Later in the week there was Wednesday night church, which was prefaced by Wednesday night supper, an evening where the church ladies took over the kitchen, whipping up every comfort food imaginable. From fried chicken with white gravy and biscuits to meat sauce doused spaghetti, the hardworking ladies of our church created an array of decadent concoctions that culminated with a spread of homemade cakes and pies divine enough to make the angels weep.
You see, as true Southern Baptists, there isn't whole lot we're allowed to do. Booze is off limits as is smoking, fornicating, non-secular music, even dancing in some instances, but there's one action that is completely acceptable-- eating, and we do a heck of a lot of it, often in large, self-indulgent quantities.
From all-you-can eat ice cream socials where attendees are encouraged to taste their way around thirty or so hand-churned flavors (peach, strawberry, fudge) to the ubiquitous church potluck where ladies and gents offer up their "best of the best", often consisting of several different flavors of cheese balls, three-bean salads, deviled eggs, cream of mushroom soup-laden casseroles, bacon-laced BBQ beans, and no less than at least five variations of potato salad, with each version being touted as the only one worth eating, we Baptists will devour it all, happily oblivious to the number three deadliest sin: gluttony.
Speaking of sin, the dessert table at a church potluck is its own sugary evil. Think buttermilk pie, fried apple pie, bundt cakes made with 7-UP, coconut black walnut cake, cinnamon rolls dripping with powdered sugar icing, chocolate chunk cookies, peanut butter fudge, and of course, some gooey, jiggly goody that always involves gelatin. Jell-O salads spiked with pineapple bits, graham crackers, bananas, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, nuts, even rice, pimientos and crushed pretzels happily find their home somewhere along those long fold-out tables.
There's something so loving about offering up the rest of the world your very best even if cooking isn't your thing. Maybe it's just that one dish you know how to make, and maybe it's just a slap-together-crockpot of grape jelly meatballs made with frozen meatballs, grape jelly and jarred chili sauce. Maybe your go-to dish are those addictive sausage balls made with Bisquick (which are three ingredients of pure heaven, by the way).
There's no room for fancy when you're cooking with love.
Let's face it, church food is special. Made from the gentle, caring hands of many-a-church lady, these are recipes to be savored, cherished and hopefully passed along to future generations, no matter what one's chosen religion might be, because when it comes to food and fellowship, sometimes it's best to let the cooking do all the preaching.
Got a favorite food memory or recipe? I'd love to hear from you.
Church Ladies Circle Salad
This salad might seem an odd combination with its mixture of diced pimentos, cream cheese and pineapple, but trust me, it's an immaculate amalgamation of sweet, savory and crunchy. The church ladies love to serve this salad with side of Ritz crackers to enhance its salty sweet combo.
2 (3-ounce) boxes lemon gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
3 to 4 tablespoons diced pimientos
1/2 cup lightly crushed pecans
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Dissolve your gelatin in boiling water. Let it stand a few minutes and then add cream cheese so it will partially melt into the gelatin. It's ok to leave a few cream cheese chunks in there. Add in your drained pineapple, pimiento, and pecans. Mix well and refrigerate just until it starts to set. Then, stir it again. Whip up your whipping cream and fold it into the gelatin mixture. Throw the whole thing into a baking dish and stick it back in the fridge until it sets up. Cut into squares and serve chilled.
From, "White Trash Gatherings: From-Scratch Cooking for Down-Home Entertaining" (Ten Speed Press, 2006) Pin It Now!