Wearing the Operative Apron
I’ve written elsewhere that once made a Mason, we can’t very well remove our aprons and be “off duty“, as everything is colored by our new frame of reference. Accordingly, even while not in lodge one will often find me acting in various Masonic capacities. Last weekend found me – quite literally – donning an apron to cook and prepare several hundred pounds of local vegetables and almost 150 pounds of chicken at a local scholarship dinner.
Friendship Lodge is supposedly the third oldest organization in town, so it’s no surprise that my wife belongs to the first oldest, the First Congregational Church , located just across the Southington town green from our lodge. Twenty two years ago, several of the women got together in order to sponsor a fall dinner. The dinner became an annual event, and after a few years, they began to sell tickets in order to raise money for the scholarship fund. The menu eventually became a delicious biscuit covering a scoop of chicken, smothered in white gravy with hand-made cole slaw, potatotes and mashed butternut squash; owing to the method in which the dinne was cooked, they called it the Chicken Pie Dinner. Six years ago, my wife started helping out. After a couple of years some of the women, having managed the affair for eighteen years, asked Linda if she would be interested in taking it over. My wife, having some of the same congenital inability to refuse such offers as plagues me, soon compiled the notes and guidelines in order to manage the event.
Anyone in a position similar to mine knows the drill: when your wife or Significant Other takes over a project, you are one of the first ones to get drafted. So every year, just a few weeks after the Apple Harvest Festival, you’ll find me once again visiting one of the most well-known local orchards to pick up butternut squash, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and some other things that I’m sure that I’ve forgotten about. Oh, and the seemingly never-ending hunt for chicken breasts at a good price, preferably under $.99 a pound. Somehow this all comes together during the end of October, and the first Saturday in November is “C-Day”. I’ve noticed that there is a dearth of husbands involved, so the event also entails a good number of aspirin and ibuprofen on my part – the result of moving a dozen or so very, very large boiling pots from the old stove to the sink.
A few years ago, we realized that a continually sell-out crowd meant that there were more people who might attend, but we had a limit to the number of people that could fit into the meeting hall. We began to offer “to-go” meals, and then a second seating. The first seating at 5:00 p.m. is always filled, but the dinner crowd typically doesn’t hang around afterwards. The second seating at 7:00 p.m. is smaller, and is when we and the kitchen staff finally get to take a break. This year – mirroring the success of our own fund raiser at Friendship Lodge – we served almost 175 people, for the biggest dinner ever. I know that Linda worked pretty hard over the last couple of weeks to make this event a success, and after everything was added and subtracted we added over $1,200 to the scholarship fund.
Events like this are not easy to run, and we are thankful for the continued help of many of the women who originally started the dinner. At various times during the preceding week some of them helped to peel squash and potatoes, debone chicken, chop up cabbage and onions, and volunteer to make pies for dessert. And on Saturday mornings, the church kitchen is overrun with women gossiping and chatting, and who seemingly just happen to make several hundred biscuits and gallons of gravy in the process. It’s also nice to see some of the new faces stopping in to help – perhaps to run errands, set the tables, serve the meals, and – thankfully – to help with the cleanup afterwards.
Tying this in to the general topic of Freemasonry, I should note that besides the rather cute apron (which, by the way, generated many compliments), First Congregational Church has a number of members who are also members of Friendship Lodge, several of whom showed up to support the dinner.