By John Toole
---- — ATKINSON — Chuck White and his culinary militia have yet to set up shop in the Atkinson Congregational Church kitchen, but townspeople are eagerly awaiting the spaghetti feast tomorrow night.
“What a sauce,” Tom Cunningham confided during a break in the recent town deliberative session. “It is really worth going to.”
They have had an extra week to work up an appetite, too, after the blizzard postponed the dinner last weekend.
White, a dentist in Atkinson, is in his 15th year behind the stove, preparing a spaghetti dinner for hundreds of diners, many of whom return year after year.
White inherited the job from Ron Peterson, who started the dinner in 1981, but later moved out of state.
“These are all his recipes,” White said.
The sauce recipe is a closely guarded secret, Cunningham said.
“We tease about it being a secret sauce,” White said.
But White wouldn’t give it up, saying he would have to have permission of his pastor, the Rev. Paul Dionne.
What White would reveal is he hasn’t changed a single thing in the recipe handed down by Peterson.
In White’s opinion, there is no special ingredient that makes Cunningham and others drool over the sauce.
He suspects the real secret is in the preparation.
“We simmer and cook it for a long period of time,” White said. “That’s probably the sauce thing.”
The dinner is tomorrow night, but the work will start tonight around the stove.
They will cook it then, cover it up and come back tomorrow afternoon to reheat the sauce before serving the crowd.
“It holds the heat all night long,” White said.
His crew will include “a lot of good guys,” about 20 in all, White said. “
A lot of helping hands,” he said, “it is done by the men of the church.”
But the men can’t do it alone.
That’s where the church’s youth ministry group helps. They will serve a crowd that is usually 300 strong or better.
This isn’t an Atkinson-only affair. People will come from all over Southern New Hampshire for that dinner.
It’s from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the church’s fellowship hall, 101 Main St.
Adults pay $8 for the meal, seniors $6 and children $4; those 6 and younger eat free.
Fifteen years is a long time manning a stove. White got stuck with the job because Peterson was his patient and moving out of state.
“I’ve been told the only way I can get rid of the job is to pass away or move away,” White said. “I don’t plan to do either anytime soon.”