By SEAN ROWLEY
When it comes to fundraisers in Tahlequah, a common choice is the spaghetti dinner, often served in the all-you-can-eat format.
Spaghetti may be chosen for charitable functions due to the ease of preparation, its popularity, and the cost of ingredients – the least expensive can be poured from a can.
But a successful dinner requires good spaghetti, as was served for the Project Osiyo Homeless Men’s Shelter event organized by the Cherokee Masonic Lodge No. 10.
“All our spaghetti is prepared by Bob Copeland, our lodge chaplain,” said Ken Johnson, the Masonic lodge’s treasurer. “We hold fundraisers for many different groups, and we have a lot of experience with this.”
During the Tuesday function at the Cherokee County Community Center, plates were cleaned and second helpings were routine.
“I had a great plate of spaghetti,” said JoAnn Bradley. “It was a generous portion. The salad was great. I also had four pieces of bread and some blackberry cobbler – just wonderful.”
While Copeland’s spaghetti got a thumbs-up from diners, a dish as popular as spaghetti has an array of competing recipes – some jealously guarded.
“My spaghetti is the best, world-famous,” said Jincy Mattler, a patron at Tuesday’s fundraiser. “I put in every vegetable I can find. I can’t give away the secrets of the sauce – that is tied to the location where I live, Chewey. I include Italian sausage and beef in the sauce and cook it slowly. It’s even better warmed up a day or two later.”
Jan Rucker, Mattler’s mother, said garlic is the key to a great sauce, joking that “we’ve never seen vampires at our house.”
A go-to guy for many local spaghetti fundraisers is Lloyd Spyres, who makes his dish with meatballs. Randy Gipson, women’s basketball coach at Northeastern State University, has asked Spyres to cook for the team’s annual meet-and-greet since 2004. Men’s coach Larry Gipson also recruits Spyres each year.
Spyres boasts with a smile that his spaghetti is the best to be found. He was taught the recipe by his late wife, a daughter of Italian immigrants.
“It’s basically all about the recipe,” he said. “Anybody can boil spaghetti, but for the meatballs and the sauce, you have to have the right mixture of the right ingredients.”
The ingredients of Spyres’ spaghetti includes fresh herbs and spices, and while he will tell what goes into his recipe, he isn’t as specific about his techniques.
“For the basketball fundraisers, we peel 8 pounds of garlic,” he said. “We make 1,500 meatballs and 80 pounds of spaghetti – all donated by Reasor’s. The first year, the team wanted to raise $2,800 to go to Hawaii. We ended up raising $4,000.”
Spyres said all ingredients need to be fresh and cooking times need to be carefully monitored.
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