Bon Appetit at the Ward Dinner

April 19, 2005 | 58 comments
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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.

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58 Responses to Bon Appetit at the Ward Dinner

  1. Kaimi on April 19, 2005 at 11:27 am

    Not bad, Rosalynde. A blueberry pie is certainly a good choice.

    If you like blueberry pies, and you’re unsure of your own baking abilities, let me recommend that you try the (relatively easy, extremely tasty) “fruits of the forest” style pie. Start with a prepared pie crust. (Or prepare one yourself, if you prefer). Add 4 to 6 of the following: 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 cup raspberries, 1/2 cup apples, 1/2 cup peaches, 1/2 cup rhubarb, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup blackberries, 1/2 cup pears. (If apples, peaches, pears, don’t forget to peel and slice. Duh. Also, halve the strawberries). (If you like another fruit, go for it. For example, pineapple may not fit with the forest theme, but it’s pretty tasty.)

    Cover the top with crumbs, or a prepared top, or some honey, or some corn starch and sugar.

    Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes.

    Enjoy!

    (Now I’m really hungry).

  2. Mark Martin on April 19, 2005 at 11:31 am

    It amazes me how our LDS culture depends on food for interaction. I expect that within a year or two, my elders quorum president will be asking me in a home teaching stewardship interview, “Which of your families did you feed this month?” He might not even think to ask whether we discussed the First Presidency message.

  3. Julie in Austin on April 19, 2005 at 11:38 am

    The best ward dinner I ever went to did NOT involve a huge, snaking line of hungry people and irritable mothers trying to convince their children to put something on their plates besides butter and brownies. It involved two people from each table of ten walking into the kitchen and getting a family-sized platter and bringing it to the table, where it was passed around. Very nice.

  4. Audrey on April 19, 2005 at 11:47 am

    I’m trying not too laugh too hard as my two-year old son is sleeping against my side while we sit on the couch watching Disney’s playhouse. Well, as I read off the laptop and he watches the cartoons, or he was watching the cartoons until just a few minutes ago… I just wish I had some great disaster story to tell! Alas, my life-long history in the church is filled with uninteresting and mediocre LDS food fare. Am I the only person in the church who doesn’t like “funeral potatoes”?

    Our Relief Society presidency was newly reorganized, and I was thereby released as the education counselor. A few months ago, we asked several (4 or 5) different sisters to bake chocolate-chip cookies for refreshments that night. To try and make it easier, we gave Ghiradelli chocolate chip cookie mixes to them all to simply prepare and bake. It was amazing to see how differently each set of cookies turned out.

    I will say that the reason I got such high attendance at our Inservice meetings was mainly through the food. I tried to always supply a-typical refreshments with a theme, the last one I held was entitled “Chocolate-lovers Buffet”. (I would have to say that Costco was my biggest support, as I am still trying to teach myself to cook. Costco, I love you!)

    (Don’t worry, the cartoon-time is carefully controlled, the TV is now off, and he is soundly sleeping…)

  5. Derek on April 19, 2005 at 11:47 am

    “In less than fifteen seconds, entire cases of Tide with colorsafe bleach sold out at local grocery stores…”

    Whoever was in charge of that event sure missed out on a money-making opportunity! “Spaghetti: Free. Stain remover: $20/ea.”

  6. Bonjo on April 19, 2005 at 11:49 am

    We were recently subjected to a “linger longer” at our ward following the meeting block. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, especially for YSA wards and the like. Given that we are in a family ward, with lots of kids running around, I am starting to think that it IS a bad thing.

    The food: baked pasta (tomato sauce), barbeque sandwiches, sweedish meatballs/gravy, ice cream, chocolate cupcakes, to name just a few of the items available.

    Now remember that our kids have just finished sitting through 3 hours of church… And I’m wearing a suit, with a white shirt, and a tie that I just love. The lovely Sister Bonjo is wearing a dress. Add food, children, and mix. What a picture.

    You might say, “So don’t go, whiner.” Tell that to my 4 year old son, who sees his Primary classmates going to the “party” to get ice cream and cupcakes!

  7. Jim F. on April 19, 2005 at 11:49 am

    Mark Martin: Using food for fellowship is hardly only a Mormon idea. People have been doing it for thousands of years. We always had coffee and pastries after church when I was a Protestant, and many southern churches have a full meal afterwards. The church social is a very old and very American institution.

