Vancouver:  There was a long line-up last Saturday for the free turkey dinner cooked and served by students in the cooking, baking, and food service programs at Vancouver Community College, Pender St. campus. One man in the line said he’d never seen the line-up so long at the annual dinner. The line-up snaked from the first floor lobby, up the stairs, and around to the cafeteria area on the second floor. It went fast though. And students served fresh coffee — cream and sugar if you wanted it — to everyone in the line up.

Students and staff were super courteous, just like servers in expensive restaurants.

The only place where the crowd control broke down momentarily was in the cafeteria where the line forked into two as people picked up a salad and fresh-baked roll, and then merged again into one line as people picked up a plate of turkey and vegetables. One woman in the line called out to the people in front of her, “Don’t back up any more!”, as people stepped backwards to let others merge back into the line.

I thought the stuffing was the best part of the turkey dinner. It wasn’t too salty and didn’t have that out-of-a-box taste. There were bits of carrots and celery mixed in with the bread crumbs. I said to the friend sitting with me, “This stuffing tastes as good as if it were cooked inside the turkey.”

Everybody got a mixture of brown and white meat with gravy, mashed potatoes, and a steamed vegetable mix of carrots, brocolli, and cauliflower. The cranberry sauce tasted fresh-made and wasn’t overly sweet. There was also a lettuce side salad with a tangy oil and vinegar dressing.

The free dinner came with a million dollar view. We sat in the “lower dining room” of the split level cafeteria, and had the above view of Victory Square.

You didn’t have to be poor to attend the dinner but many people there were from Vancouver’s low income Downtown Eastside. It was the tail end of a five week welfare month — cheques would come out the following Wednesday — so even the most hardened Downtown Eastsiders were in a good mood as they got a free full course meal. And got treated like they had gold credit cards.

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