The Thanksgiving dinner in on Monday night had all the essentials.
There was turkey. There were mashed potatoes. There were rolls. But there were other foods, as well: spicy Hispanic pastries, Somali meat dishes, unique fruit salads.
Tuesday’s dinner marked the fourth time Minnetonka United Methodist Church has shared a Thanksgiving meal with students in the English language and GED courses at Hopkins Adult Options in Education. What started as the church sharing a meal with the students turned into a giant potluck where the students bring in their own dishes.
Pat Shoop both teaches the advanced English as a Second Language class and is a member of the church. She approached the church’s women’s group about doing the Thanksgiving dinner one year, and it’s been a big hit ever since.
“They just took it and ran with it,” Shoop said.
Francesco Lara, who’s originally from Mexico, enjoyed sampling the new food and talking to the other students about it.
“People tend to share ideas with other,” he said.
Carlos Barrera, originally from Ecuador, enjoyed the mashed potatoes best—like many of the students. But he also particularly enjoyed a dish made from lamb, a meat he’d never tried.
“That’s very different for me,” Barrera said.
For some, Thanksgiving staples, such as turkey, were entirely new experiences.
Yet most of the students have embraced the American holiday and all the culinary trappings that come along with it. Jose Tapia, from Mexico, described cooking turkey and mashed potatoes at his own home.
Yasmin Gadid, originally from Somalia, said the best part is having a conversation with her fellow students. They spend so much time working that they don’t have much chance to just sit around and get to know one another.
That sense of connection is exactly what the church members are going for.
“We’re very involved in the community,” said Anne Bretts, who helped organize the event. “It’s just very important to us.”