    Rosalynde: A couple of years ago I got a very serious case of closteridium difficile as a consequence of getting food poisoning at a nearby restaurant. As my doctor and I talked about my problem, he told me that he had long ago quit eating at ward dinners because he had picked up food poisoning several times, and he sees people with food poisoning from ward dinners fairly often, more often than from restaurants. That is one of the explanations for why the rule is that we are not to cook in the church kitchens. Though I’ve changed doctors (his treatment moved a mild case of food poisoning to a potentially fatal case of c. difficile), but I imitate his practice of not eating at church dinners, whether pot luck or prepared in the kitchen. The unappetizing character of much of it and the effects on your laundry are only the beginning of the potential problems–that in spite of the fact that I think building fellowship through food is generally a good idea.

  8. RS on April 19, 2005 at 11:50 am

    Best Experience: A night in Bethlehem Christmas dinner – dates, figs, cheese, bread and fried chicken served family style, easy prep and lots of food to go around.

    Worst Experience: Tomato Juice as a beverage. The average age of our ward was in the 60′s. We were also first assigned to the kitchen with the youth as they thought that was where we belonged. I was 28.

  9. The Only True and Living Nathan on April 19, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Audrey:

    Am I the only person in the church who doesn’t like “funeral potatoes”?

    Yes. And try to look shame-faced about it, would ya?

  10. Paul Mortensen on April 19, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    Rosalynde:

    May I ask which ward you attend. I suspect I know but I’m not 100% sure. My spouse and I are originally from St. Louis and moved away two years ago. We spent time in the Oakville, and Lindell wards and the Pagedale branch during our years there (both married and otherwise). I ask becuase I may know the the “offending” YW pres and I’d like to give her a good-natured ribbing time the next time we visit. If you’d like to protect your privacy I understand.

    The “worst”, or better “most trying” calling my spouse and I have ever had was one we held together as ward activity co-chairs. We lived in the ward which, at the time, had the largest average Sunday attendance of any English-speaking congregation in North America. We were called just before the annual ward Thanksgiving dinner and were responsible for coordinating the cooking and serving of 25 turkeys. The activities committee at the time consisted of US. Talk about a nightmare! We were only able to find about a dozen families with the guts to cook one or more turkeys for the dinner. We got stuck cooking five of them. Neither one of us had ever cooked a turkey (we’d been married less than a year) and figured it couldn’t be that hard. We fired up our own oven and and the four at the chapel, stuffed the turkey’s in the oven and left for classes (the ward dinner was a week before the real thing). When we returned the turkeys were beutifully golden brown and looked good enough for a Butterball comercial. When dinner time arrived we were not so pleasantly surprised. What ensued was akin to the scene in the movie “Christmas Vacation” when Walt Griswold stuck a knife into the turkey and it deflated like a punctured basketball. We had produced five stunning examples of turkey-jerky that tasted about as good as said basketball. Fortunately for us we had a very understanding bishopric which, after we had run out of turkey, proceeded to make multiple runs to the local KFC to make sure all had some species of bird to eat. Needless to say, we were relased as ward activites co-chairs before the next turkey dinner. We now relate that debacle to every new bishop we meet in hopes of warding off any future callings dependent on the production of mass quantities of food.

  11. JA Benson on April 19, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    In our ward we have a “Linger Longer”. A Linger Longer is held after Church. Members are asked to bring a plate of something. The rules are only finger food is served and everyone must stay in the gym. The clean up isn’t much just sweeping the gym and trash. The ward members are there anyway and it gives the members a reason to stay and visit.

  12. Grammar Cop on April 19, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    I thought you said you never made spelling errors? Ever.

    Welch’s should be Welches’, I believe. Unless there is only one of you. And you refer to yoruself as The Welch. Now that would be odd.

  13. Rosalynde Welch on April 19, 2005 at 12:15 pm

    Actually, I do go by “the Welch,” GC, how did you know?

    For example, at the ward potluck, “The Welch’s rarebit is really, really good–you should try some!”

  14. Grammar Cop on April 19, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    One must appreciate the irony. “yoruself” should be “yourself,” of course.

