Speaking of dreams, I have a recurring nightmare that I’ve been called to a church position whose primary purpose is to produce food for large numbers of people: you know, activities chair, primary teacher, stake Relief Society president. I’m convinced I would fail more spectacularly at this task than any other woman in the ward, nay the whole stake, even unto the entire region. So spectacular would be my failure that baby meals sign-up clipboards would discreetly avoid me in RS, and the missionaries would rustle up a discussion rather than risk dinner at the Welch’s. I was convinced of this, that is, until last Saturday, when I attended our ward Young Women’s annual fundraising spaghetti dinner and dessert auction. Then everything changed.
Things started out okay. We arrived in the cultural hall, claimed a spot at a table obligingly covered in paper and outfitted with crayons for the children, and began eying the sweets up for auction. The quality of desserts varied widely, from cake-mix cupcakes with store-bought frosting to homemade chocolate malt cheesecake decorated with chocolate curls and strawberries. My kids, of course, clamored for the packaged, pink-frosted sugar cookies from Shop’nSave. We finally settled on a luscious-looking, lattice-topped blueberry pie: we had $70.00 in our wallets, and we were fully prepared to blow the entire wad to take home the pie.
But first it was time for dinner. The only problem was that dinner didn’t come. And didn’t come, and didn’t come. Every roll had been devoured, every wilted leaf of iceberg lettuce consumed, even the styrofoam bowls of ranch dressing licked clean–and still no sign of spaghetti. I ducked out to the kitchen to see what was causing the delay: a single puny gas burner laboring away under a single medium-sized stock pot to cook the mountains of noodles waiting on the counter. Well, okay, an oversight: the leaders had probably thought there were more pots in the church kitchen, or somebody didn’t show up, or something. No problem; I probably would have made the same mistake!
Shortly before the children began gnawing my extremities for sustenance, steaming paper plates of spaghetti with red sauce materialized from the kitchen. “Hallelujah!” we cried–until it suddenly dawned on the entire ward in one sickening moment that spaghetti with red sauce was the worst possible choice for a ward dinner. You have to understand that the median age in our ward is about twenty months–precisely the age of my son, coincidentally, and precisely the age at which the consumption of tomato-based products becomes most hazardous. In less than fifteen seconds, entire cases of Tide with colorsafe bleach sold out at local grocery stores, and the preponderance of medical residents in the ward began assuring us that toddlers actually absorb nutrients more readily through their cheeks and hands than through their mouths, anyway.
I resigned myself to brewing vats of OxiClean at home, and settled in to enjoy my dinner. Or try to, at least. The noodles were quite a few BTUs short of al dente–they were downright crunchy in the middle, truth be told. And they were covered in what appeared to be plain tomato sauce straight from a can. I freely confess my inadequacies in the kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I could have managed some onion and garlic sauteed in a skillet, some hamburger browned, a little basil and oregano sprinkled on top. Eventually some parmesan cheese was located, which greatly improved the gustatory experience–but, let’s be honest, crunchy noodles with plain tomato sauce have a pretty low ceiling.
Now, you might think I’m complaining here, but you couldn’t be farther from the truth. I was ecstatic! The bar in my ward had been set thrillingly low–even I could compete on this playing field. Maybe a few gender stereotypes had been exploded as an added bonus. Best of all, the young women leaders in my ward had clearly spent their time focusing on the girls, their spiritual needs and progress, rather than on a silly and ill-conceived traditional fundraiser. As far as I was concerned, the quality of the dinner was proof positive that the YW presidency had their priorities straight.
So consider this an open thread on ward food, or on food in general. Best Enrichment refreshments? Worst ward Christmas dinner? Wacky regional traditions? Nouvelle Mormon cuisine? I want to hear about it all.
No, the dreadful dinner was the high point of the evening for me. The low point? Dessert. The blueberry pie blew past $70.00 before we could even get our paddle in the air, and finally sold for a whopping $150.00. We went home with a $7.00 tupperware of cupcakes.