The Church Lunch

For all that I am still dragging, I wanted to talk about the Church lunch I did yesterday. After our Sunday service, we have what is called a coffee to break fast, but most would consider it a lunch. People volunteer to provide the entree, and others bring in salads, desserts, and other delights. Given my background cooking, particularly for wounded and troops, I decided to volunteer.

Admittedly, I’ve not done anything like this in a while and definitely not since the lightning strike. So, in some ways it was a test to see if I could do something on this scale from both a mental and physical standpoint. Yes, I was pushing it a bit on more than one level, but felt like it was something I needed to do. Never mind that I wanted to do it.

So, an opportunity came up a couple of weeks ago to step in and help out. I grabbed it, and began planning. Rather rapidly, I decided to do spaghetti with two types of sauce since I had been told a while back that each meal needed a vegetarian/vegan option for the monastics who attend (though I found out later that they don’t participate in the coffee). So, given that and some of the Lenten restrictions, I decided to do a puttanesca variant along with a simple red sauce and two types of pasta.

I checked with several sources to be sure I could use anchovies in the puttanesca variant, and found out it was the last day I could do so. Works (worked). I keep checking the sign-up site and got a bit nervous in regards not seeing other things listed/people signing up, so thought I might should provide a bit more. After going through several options, I decided to do a play on it being cheesefare Sunday and do a cheese plate. Rather, two cheese plates as the idea is to have lines down both sides of the table(s) where the food is laid out to speed the flow. I also decided to do two little dessert trays just to be sure there was something sweet on the table. Later, decided to add some salad as well.

So, I did go over my initial budget, but it was well worth it. Interestingly enough, as shopping progressed early in the week, I kept running into bargains on the things I was after. Found some good cheeses and dessert items at very good prices (if not on sale) at Trader Joe’s. At the restaurant supply store, found a wheel of ethnic cheese and a huge container of mozzarella pearls at an almost ridiculously low price. I was disappointed that Fresh Market was out of my usual olive spread (which was on sale) but they had something similar. Yes, I prefer to get good assorted olives and chop them up, but those prices have gotten ridiculously high, so I use the olive spread. They also did have the smoked kalamata olives I’ve come to love adding, so got them. GFS had salad, a cheese assortment, and mini chocolate eclairs at a very good price. I also picked up various disposable serving plates and bowls to cut down on clean-up and such.

I also got permission from the landlord to really use the kitchen, particularly on Saturday. While there were some minor issues on that (housemate mostly), things got done. The landlord’s reaction when he walked in Saturday morning and saw the oven and most burners in use was actually amusing. I began marinating the pearls in olive oil and my homemade Italian seasoning blend on Thursday. Note: I did replace the red pepper with a mix of chipotle and smoked paprika(s?). Friday, I began the process to bake two loaves of sourdough bread. Interestingly enough, after I had volunteered, Audrey and her clone (who needs her own name) really took off so that I had plenty of starter for baking.

Saturday afternoon just before Vespers, I took almost everything down to the Church kitchen so that I would be ready to go early Sunday morning. I was also starting to get worried that I had not prepared enough food, didn’t have enough pasta, etc. I decided to not try to do anything last minute, but to have faith. Such was a good reminder.

Sunday morning very early, I was down in the kitchen starting the prep for service. Had verified the grocery nearby would be open in time if I did need more pasta and such. Oh ye of little faith…

My serving plans went out the window rather quickly. It wasn’t two small cheese plates, but three very full and large cheese plates by the time I finished prep. Two of the plates were centered by small brie wheels, surrounded by English coastal cheddar, three different Spanish cheeses, some of the ethnic cheese, and more. The center of the third was the ethnic cheese, surrounded by yet more cheeses. It wasn’t two small dessert trays, but three full and large dessert plates. Two big bowls of salad with more left over at need. Instead of two medium plastic bowls of pasta, it turned into two large stainless steel bowls of pasta (in part because the hot pasta turned the plastic bowls into modern art, much less not holding half the pasta). It was a large pot of puttanesca-style sauce and one of my enameled dutch ovens full of red sauce. Two baskets of sourdough after slicing. A nice bowl of marinated mozzarella pearls. Two wonderful ladies brought in salads, and one of them brought in some savory “pancakes” (crepes really) with smoked salmon and cheese and a huge plate of sweet “pancakes”/crepes/blini with raspberry jam. Another lady brought in an assortment of Japanese cookies. Another lady brought in a big tray of a Ukrainian dessert made with filo dough and a sweet cheese. I wish I had gotten a photo as we laid it out, but did get the one above about half way through.

The red sauce was okay, but the puttanesca-style sauce was a huge hit. The bread was also a hit, with people asking about sourdough, starting your own starter, and more. I think the only reason I came home with three small pieces was that they got lost in the folds of the serving baskets… I had bought some take-home compartmented trays, and they came in handy as people took meals home for others or for later (which I strongly encouraged).