  15. A. Greenwood on April 19, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    The wards in South Bend have good luck with an annual chile cook-off. Since its a contest, they don’t have to pressure people to sign up to bring food. There’s enough competitors to ensure food for all. And, since its a contest, and since its a chile contest, the men do most of the cooking. It’s great.

    And the judges are savvy. My chile won in the ‘Really Hot’ category on my first try.

  16. Kevin Barney on April 19, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    In our married student ward at BYU my wife and I were called as activity chairs. I remember an activity we planned at a lodge up at Sundance. I don’t recall the food aspect to it, but what sticks out in my memory is that we planned to watch a video of Young Frankenstein, which was one of our favorites. But we didn’t take the time to screen the movie, we just relied on our memories of it and the fact that we liked it. Big mistake. Our tastes and sense of humor are obviously not typical of Mormons. The movie was more risque than I had remembered, and several people walked out. But the bishop was a good sport about it, and laughed at our predicament. (Since I like the three S’s, Seinfeld, the Simpsons and South Park, I guess it’s fair to say that my sense of humor *still* isn’t very Mormon…)

    I recall a ward event when we were in Champaign, Illinois, where the refreshments consisted in toto of warm Tang. Um, yum.

    The best ward party I’ve ever been to was the one I was in charge of for Christmas about 17 years ago. It was adults only, we charged $3 a piece, and we still needed an anonymous donation of $600 to make the food budget work, but it was a great, Old English meal, complete with roast beast. We had the madrigal choir from the local high school, Christmas crackers I got from a British importer, the works. I don’t expect to ever see another ward dinner like that one again due to budget constraints.

  17. Kaimi on April 19, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Re #13: (“For example, at the ward potluck, ‘The Welch’s rarebit is really, really good–you should try some!’”)

    Or at the ward PB&J lunch:

    “The Welch’s grape jelly sure is tasty . . .”

  18. Frank McIntyre on April 19, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    I was on an activities committee with my wife for about 4 months. We attended one meeting where we managed to get the Halloween party (for adults only) canceled. Shortly afterwards we were re-assigned.

  19. Bryce I on April 19, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    My current church calling requires me to attend ward and branch conferences in each unit in the stake. Since we have a couple of hours of meetings after the three-hour block, each unit provides lunch for those who have to stay. You can almost predict what the food will be like before you get there.

    Large suburban family wards with lots of kids: Bag lunches with peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese on white bread, with a bag of chips and a drink and cookie from a Costco-sized bulk pack. Perhaps a piece of fruit. This is the school lunch meal that the Relief Society mothers can make in their sleep (and probably do, every weekday morning).

    One of the suburban family wards does a ward potluck which the whole ward attends — the fare here is typical of a large ward potluck, with a few really good dishes that you never get to try because they’re gone before it’s your turn at the buffet table, and a lot of really unremarkable casseroles.

    Young Single Adult Ward: Catered croissant sandwiches and chicken wraps with raspberry cream cheese. No cooking or preparation involved (I might be wrong on the wraps).

    Rural branches: Potluck, and everybody is invited. It’s like Sunday dinner on the farm — everything is delicious, and there’s plenty for everybody. It almost makes up for the two-hour drive.

    Spanish language ward: This ward was organized last year, and they haven’t had a ward conference yet. I’m looking forward to it.

  20. Minerva on April 19, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    In my ward growing up, we always had a 4th of July breakfast. It would start at the ungodly hour of 6:00 with a flag raising and patriotic program. Then the bishopric would cook sausages, eggs, and pancakes for the whole ward. Over the years, they’ve added a 5K and a children’s parade around the block. It’s really developed into a whole-community event and when my dad was bishop, he seemed to make a point of inviting a non-member neighbor to be the speaker on the patriotic program. It’s also turned into a ward reunion of sorts. I always go if I’m in town over the 4th, and I can pretty much count on seeing old friends and neighbors who also don’t live in the ward anymore. It’s my favorite church + food event.

    One night at an Ethiopian restaurant in Manhattan, some Mormon friends and I got into a conversation speculating about a Mormon restaurant. What foods would be included on the menu of such a place? Many, varied dishes that employ cream of mushroom soup?

