How Alaska Pacific University students started getting invited into the kitchen to cook for Thanksgiving, Director of Sustainability and Dining Chris Pavadore isn’t sure. He knows it was about six or seven years ago, but who exactly spearheaded the effort is murky.
He’s also not sure what kind of menu the student volunteers will create from year to year.
Sure, it’ll have the staples — the regular Dining Services crew will dish out turkey, ham, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, candied yams and brussel sprouts — but in years past student volunteers have also made everything from deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms to various salads and desserts. And every year sees a new gravy, Pavadore said, because every year a different student asserts that their family’s recipe is hands down the best one.
“It essentially ends up being a big potluck of ‘here, this is what my family eats on Thanksgiving,’” Pavadore said.
Though all students are invited to submit a recipe, Pavadore said the most surefire way for students to get their favorite holiday dish on their plate is to volunteer to come help cook it on Thursday morning (or Wednesday, if it’s a dessert).
“You don’t need to be a great cook — we’re there to help,” Pavadore said. “We’ll scale the recipe up from family sized to community sized and will be there to guide volunteers through the process.”
The more students who volunteer to help in the kitchen, the larger the meal is on Thanksgiving.
“It’s always a good time,” Pavadore said. “We’re blasting 98.9 louder than I can hear myself think, because they’re playing holiday music. Students are singing and playing around. One year there was a flour fight, and I somehow found myself as the target. It’s always fun.”
Pavadore said he likes that the student volunteers get to come and see the other side of the story, too.
“It’s one thing to show up to a meal and it’s magically there, but it’s another thing entirely to be involved and know how hard it is to do yourself,” Pavadore said.
Thanksgiving week will be particularly busy in APU’s kitchen. Beyond preparing to feed the masses of APU students, faculty, and staff, the kitchen crew will be slinging out pies (pumpkin, pecan, caramel apple, strawberry rhubarb, banana cream) and breads (cheddars and chive biscuits, cheddar jalapeno rolls, white chocolate peach and cinnamon sweet breads) for sell on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Now in it’s second year, the pie sale was originally developed as a way to generate new revenues and keep the cost of meal plans down.
Last year, in the pilot program for the pie and bread sale, Dining Services had to rent the sprinter van from Moseley to get the baked goods from Atwood Center to Grant Hall.
“We had everything on these big speed racks and it was so heavy,” Pavadore said. “I was so nervous that we were going to drop them all.”
The pie and bread sale is open to the greater Anchorage community — already APD and Enstar have ordered a handful of goodies.
“I hope that it eases the burden of the holiday for some hosts,” Pavadore said. “I know how hard it is to host 15-20 people at your house, especially when you need your one oven for everything. I hope this takes a little work away for others. Holidays aren’t supposed to be stressful.”
Though the exact recipes and events surrounding Thanksgiving are in flux every year, the one constant, Pavadore said, is the feeling of belonging that permeates Atwood Center on Thanksgiving.
“It’s expensive to fly home and there are certain things you might miss by not being at home, like your favorite dish,” Pavadore said. “Having the opportunity to make your family staples and sharing it with your community really brings about a feeling of togetherness.”