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Meal becomes secondary

[cleeng_content id=”188826204″ description=”Read it now!” price=”0.49″ t=”article”]The Pine Grove Mills Presbyterians sure know how to throw down a turkey supper. Early on a Saturday morning in the church’s cozy kitchen, the usual crew of cooks and supervisors eased a couple of plump birds into roasters, salt and pepper shakers wielded by expert hands. The coffee pot was perking and over the next few hours, mounds of mashed potatoes were turned out along with green beans, stuffing, and, because this is Pennsylvania and we love our carbs—noodles.luse

The dinners are always held the last Saturday of the month during the winter and I try and make it home for at least one of them. It’s almost like having a second Thanksgiving, from the food to the familiar faces of people I have known since childhood, neighbors and family alike. It’s a chance to catch up on the news and ask about those who aren’t at the table.

At the last dinner the missing included my father’s best buddy Pete — they always have one another’s backs when the morning discussions at the town gas station get out of hand— who was still down with a nasty flu he caught right after Christmas. My mother’s cousin Norm had broken his ankle on an icy sidewalk and since it was snowing that night he was a little gun shy. His sister Cora Jean was there in her usual seat, however, reporting that she has had to do school crossing guard duties now that Norm was out of commission.

The pastor said grace in his booming sermon voice and the bowls and platters flowed from the kitchen to the long tables set up in the rooms usually taken over by Sunday school classes. The empties were shuttled back to the kitchen for refills and quickly returned.

It’s not just in the middle of Pennsylvania that communities come together and share such a meal. In New England there are bean suppers and in the deep-south folks may gather over a pig pickin’ or catfish fry. Where I live in Maryland the meal that gives me pleasant dreams is hosted by any number of volunteer fire departments or churches and features that holy trinity of turkey, country ham and fried oysters.

The menus may be different, but the atmosphere is all the same at these suppers attended by hungry, happy-to-be-alive people — OK, you’ll always have the ones who have to raise a fuss if the food doesn’t come fast enough or they don’t like where they’re sitting. But really, what could be better than a home cooked meal where you didn’t have to peel a single potato or wash a single dish?

— Nancy Luse writes from Frederick, Md.

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