  21. Wilfried on April 19, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Wonderful post, Rosalynde. Thanks for linking to my Primary teacher experience. Of course I was mostly impressed by one sentence, which this post is all about: “As far as I was concerned, the quality of the dinner was proof positive that the YW presidency had their priorities straight.”

    Amen!

  22. Mark Martin on April 19, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Jim (#7), thanks for the reminder that food is a universal catalyst for fellowship.

    Has anyone besides me suffered through LDS singles dances where Cheetos were served at the refreshment table? What were they thinking?

    In my current singles ward, we have a simple weekly “Munch & Mingle” (aka “Have a Cookie, Take a Lookie”) in the cultural hall immediately after church, except on Fast Sundays. It amounts to just a quick snack, but is enough to get people to go to the gym and hang out. What happens on Fast Sunday? You can’t find a soul in the gym after church. Instead, 250 people stand like sardines in the tiny foyer, and no one can squeeze their way through to get out if they try. Go figure.

  23. John Mansfield on April 19, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    Hold on, Brother Greenwood, did anyone besides you prepare chile? Didn’t everyone else make chili? With regard to your chile, I’ll pose the state question: Red or green?

  24. Melissa Madsen Fox on April 19, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    The worst thing I have ever experienced is someone dishing up dessert with a cat poop scooper (hopefully new) and asking if I’d like some “kittly litter cake”. We’d only been in the ward for three months, and that experience has helped form my views on desserts in this ward: they SUCK. I bring both a dessert and a main dish whenever we have potlucks just so there’s something I’ll eat. (That’s what I get for being a food snob.)

    Our bishop, BTW, has banned potlucks, linger longers and so forth, except for after ward conference (we have to feed the people who traveled from Memphis) and in between General Conference sessions on Sunday. We tend to think it’s because he’s anti-social.

  25. Last lemming on April 19, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    That is one of the explanations for why the rule is that we are not to cook in the church kitchens.

    Ahem. Our churches do not have kitchens. They have “serving areas.”

  26. Russell Arben Fox on April 19, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    I was wondering if you were going to show up, Melissa. Yes, it’s remarkable–for a people who depend so much on food for socializing purposes, especially desserts, there sure don’t seem to be very many saints out there who care enough to much effort into them.

    I like potlucks, ward breakfasts (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Pioneer Day get-togethers make for some fond memories of mine), linger longers, any and all of the above. But I prefer it when it’s done with a real social aim in mind, rather than something done because “well, the activities committee has to do something.” Because then you end up with overcooked hot dogs floating in baked beans and frozen lasagna, and whatever else people can throw together at the last minute.

    Shame on you, Frank. I’d take a dozen Halloween parties over another ward Thanksgiving dinner (dry turkey and weak gravy, ugh).

  27. Heather P. on April 19, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    The Eagle River 2nd Ward in Eagle River, Alaska has (or at least had, up to five years ago, but I think they’re still going) the best annual ward dinner: a salmon cook-off in August.

  28. Bryce I on April 19, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    The best occasional stake pioneer day dinner: a pig pickin’ with brunswick stew.

  29. Frank McIntyre on April 19, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    Russell, this was a Halloween party without children. The wards had recently been reorganized and we were from the young families side of the tracks. All we did was note that we (and those of our acquaintance) only rarely did any Church activities without our children and Halloween seemed like an odd place to start. Next thing we knew, the event was canceled.

  30. Russell Arben Fox on April 19, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    My apologies Frank; I missed the “without children” part. My fault for not reading close enough. Your protest makes perfect sense now–what’s the point of a Halloween party without kids? Cauldrons with dry ice, a costume parade, the whole nine yards? Phooey on the ward for cancelling the event rather than let the kids play. Party poopers.

  31. alamojag on April 19, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    Best food activity–easily the roast pig (in the ground) for Pioneer Day in Las Vegas, NV. A wonderful tradition that almost made up for the fact that the LV natives in the ward treated us like tourists, which assured we would not stay there any onger than we had to.

    Worst food activity–the wonderfully-planned Christmas party dinner in Albuquerque that relied on the ovens in the wardhouse actually working so that we could cook the roast beef and baked potatoes. The party itself was wonderful, but the ovens didn’t get fixed in time for anything to be cooked that wasn’t taken back to members’ houses to cook and bring back. The plan was for it to be as low-maintenance (for everybody but the party committee). We finally ate after the program, after Santa, and after everything else we could think of to stall for time.

