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GENERATIONS: Time to go to church -- and eat well

It’s now mid-season for the long-awaited event that starts in early August and ends the last day of November.

Eager participants read the newspapers for the announcement of the day and date and then mark their calendars carefully so they will not miss the appealing event. Gotta go! And there are those regulars who choose to go to every single one of them, and are flummoxed only when two are being held on the same date! And what is that weekend fall attraction for the hundreds of local participants? What are they looking forward to?

Why, it’s Church Dinners, of course.

All are good, some are ‘gooder’

The success for all of the meals served is the general agreement that the food is good. Like really good! And naturally there’s the additional opinions that a  couple of these church dinners are. . . well, gooder, as it were, then others. And always there’s favorites to recommend but never any to avoid. That's good. These strong opinions on “Who’s best?” of course vary as much as their various stomachs telling them the correct answer.

The price is right

There’s also general agreement on costs. Indeed, there are still several church dinners for which there is no specific charge at all! They’re free-will offerings and diners can contribute whatever amount they choose, including nothing, if they so choose. But rare is the latter decision made. Most churches specify the amount to be charged, the regular figure being $10 per adult  person, but with the changing food prices always moving up and up, a few area churches have upped their meal prices, too. Whatever, mom doesn’t have to cook that day.

There's also is a common time to start serving the meals. Usually the starting time is 11 a.m. but virtually all start serving earlier than that. When the food is ready, when the servers are ready, when the long  lineup of the famished are ready to move forward, then start the process and pay no attention to the announced first-food-time. It is also common for many folks to arrive an hour before the announced starting time. Primary motive to come early is to eat early. Numbered tickets are bestowed on all; a low number gets you an early meal. Also it’s common for churches to sell multiple items before the meals begin, notably selling cookies and cakes and garden vegetables and more items. So the moral: get there early before those good goodies are gone!

These church dinners also make for great social events. A great time to visit with acquaintances both old and new. A time also to meet new people who are sitting across the table from “strangers" -- and all sneaking glances at each other but not conversing. The key line for conversations is for someone to say: “So where you from, then?” And off they go.

A switch in the menu

There’s even a break of sorts in the fall featured food that's available in mid-season, an alternative choice amid the usual meatballs and/or chicken and/or ham offerings. It’s fish; it’s cod; it’s Scandinavian-baked “Torsk” — codfish chunks floating in melted butter along side the mashed potatoes and the cranberries on the side. The Torsk Supper is provided by the local Sons of Norway and held at Calvary Lutheran Church on Oct. 19. Note: this is a Thursday; and it’s supper, not a noon-hour dinner. Serving starts at 5 p.m.

And, naturally, there’s a Lutefisk and Meatball Supper every year at Aardahl Lutheran. Always a big crowd at Aardahl (A retired sheriff only leaves for his winter retreat the day after the Aardahl lutefisk-dinner is over.) “Biblical” responses to lutefisk, which is either loved or hated: “Lutefisk!  Yay, verily  'In Cod we trust,' "Yew betcha, Lutefisk iss da food det passeth all understanding.”  Uff da. (First Lutheran Church, amid their current ongoing major construction changes, had to cancel their lutefisk-supper this year.)

Off and eating

The eating-season began Aug. 5 at tiny Debs Lutheran, some 25  miles north and west off State Highway 89. Tiny Debs is not tiny the day their delicious Meatball Supper is served to almost 400 people. (And how many there can identify Eugene Victor Debs?  A good answer that day :  ”Who knows? Who cares? We didn’t come here for no history lesson.”)

The church-eating-season ends in town at Calvary Lutheran on Nov. 30 with their Annual Lutefisk and Meatball Supper, all served from 4 to 7 p.m. Between the first and the last, there are many other good church dinners in the area that, alas, are not named here and apologies for that omission. Although the season will end too soon, there’s still that something to look forward to next fall. Indeed, one can now lean back,close their eyes, and hear that voice saying next October: “Please pass the meatballs."