We make festival.

GGL coffee


My parish puts on a huge international food festival every year in September. I’ve written about it before, I think. We have to start baking and doing other kinds of preparations months ahead.



GGL IMG_0207baked crp
GGL IMG_0247 roll Gk crop

Earlier in the summer when Maggie was visiting we worked together at church on one of the cookie-baking projects, the Rainbow Chocolate Chip. Another week I helped make the Greek twisty cookies.

GGL IMG_0252 GK baked crp

I always enjoy working on church projects like this, where I am on an assembly line and can chat and get to know people a little better. It’s not stressful when someone else has the recipe and the system all figured out and I can just do as I’m told.

GGL green bean prep 2015



When the date of our event drew closer I went one day to cut up green beans for more than three hours; these would go into my favorite dish that we sell, Serbian Green Beans. The blanched beans are mixed with garlic-laden, buttered bread crumbs, then topped with sour cream and heated in the oven for about 20 minutes. Most of that process happens just before they are served steaming hot.



GGL P1010592 cabbage 2015

That prep day we were also making Sarma, which are stuffed cabbage rolls; the recipe includes a bit of sauerkraut, and the picture below shows the total amount that was needed. Actually, one gallon had already gone into the kitchen before I took the picture.

GGL P1010588sauerkraut

GGL IMG_0682


Just one day before, my friend Diane came with me and we offered our four helping hands. So many tasks had to wait until this day, such as cutting up vegetables for the kabobs, and stirring the Eritrean stews.






GGL IMG_0679

Year after year I notice how happy everyone seems to be, getting our party together, even if they are awfully tired by the end of it. We all see it as an expression of love to our community; if it were merely a fund-raiser I’m sure we couldn’t drum up enough energy for it. But it’s been going on for more than 25 years and a lot of people now look forward to the food, the music and dancing, and the joy.

GGL Glendi dance (2)

GGL IMG_0686

That last day Diane and I ended up sitting at a table where we made finishing cuts to endless sheets of baklava and placed the diamonds carefully into individual serving trays. Some people avoid this job, because it is messy, but there are plenty of little broken corners to snack on while you work, so if you like baklava….well, come to think of it, that might be another reason to avoid that job.

My job on the festival day was not to work in a food or craft booth, or the beer garden or the children’s area, but to mind the bookstore – I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone. I served several hours, and then I had a hard time dragging myself away, even though I did need a rest.

It was time for Vespers, which was the perfect thing to restore the soul that might be weary. After that I was looking around for a particular old friend I wanted to talk to, and I discovered her in the Eritrean tea and coffee tent, which I didn’t even know existed, maybe because it was tucked in a corner behind the main Eritrean booth.

GGL P1010684 Eritrean tea-coffee 2015

The woman who made tea for me was burning frankincense while she told another customer that this event is the thing she most looks forward to all year. Her colleague explained that the whole reason we make this offering of our time and effort is to express the harmony that we in our church share.

That is just what I was feeling.

14 thoughts on “We make festival.

  1. How wonderful, Gretchen! There really seems a deep spirit of family connection in all these preparations and anticipations! What kind of Orthodox church are you a part of?


    1. My parish is in the Orthodox Church in America; it has roots in the Russian church, but as you can tell, the demographics are broad. I spoke with a priest just yesterday whose parish is in the Antiochian patriarchate but has a similar mix of ethnicities. In Orthodoxy, the people can commune across jurisdictional lines because the liturgy and essence of the faith is the same.


  2. What a wonderful sense of community pictured. My mouth watered as I looked at the food preparation, I could almost smell the Turkish coffee and my feet wanted to join with the dancers. I wish I had been there with you.


  3. When you say “international” you’re not kidding! So many different cultures to sample at your festival. Those Serbian green beans do sound very delicious. But I think the bookstore would be my favorite place to spend some time in too.


  4. I think it looks like such fun and not to mention all of the yummy food. I think I would like to do that. Ron is Mennonite so one of the things I loved was working in the kitchen and learning all of the secrets of the yummy food that was familiar to him but not me. One of the things I also did was go to a Burmese festival and enjoy that too. I like ethnic foods and love to experience different cultures.


  5. This sounds like so much fun! I think this a wonderful tradition to have and to give to the community. Like your many readers, I would love to sample the many different foods.


  6. So many beautiful things, working together, baklava, dancing, the Vespers… ♥ We have an Eritrean restaurant about 3 miles from our home, I have only been there once, but now I am thinking we need to go again soon! The family that owns it is Eritrean Orthodox, too, there is an icon of St. George by the cash register.


  7. It looks like everyone is having a lot of fun contributing to the festival! I especially want to taste the green beans! The twisty cookie things looks tasty, too!
    When I make bread (and eat too much of it) I get a stomach ache, but I still want to bake some. Do you remember that book from our young married youth, Laurel’s Kitchen?


    1. Oh, yes! I still have a couple of copies on my shelf: the old worn-out paperback, and a used hardcover I found later, which is in more pristine condition 🙂 Did you have her Bread Book as well? I’ve tried lots of those recipes, too. I liked the Captain Carob bread a lot!


  8. I was so thrilled to finally be able to attend. I love that picture of Diane! Really captures her! I didn’t happen to see the Serbian Green Beans–would have tried those. So much fun and festivity, with so many lovely people.


  9. How I wish I could be there and participate in it, especially that tea ceremony at the end. Just lovely, GJ, and such a warm expression of Christian love and community. Just as life should be.


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