  32. Jay S on April 19, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    Ward activity chair is a tough calling, but can be fun. It is a hard balancing act. It is nice to have a traditional activity. For the last 15 years my parents’s ward/stake has done a “night in bethlem” complete with stage sets and costuming at the stake ball field. This has gotten traditionally bigger over the years, and is a real success. But sometimes activities can be a little drab, ie the christmas dinner with ham and santa. Although some people really enjoy this.

    My wife and I were co chairs in our married student ward. We had some fun activities that went beyond the norm. We had a luau complete with pit roasted pig, grilled pineapple and polynesian dancers. We had a successful adults only dance (thanks to the adjacent ward for babysitting). We had an open air movie night (thanks to the guy who worked at the MTC AV dept). We had a pre-general conference pancake breakfast, a hugely succesful ward game night, along with the other activities. Not a bad run for our 9 months as chairs. It helped that what we had a large budget (I think $2000 for the year) but we really tried to do a variety of activities that catered to the interests of a variety of people and built on their strengths.

    I think the ward food problem can be solved with a little creativity. One of the best meals we had was in Oakton VA, during an internship. The ward there provided the same recipe (and I think ingredients) to everyone for the main dish (chicken cacciatori if i remember correctly). It was great to see how different everything turned out based upon everyone’s little touches.

    One question I have is why the churches don’t have serving pieces anymore. When we attended my wife’s grandfather’s funeral in Rexburg last year, we were served on the Church’s china. I under stand my wife’s grandmother helped to raise money and purchase this. I understand that they wanted to get rid of the China a few years back, but my grnadmother and neighbors put up a fight, and so it stays for now. My inlaw’s church got rid of all the cut glass serving pieces and luncheon dishes that they had. The ward i was in as a kid had all sorts of dishes and glass ware for ward parties and functions. The churches I am in now don’t have that at all. I understand that we don’t have kitchens, (for similar lines see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/004/6.23.html) but serving areas. But does this mean we are relegated to plastic/paper serving pieces? Has there been an official direction here? Does anyone else have any experiences in this area?

  33. The Only True and Living Nathan on April 19, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out how Adam cooked an entire South American country for a ward event.

  34. Mark Martin on April 19, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    This post has persuaded me that there *is* a more trying calling than church basketball referee. Activities chair in a traditional family ward.

  35. Bill on April 19, 2005 at 2:28 pm

    When I was a missionary in Quebec, I spent both summers in the countryside north of Vermont (Cantons de ‘Est) One local tradition that the branch carried on was the Epluchette de Ble d’Inde (a cornshucking). On another occasion the ward mission leader’s wife’s family, who lived on the coast, sent 20 lobsters which made for quite a feast.

    One year in Manhattan, the singles ward had a “tasting” Christmas party, with fancy chocolates, different kinds of breads and olives and pastries, etc. I was responsible for the cheeses, over twenty varieties if I remember correctly.

  36. Frank McIntyre on April 19, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Russell,

    We are on the same page.

    In a final defense of the ward, there was still a Primary Halloween activity. Just not a ward one. The ward itself was still about two months old so, like the infant it was, all its perceived failings must be forgiven out of hand.

  37. kneight on April 19, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    Our activities committee always has a clever way to keep people out of a huge line, and little fingers and snotty noses out of the food. This past Saturday we had a indoor picnic/baked goods auction to raise $ for girls camp. We had hamburgers hot dogs, chips, soda, and veggie trays. The best part was that 1 person at each table was in charge of taking the orders, and getting the food for the table. Before dinner started, the AC chairman asked a series of questions, the first 3 people to run up to the front and answer correctly were then allowed to select a bag of chips and a case of pop to take back to their table, then fill their dinner order. each table had ketchup and mustard packets with a tray of tomatoes, pickles, cheese, and lettuce. It was one of the smoothest ward dinners that I have ever attended.

  38. Jarom on April 19, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    A tangential question… my wife was the YW president in the ward last year, and she was instructed that girls’ camp fundraisers are now no longer sanctioned (all fundraisers to be exact, and wards are getting extra budget money for the programs that used to rely on them like scout camp and girls’ camp). Was she just fed a line? Not that she objected to the idea of not having to go through the stress of getting ward members to open their pocketbooks for fine cuisine or yet another car wash. Has anyone else heard any instruction as to the state of ward fundraisers?

