Cortes Christmas Dinner

A Truly awesome Cortes community Christmas Dinner

Cortes Island had its annual community Christmas Dinner on December 25th.

As a result of the COVID shutdown, close to a third of the island’s population turned out. It was truly a gourmet delight. 

Cortes Currents sent Noah Davidson and Izabelle Perry a list of questions, which they chose to answer by email.  

Imagine this is Noah’s voice, rather than mine, reading this out.

Courtesy Noah and Izabelle

An annual tradition

“After the cancellation of all community events, dances, Easter, and Christmas craft fairs, we really wanted to find a way to not have to cancel Christmas Dinner!”

“Community Christmas Dinners at the Gorge Hall have been an annual tradition for as long as anyone can remember. We recently took over the planning and cooking responsibilities from Jim Kearney, who believed that everyone should have the opportunity to gather and enjoy a warm meal together on Christmas Day. We hope that people found the take-out meals were a reasonable alternative to gathering.”

“On average, the free Christmas dinner in Whaletown serves around 125 people at the Gorge Hall for a sit-down meal on Christmas Day. Usually, 3 or 4 turkeys are prepared along with the fixings, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and veggies. The attending community brings a plethora of potluck dishes that really add something special to the dinner.”

This year, over 300 came to the Cortes Christmas dinner

“This year was different, we served over 300, free take-out style meals from the Floathouse restaurant with no potluck items. We cooked 21 turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes and veggies, gravy, and cranberry sauce. We also offered a vegetarian option, with a lentil nut loaf, wild rice stuffing, vegan mashed potatoes, and miso gravy.”

“This was our (Noah and Izabelle’s) second year organizing the Christmas dinner in Whaletown, but the first time organizing a take-out style Christmas dinner prepared and served from the Floathouse restaurant.”

“Both Izabelle and I have past restaurant experience. I worked in the food industry for many years before moving to Cortes and relish any opportunity to get back into a kitchen and make people smile with beautiful, delicious food. Izabelle has plenty of experience processing high volumes of food as she gets lots of practice with her “That’s Awesome” canning business.”

“Having the local Whaletown Community Club as a source of funding for amazing community events like these and, under ordinary circumstances, the Gorge Hall space to facilitate such events is something we should all take pride in.”

Plans for a take-out style Christmas Dinner

“We began planning for a take-out style Christmas dinner sometime in October when we realized that the province’s health orders weren’t going to be lifted any time soon and were most likely to become more restrictive.”

“We had no idea what type of response we could expect from our offering of a free Christmas dinner take out style compared to the usual community Christmas dinner at the hall.”

An unexpected 275 replies 

“We realized the take-out offering was going to garner way more responses than we had anticipated on December 11th, the day after our requested RSVP due date. The dinner requests were still coming in and the count had already hit an unexpected 275 meals.”

“The gracious contribution of the use of the Floathouse Restaurant’s kitchen by Bill and Tammy at the Gorge Harbour Marina really helped make the planning and execution of such a large volume meal more realistic.”

“You asked if there was a point at which it all seemed overwhelming.” 

“Not overwhelming really, but some stress came with the understanding that the people lined up outside were having to wait longer than anticipated. We tried to not let those thoughts affect our focus. Our goal was to provide the same attention to detail from the first meal to the last, so that everyone would enjoy the same quality and presentation.”  

“Our self prescribed limitation of a single family, 3-person crew touching food in the kitchen was our real challenge for this event.

Our vision was to provide as many people on Cortes who wanted one, with a warm, delicious, and beautiful meal for Christmas, and that we believe we achieved.

Thank-yous

We were absolutely amazed by the overwhelming displays of generosity. Neighbours reaching out to deliver meals to those who couldn’t pick up their own. The many people who made donations of all types. People who donated funds without even attending. The offers of assistance from many islanders. The donation of the Floathouse kitchen usage. The volunteers, Gabriel, Arpad, Yulia and Shiva who helped with traffic control and meal deliveries to vehicles. The 400 cookies baked and donated by the Wrights and the Nielsens. The list goes on and on. It was a real heart-warming experience all around.

“My brother in Squamish asked me, “who pays for all of this if it’s free?” It’s funny that I hardly recognise how special it really is anymore. I explained to him that people’s generous donations, and the fantastic resource of our local community club cover all the costs. In many years including this year, donations alone more than cover the cost of the expenditures, and the labour is completely volunteer, so the event is pretty much fully self-sustaining.”

“I’ve believed for a long time we’re all really lucky, or super smart for living where we do. Only on Cortes have Izabelle or I experienced this level of community engagement and enthusiasm that make volunteering so rewarding. We look forward to another community Christmas dinner again next year when hopefully we can re engage community involvement and gather again at the Gorge Hall.” 

Links of Interest:

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

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