I really need to thank my friend John, who left the service early to give me a hand, and it was needed. I had filled the large pots for pasta with water (big enough they covered from my belt up to my shoulders) and gotten them onto the stove, but it was a bit of a challenge. They were, I think, the largest and heaviest objects I’ve lifted since both the lightning strike and getting both shoulders replaced last year. He helped with the cooking of the pasta, and — even more importantly — got them off the stove and into the strainer for me.

Oh, I should mention that while I did not get to take part in the service directly, they do have a speaker in the kitchen so I could listen and take part in the singing and responses. Good part of that is no one else was subjected to what passes for my singing…

Two or three of the ladies of the Church took over the clean-up and shooed me out of the kitchen after lunch. I may have mentioned I’m taking a class at that time, and am very much enjoying it. For all that parts of it are all Greek to me (pun pun), we are getting into some of the joys of translating scripture and more from Greek and how word usage has changed. It is a bit jarring to hit condescension not in the modern usage (being an arrogant jerk, etc.) but in the original usage of willfully lowering from an high level to a far lower level (as in God becoming man). Great class, important, and the ladies were determined I not miss it. I can’t thank them enough.

John was also kind enough to drive me back to the evening service, for which I am grateful. I was fried since I had gotten up at 0300 to be ready to start prep work at just after 0700. Yes, I often start slow after getting hit by lightning. I’m also glad I was smart enough to take my walking stick as I needed it. Most of the time I don’t (IMO, other opinions may vary), but I knew I did then. Since it was forgiveness Sunday, it turns out prostrations were done in the service.

It was not just about asking forgiveness from God, but also our fellow man in the form of the men and women of the Church. You know, that whole ‘debt/debtor, trespass/trespasses’ thing. Now, rumor has it that I might be a very slight bit stubborn (and prideful even) on occasion. Despite the word being given that one should only take part in the prostrations if you were able, I decided to at least try to do them. Early, I got down on my knees and stayed there until the prostrations were over. Then, I worked my way back up to sitting on the pew, and then stood back up.

However, we were not yet done. The next part had us go up, prostrate to God, and then we started asking and giving forgiveness to each other. This starts with you going to each member of the clergy, and prostrating to each other while asking and granting forgiveness to each other. I made it through the Clergy doing the prostrations. Mostly. I had some issues part way through, nearly bashed one of them in the foot when I dropped my walking stick that I was using to get up and down, and just did the bow from then on. It was a good service and actually a very gratifying process as we bowed, forgave, did a three-part hug, and worked our way around to take our place in the line.

Admittedly, at one point I did look reproachfully at a friend and say “Ya’ll never said anything about calisthenics!” To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as my first Episcopal service where I kept waiting for someone to call out “Jumping Jacks” as part of all the kneeling, standing, and such — very different from the far more staid services I grew up with in the Methodist Church.

Oh, and remind me later to discuss the book I just got that is a new translation of St. Patrick’s surviving writings. Turns out, most/all translations are based of of more modern Latin, whereas he worked in early medieval Latin. The person who did this translation actually studied and has worked with early medieval Latin extensively, and apparently actually translating on the language he used makes a considerable difference. Who knew? Sort of like Caesar apparently saying in Greek “Kai su, teknon” which Shakespeare translated into Latin as “Et Tu, Brute?” Problem is, in the vernacular of the day, kai su can be translated as more ‘See you in hell punk’ than the noble line created by the Bard. See here and here for a bit more on that, though both cite the same work. The book is from a publishing company that as Sister I know helped found/founded. More on this later.

I was reminded by more than one person about loaves and fishes, and how what comes in each week, even when meager, is always more than enough. It was good to know that while it is a challenge, I can still work out the timelines and do something like this. Even better, I can provide a bit of tastiness and more to those in my Church. That means a lot to me, especially now.

4 thoughts on “The Church Lunch”

  1. From one angle, a treatise on Feast Logistics. Another, a Field Guide to resolute, compassionate, G-dly service. All respect.

  2. We did the Sunday “Fellowship” (a snack time between first service and Sunday School) this past week.
    As is usual when I start cooking, I overdid it. Well, we overdid it. My cooking and my wife’s baking, along with a lot of sausage/cheese/crackers, would have been adequate for the crowd. But my wife went out and bought cupcakes – something like 8 dozen of them. Yeah, we don’t have 8 dozen people at Fellowship. But we filled the two tables. It makes me feel good when you put all of that out and then see it devoured.

    THEN we provided food for the last Lenten supper. I did a fish stew (which I had forgotten how many different ingredients I needed to prepare for that one) and some colcannon (since it was just past St Patrick’s Day). I had some people specifically request that fish stew – and they were true to their word of eating it almost all up. (It’s a very spicy dish, and almost no one comes back for seconds, though they eagerly ask for the first helping.) Again, it’s good to feed people and have them smiling afterward.

    Food is one of the best ways to demonstrate love.

    Good on ya, Wolf.

    1. It is so easy, and fun, to overdo. 🙂 For all that it wore me out, it was also the most contentment I’ve felt since doing food for the wounded and troops. You are absolutely right, it truly is one of the best ways to demonstrate love.

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