  39. MDS on April 19, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    My favorite was a combination pie and game night the Elders Quorum in my Miami ward sponsored. Everyone brought a pie to enter in the contest and their favorite board games. Tables were set up with disposable tablecloths. The RS presidency judged the men’s pies, and the EQ presidency judged the women’s pies. Then we all gorged ourselves on pie and played board games to our hearts’ content. Incredibly simple, and incredibly fun.

  40. J. Scherer on April 19, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    The first sacrament meeting which I attended happened to be Ward Conference. My kids made us stay for the potluck. All I remember is I had so many questions for my friend who was in the bishopric about what had happened at ward conference, that by the time him and I got food, the serving table looked as if a pack of wild dogs had gone through. I think we got some bottom of the pot chili, potato chip crumbs and maybe a piece of bread. I remember being impressed though, by the community spirit among the ward members and their willingness to welcome my family.

  41. Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) on April 19, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Our YW fundraiser a couple weeks ago wasn’t spaghetti—they’ve done that in the past, it seems to be nearly universal, but chili, another product with a substantial debt to tomato sauce. There was the dessert auction too. For us the damage was only $28 (well, I guess $43 with the entrance fee). But others spent much more—I’m amazed at how high people of very modest means will go at these things. While technically it’s an auction, it almost seems to partake of a spirit of “gambling fever”; I can’t help thinking of Pres. Hinckley’s recent talk about the immorality of gambling and lotteries and $5 poker games and church bingo, and wonder if our auctioning fundraisers aren’t sometimes doing something approaching similar illegitimacy, taking advantage of people getting caught up in it all when they should be a little wiser.

  42. RS on April 19, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    In response to Jaron, the church did increase the budget allotment for the youth sometime during 2004. I believe it went from $25 per youth to $75 per youth. I think this was in response to the burden that fundraisers were perceived to be placing on the membership in some areas. Some wards (ours) still have a few fundraisers because these were also social/neighborhood functions, but the YW spaghetti dinner was cut, thankfully.

  43. Ana on April 19, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    The Spanish branch with which our ward is closely associated has a potluck between sessions of General Conference at the stake center. This year I attended for the first time. Frankly, as good as that mole was, I am surprised the Second Coming wasn’t hastened and moved to central Cal. It was just divine — served with homemade tortillas. There was also a scathingly spicy peas-and-corn dish, some incredible slow-cooked ribs, and an amazing orange cake.

    My contribution was a big broccoli salad, my own variety, made with pineapple and dried cranberries and sweet red peppers, plus of course sunflower seeds and a bit of red onion. I thought I’d avoid any pretense to Mexican food (that would have been silly) and it went over pretty well. The sweet and creamy went pretty well with the hot and spicy.

    Our ward does pretty well with food, too. The big annual dinner for adults (held in February) always centers around tri-tip, which we’ve discussed here before. The big family party (held in September) is a hamburger barbecue at the lake. For Christmas, it’s cookies only. We rely heavily on the local strawberries from April through June.

    How can I be this hungry? I just ate lunch …

  44. Jonathan Stone on April 19, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Regarding “Serving Areas” (the Room Formerly Known As Kitchen):

    It seems like prohibiting food preparation in the Room would actually increase the incidence of food poisoning. Food poisoning often results from food that has been allowed to sit at room temperature for too long. The best way to avoid food poisoning is to cook food fully and serve it fresh. Having people cook food at home, then bring it in and reheat it, seems like a recipie for bacterial infection.

  45. Jim F. on April 19, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    Jonathan Stone: You are, of course, right. I suspect that an additional reason for the change from “kitchen” to “serving area” is the Church’s desire to limit liability for food poisoning. Most food is now cooked and home and just served from the serving area, not reheated there. I’m neither a lawyer nor do I portray on on TV, but I wouldn’t be surprised that food poisoning that results from something prepared at home and brought to church, but not prepared at church, mitigates the Church’s liability. It also helps get the Church out of the varying “food handlers” and health department requirements that apply to a kitchen and those who work in it. As you point out, however, the change does little to reduce the possibility of getting food poisoning, and it may actually increase it. Like my doctor friend, I continue to recommend eating almost nothing that is served at church, regardless of whether it was prepared at home or on site.

