Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

A memento of yesterday’s dinner. Also some evidence that a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner is possible and (I hope you’ll agree) attractive.

cauliflower, sweet potato and wedges of kabocha squash, oiled and ready for the oven.
cauliflower, sweet potato and wedges of kabocha squash, oiled and ready for the oven.
cornbread cubes
cornbread cubed and ready to be made into pan dressing.

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dinner set out
(clockwise from upper left) roasted photograph, Brussels sprouts, yeast gravy, pan dressing, cranberry sauce, apple and sage vegetarian sausages

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Please join us after the service for …what?

I’m used to controversy, but I’m really wading into deep water now. What is the appropriate food to serve with coffee after church? I ask out loud to combat snack inflation and to make the task — if it needs to be a task at all — easier to overtaxed church volunteers.

Let me paint a picture.

Two church services. Two different places. Two different approaches to food. Let’s review.

The first is New Harmony Universalist Church, Loganville, Georgia. Don’t look it up at; it left the association in the 1980s, and had “gone dormant” before that, when that part of Georgia was open country and not in the exurbs of Atlanta. Today, it meets once a year in September for a homecoming service and de facto family reunion. And the food comes out. Homemade food: salads, various preparations of chicken, cornbread, congealed salads plus barbecue and a vat of Brunswick stew deep enough to baptize an adult, if so inclined. Homemade food to celebrate the church and the family. Dinner on the church grounds under a large shelter build for that purpose. (There is no church hall; there is, however, an outhouse.)

The second is St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland, in Rome. My husband Jonathan and I visited St. Andrew’s for the Christmas Eve service a couple of years ago. We had just flown in that morning; so did the family we shared the pew with! This is a lively in-town parish, with a multinational congregation, and no doubt a large number of tourists. Christmas Eve in such a setting is no more typical than the reunion at New Harmony, but the refreshment options have be handled differently. The parish hall is in another part of the church complex. There we found simple but well-chosen refreshments. A choice of drinks — tea or mulled wine — served by members from trays rather than at a station, if I recall correctly. (When I visited in 2003 for an ordinary Sunday, it was tea or juice at a table.) At a long table, the church set out generous slices of brioche-like pandoro and fresh mandarins, some with their leaves attached. I think the children got small gifts of candy, and possibly a different drink option. This wasn’t a family reunion, and many of us were strangers, but the Christmas cheer (and jetlag) inclined us to sociability, and the well-considered and straightforward offerings left a lasting positive impression.

Asking you for a meat offset

Our little Daisy the Dog suffered an injury earlier this week. She’s now under going treatments, and because she’s in a good bit of pain gets pain management medication. This means pills, and she’s not a good pill taker at the best of times. Because she’s already distressed — and not eating — we’ve relented on her usual diet. This is where I’d like you to come in.

Husband and I are vegetarians. We feed Daisy a balanced, vet-approved vegetarian diet. We love her, and we care about other animals, too, so much so that we don’t eat them. But we’re feeding her a particularly stinky (and vet-supplied) meat diet to stimulate her appetite and cover the bitterness of the pills.

As vegetarians go, we’re pretty mellow, not the least because I used to be an obnoxious anti-vegetarian not all that many years ago. Better to share a recipe or a dish, than to be a nuisance.

So the ask. Can you please put meat or eggs aside for a meal or two while Daisy recovers? And if given a choice, less boneless breast of chicken is probably best. Apart from the harm to the birds, it’s almost flavorless, hard to cook well and its preparation has a huge injury rate. It was the first thing I gave up in my path to vegetarianism.

And if not that, perhaps a hash brown breakfast in place of eggs? Skip bacon; a smaller steak?

We love Daisy, and would do anything for her. But it’s hard to to love one animal and not remember the harm to others.

So may I impose on you? A few less meat or egg dishes until Daisy gets back to normal?


Universalist Register 1912: Dining with the Universalists

Selection_006The 1912 copy of the Universalist Register I wrote about had illustrations and advertising in the back. Such fun. One of the images was of one of the locations of the Universalist Publishing House, then on Boylston Street, very close to the Arlington Street Church.

The building is still there, perhaps incorporated into the building next door, thus throwing off the street numbers. And I gather the street-front cafe is this restaurant: Parish Cafe.

Can any Boston readers confirm? Have any eaten there?

Eating cheaply at General Assembly

The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association has the twin powers of drawing a lot of interested people and at the same time stretching budgets past their breaking points.

One of the pain points is food. (I recall first-hand the problem of scavenging for food at GA when I was younger.)

This is an open blog post; please feel free to share those tips you have for eating economically in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. Please include groceries that can be easily reached by public transportation. Nobody wants to eat at the CVS for a week.

Particular knowledge about specialized food requirements such as vegan or gluten-free food is especially welcome.

2014 book list: Whitebread Protestants

Well I was a little surprised I was able to finish my first book on my 2014 book list so quickly. Less a review to follow than a few notes.

Daniel Sack’s 2000 Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture — despite the title — is a quick but academic review of mainline Protestant food-related practices and politics. If you are looking for a cute book about Protestant food folk ways — Jello and casseroles recipes — you’ll be disappointed.

Its topics include the politics about how communion is served; the role of food in church socializing; the appropriate response to local and global food relief; and how we should live our with respect to food; indeed, I would’ve loved to see each of these chapters its own full length treatment, but if that happened I would have never finish the combined series. Of the chapters, the last one on food reform was the frustratingly thinnest. And I’d love to see how Sack would bring it up to date.

Unitarian Universalists will be particularly interested in chapters on local and global food relief and its politics, keeping in mind the postwar Universalist Service Committee work with the starving Dutch. Interesting pages on the Church World Service and CROP. And I wonder if Unitarian Universalists in the 1970s also used vegetarian-focused “lifestyle” curricula that stirred the mainline. Note to self: see if UUA General Assemblies from 1973 to 1980 took on hunger in general resolutions.

Worth a read.

Starting the new year, family style

Like most Southerners, I want black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. My husband and I thought this was the right time to inaugurate my late grandmother’s West Bend Slo-Cooker.

My father discovered it years ago when he was cleaning out his mother’s house. And wonders of wonders: the cooker, a bank account premium — if you’re old enough to remember those — had never been used. From 1976, no less.

It worked like a charm, and the peas are tasty and vegan. (I used olive oil, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika and dried basil to taste.)

Happy New Year!

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If you're thinking about giving money for Philippines storm relief

If you’re thinking about giving money for Philippines storm relief, please seriously consider giving money to the World Food Program USA. Perhaps you’ve heard about rations — “high energy biscuits” — being flown in. The WFP provides these, and that’s the kind of practical we-need-that-now help needed now. More info about the high energy biscuits here, and what they contain.

And a video about a similar relief effort in 2009. But this last cyclone was much bigger.

Give here.

Getting ready for Christmas Eve

Bowl with 61 (5 lbs.) clementinesDon’t bother telling me it’s too early to think about Christmas Eve. As an ordained minister (though not one serving a parish) I know Christmas needs to be planned well in advance. And while the ideas I’ll be blogging about are not (for me) actionable, they’re not too early. I do hope they’re useful for a stressed small-church leader, lay or ordained.

For one: the 5-pound bag of clementines you can get at Trader Joe’s (at least in Washington, D.C.) has 61 of the little citrus fruit in it. For refreshment planning. But I’m also thinking about the service…