing weekend. I, too, felt so privileged to be a part of this incredible event. There were so many emotions to process in between chopping and prepping and feeling the weight of the honor of being invited there, but I truly cherish the laugh-out-loud moments with my fellow co-workers. I loved working shoulder to shoulder with you. My family was impacted deeply by the entire weekend. We’re in for the duration. Muchos besos! (Practice your Spanish!)

    ~Marta

  11. ChristinaNevelStumbaugh on July 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Great post Heather! Thank you for giving your time to such a worthy cause – these guys and gals sacrifice so much, it’s a great reminder to see a day or two of their lives.

  12. valprieto on July 18, 2011 at 10:15 am

    There seems to be a whole heckova lot of dust flying around here inside my office in Miami, all of it aiming straight for my eyes. To say that this was an unforgettable experience would be the understatement of a lifetime. An amazing event for amazing people by amazing people. Honored, privileged and so glad to have been a part of it.

  13. BlakePowers on July 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Thank you so much for being a part of this, and I am serious when I say we could not have done it without you. It does get to you, being there, doesn’t it. You were about to get dust in my eyes when I read the comment about the car, and started laughing so hard Jenny (my owner/dog) came over all concerned to check on me. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time, as I did Saturday night on our excursion on the Boston MTA, er, San Antonio roadways. *G* Luuuccccyyyyy! Again, it was a pleasure, and so glad you were a part of this.

  14. HeatherSolos on July 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @janlnye I’m overly emotional this morning. I think I’m off to have a good cry in the shower and get it out of my system.

  15. janlnye on July 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I’m all teary eyed just reading your account. Too afraid to look into the butterflies, I may not leave the house today. This old military brat thanks you. Sounds like an amazing experience.

  16. HeatherSolos on July 18, 2011 at 9:36 am

    @TheAmyTucker I quit.

  17. HeatherSolos on July 18, 2011 at 9:35 am

    @TheAmyTucker grr no, but this should

    <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/cantalyssa/5950055027/” title=”fruitsalad by HeatherSolos, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6012/5950055027_6b9902bdc3.jpg” width=”500″ height=”373″ alt=”fruitsalad”></a>

  18. HeatherSolos on July 18, 2011 at 9:26 am

    @TheAmyTucker Seeing if this works: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111585581956730395692/posts

  19. TheAmyTucker on July 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

    @HeatherSolos I know but yours was super pretty.

  20. HeatherSolos on July 18, 2011 at 9:10 am

    @TheAmyTucker It’s easy enough to make on your own (in smaller batches, naturally) toss together a bunch of fruit, add some lime zest and a splash of OJ. Eat.

  21. TheAmyTucker on July 18, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I know you were looking forward to this and I’m glad it went so well for you. And I still want your fruit salad.

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