  46. Julie in Austin on April 19, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    So, Jim, do you just avoid food-intensive ward functions, or do you sit with an empty plate and dour expression?

    (perhaps there is a third option I am missing . . .)

  47. annegb on April 19, 2005 at 6:44 pm

    Rosalynde: one word: spray and wash. Really, it works on spaghetti sauce. Especially the stick stuff, if you slather it on and let it sit for a day or so.

    Kaimi: my husband will love your recipe, he makes rhubarb-strawberry pie (which looks awful and I will not touch, but he is famous for). He is into baking.

    Julie: the best ward dinner I went to was one the Presbyterian church put on. They had round tables, with centerpieces, they seated us, they served us, promptly, hot food, well prepared, in and out.

    …to be continued. I love to talk about food. Going to do my visiting teaching so the former gourmet restaurant owner elder’s quorum president and my husband and his friends will have to cook us dinner.

  48. Jim F. on April 19, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    Julie in Austin (#46): I often avoid them, which is not difficult to do in Provo because it is always likely that there is some BYU function that I must attend, so I am easily excused. But there is also a third option: take a small portion and push it around the plate with your fork while you talk with others at your table. Only rarely does anyone notice that I’m not really eating. If they do, I can say, “I had a big lunch, so I’m not really hungry.” At least half of that is true, and if I remember during the day that I’m going to a ward dinner, both halves are true. But if the dinner is pot luck, a fourth solution is to eat only what Janice and I brought. Then if I get food poisoning, I have only myself to blame. These work better than dour expressions, especially since I find dour expression difficult to do.

  49. Dan Richards on April 19, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    I recently shelled out $26.50 for a carrot cake at a YW Camp auction, and it was a fantastic bargain. I do miss the 24th of July pancake breakfasts put on by the Scouts in Utah–the quantity makes up for any lack of quality.

  50. Jordan on April 19, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    But you get the 4th of July pancake breakfasts put on by the scouts over there in AA, right Dan?

  51. Travis Anderson on April 19, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    Here’s how the wealthy among us solve the “food from home” vs. “food prepared at church” dilemma: they simply leave it all in the hands of top-notch caterers.

    I arrived in Chicago for grad school only to find they had overbooked the graduate dorms, so for a few months while I was looking for an apartment that didn’t cost much more than I had managed to set aside for a dorm room (a task which bordered on the impossible, and finally landed me with two roommates in an unfurnished uptown brownstone near the Sheridan L-stop), I roomed with a family in Wilmette. During that time, the Northshore ward I temporarily attended held an elder’s quorum dinner. Being a poor student without a car I had to rely on several modes of public tranport and finally my thumb to work my way up to the Lake Forest mansion of the elder’s quorum president, who was a high-level executive in a brand-name company. By the time I got there dinner was pretty much over and all I could do was salivate as hordes of tuxedo-clad servers cleared away the remnants of a catered caviar and seafood buffet fit for a king. And since I knew no one very well and was dressed in jeans and a leather jacket instead of formal wear, no one even spoke to me, much less offered me any leftovers. After an hour or so of feeling very out-of-place and ravishingly hungry, I walked the few miles south to a bus stop and headed home.

    Two weeks later I moved into my new dive next to a crack house and my new inner-city ward, whose ranks were filled by people speaking about twenty different languages and with virtually no one who made more than minimum wage. The contrast couldn’t have been more pronounced, even though the two wards were separated by only a few miles.

    But even though I arrived at the dinner too late to actually eat any of the food (and eagerly risk any and all food poisoning it might have entailed), I can still vividly recall the canopy-covered tables and wonderful smells that define a ward dinner among those for whom tithing is indeed a widow’s mite.

  52. Jim F. on April 19, 2005 at 9:13 pm

    Travis Anderson: But things have improved since the Church seriously cut back on the funds that can be used for such things. It would be difficult nowadays for that ward to cater its party without seriously violating the Church’s funding rules. Of course, some people do ignore those rules, but in spite of that the rules have had an enormous effect for reducing the number of such parties in the Church as well as the disparity in ward socials that you noted.

