Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday On The Hill

“My name is Hanna”.  The bespectacled little lady with the huge smile had just returned from shuttling in a pan of freshly barbecued hamburgers and was bringing back the pan for me to fill again.  “Thank you Hanna, I really appreciate your help.” - “No problem”, she said over her shoulder as she ran back into the church to rejoin her friends.

It was the first night of Wednesday On The Hill.  This is the Rev’s plan to reclaim Wednesday night as church night in our congregation.  She asked me to fix dinner for everyone for the kick-off.  Last Sunday she invited everyone to join together for dinner before they ran off to choir practice, youth group, committee meetings or just on to live their lives.  She told them all that I would be fixing the meal - “and he’s a good cook” she proclaimed.  Thanks my love - no pressure there now is there?

“So how many am I cooking for?” I asked the Rev.  “I don’t know, it’s the first time”, was the honest estimate.  So we decided that we would prepare for 100 and hope for the best.  Burgers and Brats on the grill was to headline the menu.  I found a recipe for a pasta salad on the web that looked good so that became our side dish.  The Rev added fresh veggies and rice crispy bars to the presentation. A quick run to the store for Kettle Baked chips (3 flavors, of course) and assorted cookies and we had a menu.

I started early Wednesday morning and decided that this was a pretty pedestrian menu so I toasted all of the hamburger and brat buns.  I had to have something that was “special”.  Then it was off to the church about 2:30pm to get ready to go by 5:15 - the scheduled start time.
I was told the church had a grill that I could use to prepare the burgers and brats. Hmmm, a gas grill - I’m a Weber kettle/charcoal guy myself.  Oh well, let’s give it a go.  I lifted the lid and discovered, of course, that it had not been cleaned since it was used last June.  I had suspected that might be the case so I had brought my grill brush.  No problem - I had that grill ready to go before too long.  I opened the valve on the gas tank and hit the ignition button.  Thank you Lord, it fired the first time.  Okay let’s throw on some burgers and see what this thing will do.  Five minutes a side is the usual time on my grill so I checked them in five and found that the left side of the grill was hot and working just fine (though a little slow) but the right side had barely cooked the surface.  I eventually developed a system of starting on the right and working the burgers to the left - then I used the very right side as a “warmer” to hold the finished burgers as I progressed.  I cooked all afternoon.
By 4:30 people started to arrive. They would stick their heads out and say “It smells great - I could smell it all the way out in the parking lot”.  It was about this time that I met Hanna.  I finished up about 5:10 - 80 burgers and 36 brats.  I hoped it would be enough.  The Rev was going to have her meal after-all.

We figure we served about 75 people, young and old, last night.  All of the brats disappeared but we did have some burgers left-over.  The pasta salad was a hit although we had made about twice as much as needed.  Six bags of chips was the right amount and two trays of rice crispy bars were gone.  Several of the ladies commented on the toasted buns - they liked the touch.

By 6:00 everyone was off to their meetings, practices and groups.  One young man offered to help with the clean up so he and I packed up the left overs, cleaned the dishes and wiped down the tables.  By 8:00 I was home in my recliner and totally exhausted.

Yes, I was wiped out but it felt great.  I had never cooked for that many before and we had pulled it off.  This is something that I can do.  And I enjoyed it.  The sound of people talking and eating together was great.  This was community - this was fellowship.  It may be just a few hours on a Wednesday night, a brief break in the routine of life, but this is church.  This is good.

May you also find a break in your routine this week - and as always I pray that you find . . . Peace.
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