by Tyler Orton
Anyone looking to start 2012 with a full belly should look no further than the Salvation Army.
For the fourth year in a row, the Centre of Hope at 34081 Gladys Ave. is offering a free New Year’s Day lunch made up of South Asian cuisine.
Abbotsford resident Gurdip Dhaliwal began co-ordinating the annual Jan. 1 feast in 2008 after she originally wanted to prepare a Christmas meal.
That plan hit a slight bump when she found out a number of Abbotsford shelters already had plenty of food to offer leading up to Dec. 25.
It would make a far bigger impact, the Salvation Army told her, if more food was available as the holidays wound down. She then enlisted the help of some family members and they began offering a free New Year’s Day lunch to anyone who came by the Salvation Army centre.
She says the most memorable meal was that first year when over 200 people showed up for the South Asian fare.
“So many people came,” Dhaliwal says. “I was so happy.”
Despite the large crowd, there was more than enough food to go around and many people even took some of it home. This year she expects about 150 diners to make their way down to the Salvation Army.
She says the trick to attracting so many people is to make the typically spicy Indian food mild enough not to alienate those more accustomed to Western fare.
Dhaliwal, along with about a half-dozen family members, will start cooking Indian staples such as samosas, vegetables and rice pudding at 9 a.m. before serving food at 11 a.m. She says the lunch crowd usually cools down by 1 p.m., but the kitchen will stay open until 2 p.m. if the crowd is big enough.