  53. Travis Anderson on April 19, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    I’m sure that generally speaking that’s probably true, Jim (comment 52). But I also don’t doubt for a minute that the wealthy among us easily and guiltlessly find ways around such policies.

    That said, it’s also worth noting that the humble ward dinners I later enjoyed in the Chicago 2nd ward, with pot-luck dishes prepared by members from China, Somalia, the Philippines, Mexico, and other far-flung places were more enjoyable by far than that astonishing elder’s quorum dinner would have been even had I arrived earlier and been less self-conscious.

  54. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 19, 2005 at 10:07 pm

    For my favorite desserts: http://adrr.com/recipe/index.htm

    My wife and I are co-chairs of the activities committee, so far, we are rekindling the activity part of it.

    BTW, for large groups, the book Community Suppers is great — it details how to put on a meal for a large group of people and covers the details so you can do it right the first time.

  55. Katie on April 20, 2005 at 9:23 am

    My best ward dinners were the break the fast meals I attended in the San Francisco YSA ward. They broke with tradition by making you pay 2 or 3 dollars to attend. They used that money to make the food several notches up from normal ward fare and the meals were always delicious.

    Something that I have surprisingly not seen brought up is the issue of whether or not linger/longers and break the fasts are still allowed. I wanted to plan a linger longer this year in my current YSA ward in OK and the Bishop told me no. He said that the First Presidency had banned such things. I found this strange, since I had just come from the SF ward a few months prior, and yet the Bishop claimed the policy was at least a year old.

    Has anyone else heard this? The risk of food poisoning not withstanding, the chance to break bread with your fellow saints has always been a wonderful oppurtunity………

  56. Mary on April 20, 2005 at 10:36 am

    Katie,

    All of 2004 my branch had “break-the-fasts” every fast Sunday. We were the last unit (the 1-4pm time slot) to meet in the building so our branch president decided that every fast Sunday we would have a pot-luck. They happened to be great activities because less-active members, and members that would not normally come to activities would stay, eat, and talk.

  57. claire on April 20, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    Our ward has the interesting tradition of rounding up 5-7 adult sisters to serve the food at potlucks. They stay on one side of the table and dish up appropriate sized servings as people walk along the other side of the table. We were out of town for the most recent dinner. It was held in between conference sessions, and the food must have been pretty low because I heard that rather than utilize our usual system, someone had the grand idea of serving up plates ahead of time with tiny portions of everything on them and handing them out! That sounded like about the worst idea I’d ever heard of. It also prevents people who might be only willing to eat their own food (a la Jim F.) from doing so (well, at least from eating more than _two bites_ of their own food).

  58. Seth Rogers on April 20, 2005 at 10:13 pm

    Best church-related food I ever had:

    We had a father-and-sons campout in the Coral Pink Sand Dunes in southern Utah. My dad loaded my four-year old brother and I (then 11 years old) into our van and off we went. We got there after dark following about a 2 1/2 hour drive. The “old-hands” at the Scouting thing already had a roaring fire and the main course:

    Dutch-oven potatoes.

    I’m sure it was just because I was really hungry and we were eating outdoors at night with the smell of campfire smoke, but that’s probably the best food I ever ate in my life!

    Worst church-related food:

    Also a camping experience. Actually, it was Boy Scouts (which qualifies as “church” in Southern Utah). This was a scout “leadership” camp, which meant that small groups of boys were supposed to build their own fires, maintain their own tents, and cook their own meals for about a week. Each campsite had a kitchen setup under a tarp.

    One night, spagetti was on the menu. The adult leaders dropped off the supplies at each campsite, and left us to do something with it “Lord of the Flies style.” We sat around an stared at the noodles for a bit until one of the boys got some water boiling and took charge.

    “How do know when it’s done?” We asked.

    “You take a noodle and throw it at the tree. If it sticks, it’s done.”

    We all concluded he must be right since none of us had any idea how to cook spagetti. We all helped throw noodles at trees though.

    The spagetti didn’t really taste like mom’s. The noodles were kind of bunched together and had been rendered to the consistency of glue. But hungry 13 year olds aren’t too disciminating, I guess.

    The next camp over fared worse than we did. Their spagetti came out of the pot in one basket-ball sized mass. Last we looked they were still pulling off individual strands and laying them out to dry.