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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.