These days, with all of the demands that we have on our time, it's rare to find a few minutes to relax, let alone to make a commitment to help good causes. That's why it's commendable when dozens of men each year circle the third Friday in November as a time to serve food for a few hundred people at the Attleboro Elks.
That so many men make that commitment should not be treated as an exception, because my fellow chefs who have taken part in Gourmet Guys over the last quarter-century believe deeply in the cause. I can't speak for any of my fellow repeat chefs who will serve their favorite cuisine Friday night at the Attleboro Elks Lodge, but since it will be my 21st straight year of participation, here are 21 reasons why, over the last two decades, I've chosen to spend the Friday before Thanksgiving serving food for others:
21. Gourmet Guys benefits New Hope, the Attleboro-based agency that helps families and women affected by domestic violence and abuse.
20. Men have an obligation to take a stand, and the Gourmet Guys were doing just that well before the issue became a trending topic on Twitter this summer due to the Ray Rice and other NFL domestic violence cases.
19. You can never do enough to let women know that such cases anger men just as much as women.
18. It's a family event, as many cooks practice what they preach and bring their spouse and kids of all ages.
17. The event has become a pre-Thanksgiving tradition for my family.
16. I schlepped my oldest daughter to Gourmet Guys since she was in a stroller. This year, the toddler who one year took a walk around the Elks Hall with a volunteer Girl Scout who was kind enough to spend a few minutes with her opted to return from college for the event.
15. A lot of camaraderie has developed among the returning chefs, and there's a sense of a reunion when we get together each year.
14. It's the only place these days where you'll see Republicans and Democrats acting like menschen to each other, as local politicians on both sides of the aisle put political bickering aside in favor of food.
13. Our two state senators, Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, and James Timilty, D-Walpole, do far more than that. They genuinely like each other, which comes through when they're serving up food side-by-side.
12. It's the one place where your waiter can be a congressman. U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, was a regular when he represented most of the Attleboro area, and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Brookline, attended last year.
11. Kennedy's participation showed why he had no opposition on Nov 4: He cares deeply about public service and this area. Why? See No. 10.
10. Where else on Nov. 22, 2013 - the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy - could you have had part of your dinner served to you by a member of the Kennedy family? Our congressman could have been excused for taking time to reflect on that tragic anniversary with his family. Instead, he chose to honor JFK's memory by emulating his call to public service.
9. Back when John Lepper was a regular chef, there would have been nowhere else where you could have had a tender roast turkey carved up for you by your state representative.
8. If you're still wondering how good those firehouse cooks really are, you've never ate at Gourmet Guys, where firefighters from Attleboro and many surrounding communities have been regular participants for a good deal of the last 25 years.
7. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll get to sample some of the most creative desserts around, but don't wait too long - they won't last.
6. I defy you to get a gourmet meal at a better price. Even this year's tickets - $30 for adults and $20 for seniors and children under 12 - will buy you more quality food in one night here than at any other area restaurant. For tickets, which won't be sold at the door, email: email@example.com, phone: 508-225-4015 ext. 2145, or online at: new-hope.org and click on Events/Upcoming Fundraisers.
5. If I were a food critic - and I'm not - I'd give the event 5 stars. This event has so much goodwill and good food than even "Master Chef" Gordon Ramsey wouldn't yell at the cooks.
4. Where else will your daughters ask you for seconds on a dish that you cooked?
3. Too much food for you? Then take a chance on some of the best donated raffle baskets around. And there's a nifty silent auction, too.
2. The people at New Hope have always been the most courteous and appreciative folks to work with and they treat the chefs well.
1. It's fun - and you are helping a great cause (see reasons 19-21).
LARRY KESSLER is a Sun Chronicle local news editor. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org - just not when he's cooking.