Meals for the multitude

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Dorothy Points is the queen of "chicken 'n' dumplin's."

Every year at the Trinity Lutheran Church's Ladies Junior Aid Holiday Bazaar in Cape Girardeau, she directs the preparation of the dinner's main attraction according to a recipe passed down by her mother.

"She oversees every dumpling made," says Lida Mueller, the organization's president.

That means the combination of eight dozen beaten eggs, boiling broth and 55 pounds of flour when you're preparing dinner for 400. The dinner Dec. 7 also required 35 chickens, 40 pounds of cabbage for slaw, nine gallons of green beans, hundreds of homemade cookies and tens of pies.

Notices about such events are written on index cards tacked up on grocery store bulletin boards. They're printed on brightly colored fliers and passed out in offices. They're spelled out on portable signs with flashing arrows: turkey dinners, pancake days, whole hog sausage breakfasts, ham and bean dinners, kettle beef dinners and chili suppers.

Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cape Girardeau has an annual wild game feed.

The fall and spring seem to be the prime seasons for these community dining experiences, but if willing to travel, you could make community meals a regular part of your diet. The success of every one of these ventures depends on the organizational and culinary skills of the people behind the counter.

At Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Jackson, the last Sunday in October has been the occasion of the St. Ann's Sodality fund-raising turkey dinner since 1951. Johanna Broshuis was the first co-chair that year and couldn't have known how popular it would be. "Of course, we ran out of turkey and had to serve ham," she recalled.

Because there are 1,000 families in the parish, the organizers must be masters of logistics.

All the families in the parish are invited to sign up for a job on a list distributed on a Sunday in September. The countdown begins on the Thursday before the meal when bread is broken for the dressing. Women and men bake pies and cakes in their homes. Individual members of the parish take home 80 to 100 turkeys and deliver them roasted to church before the dinner. On Sunday, some parishioners direct cars in the parking lot. Ushers greet the arrivals. Children from the confirmation class wait on the tables.

Close to 1,000 meals are served between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each year, meaning everyone from the cooks to the children busing tables to the men carry pots must get a move on.

"It's a big hustle,' says Nancy Myers, the turkey dinner chairwoman for a number of years.

Proceeds for this year's turkey dinner bought new chairs for the cafeteria at Immaculate Conception Catholic School.

Flapjack funding

The Cape Girardeau Noon Lions Club has been raising money with flapjacks for 64 years. Steve Marchbanks was the chairman of the civic club's Pancake Day last March. All 115 members of the Lions Club participate.

"It takes every one of us," he said.

There are cooks, batter makers, coffee makers, table waiters and "syrup slingers."

"Everybody has a task," Marchbanks said. "We actually have people who cut the butter."

The Lions expect to feed 8,000 to 10,000 people each year, starting at 7 a.m. and continuing until 7 p.m. Patrons also are asked to bring in their used eyeglasses because vision preservation is one of the Lions' primary projects.

Marchbanks claims the pancakes contain an ingredient that keeps people coming back year after year. He won't reveal it.

"We're sworn to secrecy."

The approximately 70 women in the Ladies Junior Aid at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau and many of their husbands pitch in at their bazaar, some preparing food, some selling Christmas items they made, like butter pound cakes and zucchini relish.

Erna Phillips was selling a product she calls "cooked cheese," a skillet-fried concoction of butter, cottage cheese and Swiss cheese.

Harry and Olga Ruesler were at the church community hall helping out. They attend many of the dinners put on by other churches throughout the year. Good food is one thing you can usually count on at these community breakfasts and dinners.

"If the food wasn't good we wouldn't go," she said.

The Rev. Doug Breite, pastor of the church, said proceeds help support Saxony Lutheran School, Trinity Lutheran Church, Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, the group Birthright and Lutheran Family and Children's Services. Last year's bazaar brought in $3,500.

Points acknowledges that not everyone has the knack of making good "chicken 'n' dumplin's." She uses one unusual ingredient in hers, L.B. Jamison's soup base, but it's not a secret. Her secret is a special technique.

She refrigerates the chicken broth overnight and skims off most of the excess fat before the final preparations begin. "That is the secret," she said.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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