Everyone loves lasagna.
Sure, there may be some obstacles to overcome: marinara sauce over meat, making yours with Daiya instead of the regular stuff. Oh no, is there gluten in this pasta?
But no matter how you slice it, there’s something special about that warm, gooey, crunchy combination of mozzarella and oregano and onions and tomato and rosemary and browned beef and herbs-en-provence and ricotta. It feeds the body and the soul.
Today, my peers and I took a trip to a Ronald McDonald House in London to make dinner for the families staying there.
The first RMH opened in 1974 in the United States. Philadelphia Eagles player Fred Hill enlisted his team to fundraise for the hospital where his daughter was receiving leukemia treatment. They exceeded their initial goal of $10,000 and just kept going. With the help of a local McDonald’s manager, they managed to build a house for patients’ families, so they could get a reprieve from the noise and stress of the ward.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities came to the U.K. 15 years later. Since then, 14 RMH locations have emerged throughout the U.K., including Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Oxford and Edinburgh.
After class, I headed to Waterloo station to wait for the group. I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to be meeting everyone. Pro-tip: there are actually two Starbucks in Waterloo station. Who knew the Brits loved Starbucks so much?
But once I ran into Sara and saw Ibi + the crew walk in, I knew I was in the right place. I was also fortunate enough to meet some other American students studying abroad, who were just lovely.
From there, we walked past the London Eye and along the River Thames. In the mean time, Sara and I talked about “Get Out” and wokeness and alternative castings for “La La Land.”
When we arrived at the RMH, the first thing that struck me was how utterly quiet it was. But it wasn’t the eerie kind of quiet. It was just tranquil. Navigating around the neat, clean and bright halls and rooms, the intent behind building the RMHs was clear: creating a space of sanctuary.
We lugged cucumbers and muffins and baguettes to the kitchen, and then it was on and poppin’. Literally. I was in charge of sautéing the onions.
But I couldn’t chop them, though. I thought I could. I made a valiant effort. But their sting was simply too mighty for me. I switched to mushroom duty instead.
Next to Slayer of Mushrooms and Sizzler of Onions, I was also the Layer of Noodles. Like an architect, I laid the foundation and infrastructure the two meat lasagnas and two veggie ones we baked for the families.
In the midst of cooking, we met one mother and her daughter. They had just arrived and were waiting on the recovery of a little boy who needed heart surgery. Listening to her story and hearing the tremor of her voice made it all quite real.
I am glad that I got a chance to visit the RMH today. It was nothing at all to block off some time to prepare some top-notch, mouth-watering lasagnas for people who would probably really appreciate it. Especially after the emotionally and physically day, week, month they’ve probably had.
Even though it was a small gesture, I know that today, we helped make something nice for the families to come home to. Something comforting to make the RMH really feel like home.