The “Today” show wasn't so different from other morning broadcasts on this November 21, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There was a cornucopia of talk about turkeys and the recall of romaine lettuce, with all forms of the salad green under threat of E. coli contamination. There was even a lengthy segment on sharing family recipes, and Al Roker brought along his younger brother, Chris, to serve as his sous chef in preparing their mother’s cherished recipe of “Sweet Potato Poon,” as she dubbed it, and nobody argues with mama.

The final step of the dish, rich with eggs, flour, sugar, and a heavy dose of butter and baking powder to accompany the main ingredient, is browning the top layer of marshmallows to a gentle golden brown under a broiler. Both Roker boys admitted that they nearly always interrupted their mom at a crucial point in her watch, so perfection was nearly impossible to accomplish. Chris Roker also had some fun in making Al Roker his favorite target in tossing marshmallows.

Far more meaningful than these morning festivities was a meaningful meal prepared and served by Al Roker, his co-host, Natalie Morales, and some very notable culinary stars who all came together to serve a feast for Northern California firefighters and their families.

No words can never be enough to convey the gratitude that area residents, Al Roker, or the entire nation feel toward these exemplary heroes, but being treated to a good meal is a start, as featured this morning.

Filling tummies and souls

Tomorrow morning, Al Roker will be alongside Sheinelle Jones for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, peeling his eyes to the skies and warning about blustery winds. Tuesday, however, the meteorologist was quite delighted to be peeling potatoes, chopping onions, or sautéing anything needed like a proficient lead cook within the line.

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He had help from Alejandra Ramos, Jordan Andino, Matt Abdoo, Roxanne Spruance, Eric Gabrynowicz, Aaron Bludorn, Kevin Sbraga, and Evette Rios. The superstar chefs covered every sort of specialty, and Natalie Morales came along to do anything needed, and give moral support.

An overbearing covering of smoke greeted their plane as they landed in Chico, CA-- one of the most devastated areas of the Camp Fire, and within hours, they would be greeting 50 firefighter families. Bacio Catering, a local business, opened its facilities to make a feast possible.

The owner, Amanda Leveroni, implored everyone to remember that the people they were about to serve “lost their homes, too.” This meal was as much about emotional filling as it was filling and fueling the body. Dishes included classic Italian Chicken Marbella, many salads using local produce, and of course, cookies to delight the kids.

Al Roker could hardly pull himself away from folks like Brandy Gowan, who lovingly embraced Al and described the painful truth that “I love my husband’s job, but I also hate it,” relating how he got off the fire line after his long shift, only to be told that his own family's home was a complete loss.

Again and again, she and the “Today” favorite hugged. “Thank you for being here,” she quietly spoke to Roker, “we need this hope.”

Al offered his own words to the group, expressing abounding gratitude and his hope that the home-cooked effort brought just “a little joy, even for an hour or two, and a great meal” he and the team were honored to do it.

A touch of holiday warmth

Before leaving the dinner, families were provided with new clothes and jackets, and bags of essential toiletries and toys. Families were also provided gift cards from retailers like Target and others as a start to a brighter holiday.

The five-star food did not hold a candle to the warmth of a human touch and a willing ear to listen. Despite facing their own tragic losses, these firefighters live to help others in their community, and their spirits will never succumb to the devastation around them. Ryan Hughes is certain that his community can rebuild. He asserts that laughter can still be possible, saying, “we're going to have cries and good things will happen.” The first responder admits that it is difficult for him and his colleagues to accept help from others.

“Well, accept it,” insists Al Roker, relating how everyone around the world knows what these men and women have saved and sacrificed, along with their families.

A single meal seems like so little, but any single act of kindness, done with love, has the power to be replicated in hearts and lives forever.

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