On Saturday, May 30th, the meeting hall of Friendship Lodge in Southington was full of minstrels, knaves, and Templars. No, it wasn’t the scene from a new Dan Brown movie, it was another one of Friendship’s themed Table Lodges. This year, WM Eric went with a Medieval theme.
|Medieval Table Lodge 2009|
But it gets better.
Not being satisfied merely to have a bunch of guys dressed up, he asked our resident caterer, WB Rich Fentner to find some authentic dishes from that period. WB Richie’s culinary skills are well matched to his creativity, and he presented a menu fit – quite literally – for a lordly feast.
But wait, there’s even more.
The cooking started early in the morning, using fresh and dried herbs and spices for flavoring, many of them from Richie’s own garden. Soon, the mouth-watering aroma of roasted chickens, fish, and beef filled the hall. We prepped and cooked right up until the lodge opening, took a quick break, and then continued to cook for the entire seven courses. Fortunately, we had not just one, not just two, but four stewards assisting in the kitchen — and this was on top of the half a dozen people who showed up earlier in the day to help cut, carve, hew, and peel things.
But there’s still more.
Forks being an expensive novelty at the time, the meals were served only with knives and spoons, and plenty of hunks of peasant bread. Meal entrees were roasted, fried, or boiled according to the old recipes that were available. The one exception that we made was for dessert, which was a custard dish that probably wasn’t quite as authentic as it could have been. Oh, the custard itself dates to the 1300s, but the (ahem) Graham cracker crust might have been cheating. Fortunately, by the end of the knight night, everybody was so stuffed and happy that nobody cared enough to complain.
About three dozen brothers from eight or nine different lodges showed up to partake, and almost all of them made an effort to dress for the part; altogether a most excellent gastronomical event.
It has been at least a dozen years since Friendship Lodge hosted its own “Lodge at Table,” and even though the members are regular visitors (and helpers!) at other functions, WM Jim Sinclair decided that this was going to be the year that we would have our own.
WM Jim wanted to have some kind of theme to the dinner. Being proud of his Italian ancestry, he wanted to make that part of the theme, but having Italian food? Gosh, don’t Masons already eat enough macaroni and cheese or ziti with sauce? The answer soon became obvious: A Roman theme! And what better to reinforce the theme idea than to ask guests to dress for dinner… in togas ?
So the past week found a dozen different Masons wrestling with old bedsheets and bits of fabric, while the esteemed WB Richie took care of the menu. Ceasar probably didn’t eat pasta, but it’s quite possible that he ate freshly prepared vegetables, eggs, olives, chicken, lamb, pork, cheese and fruit. Oh, and in veritas, he would have had vino as well.
|Roman Table Lodge
Click to see the online photo album
When I got there, the food was cooked, and WB Richie was preparing the dishes in his typical artistic fashion. I found the rest of the officers upstairs trying to get dressed, assisted by several wives and girlfriends who had shown up earlier to help in the kitchen. I’m happy to see that in some ways Friendship is becoming a nice hang-out spot for the brothers, and glad that their partners feel at home when they come down.
I noticed that it seemed to take much longer to dress the officers in sheets than it does to dress them in tuxedos. More ironic, too, because there is a hell of a lot less material in a sheet. On the other hand, most of the brethren managed to be fairly well wrapped. Interestingly, both WB Jim and I dressed alike, the both of us wearing tunics with purple togas draped around it. I didn’t actually use a sheet, my outfit was the result of a half hour at the local fabric store and another few minutes of my wife working up a few stitches on her sewing machine. I was amazed at the number of “toga party” hits I found when web searching, and was able to find quite a few tips on wearing togas – almost none of which worked perfectly.
And let me tell you – it’s dang near impossible to drive in one of those things.
Anyway, visiting brothers from Sequin-Level Lodge showed up to join the festivities, so we closed the doors and opened the lodge for the first of what we hope are many more Table Lodge functions.
In Connecticut, it’s common for lodges to shut down in July and August for a summer break (please do not call it “going dark”; that term applies to lodges that turn in their charter and close permanently), although often the various business committees continue to meet. I may have mentioned elsewhere that I forgot to duck when they voted on officers for this board, and my inattention has caused me to be President of the Southington Masonic Temple Corporation for the last three years. Earlier this month we had to get together for a couple of hours to go over some changes to the building and to talk about ways to introduce some new ideas to the rest of the lodge in September.
Generally, we meet on the first Monday of the month, but since most of the members were away on vacation, we rescheduled it for a Wednesday evening a week later. Since most of us would be coming straight from work, the Secretary ordered up some pizzas and beer (Rolling Rock, naturally. Why? The mysterious number “33″ on the bottle makes it the official beer of Friendship Lodge No. 33) and we all showed up around 5:30 (yes, even me) in order to get to work.
After an hour or so of
yammering hammering out some details, the eight or so of us took a stretch break. Most of us were standing up, a few eating a cold slice of pie or hoisting a brew, when the door to the hall opened up. In walked an older gentleman who stopped and looked around quizzically.
“Can we help you?” several of us asked at almost the same time.
“Um, yeah, ” he said with just a trace of hesitation, “Weight Watchers meeting?”
“Next door, at the American Legion,” said one of our members, helpfully.
The gentleman nodded, and backed toward the door. He quickly eyed the beer and pizza and glanced pointedly at the large men scattered around the room. “Yeah, should have known,” he chuckled. He thanked us and quickly left.
Most of us being living testaments to the great meals that we serve regularly at our lodge, we laughed along with him. One of the the brothers looked around at the rest of us, saying “Right, Weight Watchers. He won’t make that mistake again.”
I just closed my eyes and shook my head. “I am so blogging this,” I told him.