Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Friendship gets Medieval on your Compass

June 29, 2009 Leave a comment

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.

Cool, right?

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.

Animal House Lodge

April 28, 2008 Leave a comment

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.

Apple Harvest 2007 – Week 2

October 11, 2007 Leave a comment

What a difference a year makes! Last year Friendship Lodge finished up one of the best Apple Harvest fund raisers in recent memory, all the while dodging the rocks and ruts of the construction going on at the front of our building. This year we sold slightly more fried apple wedgies than last year – by 5:30 pm on Sunday we actually sold out of the 1,000 Cortlands that we’d bought. The word it definitely getting around about our delicious, tasty apple treats. We had an impressive number of repeat customers – some of them within a half hour of their first purchase!

Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of chopped steak left over, both cooked and defrosted. Ironically, we think that this is because the weather on Saturday was so nice – as in warm in the mid-80s – that people were too hot to eat regular food, and instead merely snacked on apple treats. Since the meat had already been paid for, some of the brothers on clean-up detail took it home (I’ve got a couple of bags in the freezer, just waiting for me to add it to a nice tomato sauce), and some of it was donated to the soup kitchen that uses our lodge hall during the day. This is the first year that we haven’t donated any healthy apples to them.

Although our profits weren’t as high as they were last year, we’re pleased that our expenses for the year are more under control. We’ve done a lot of repair and maintenance work, both inside and out in the last year, and the little bit that we have to go requires more time and sweat than actual money, so overall we’re in pretty good shape.


Apple Harvest 2007


Here are some pictures of the 2007 Apple Harvest, along with a nice shot of the completed front of the building.

And once again the thanks go out to the unsung (‘cos I’m not singing) heroes of the annual festival. We’d get nowhere without the usual dozen or so people who come down every morning to open up or stay until late to clean up. Again, great work and I’m sure that all of the members of Friendship Lodge thank you and your wives and/or partners for the hours that you put in. We certainly could not have made it a success without you.

Apple Harvest 2007

October 1, 2007 Leave a comment

Town and county fairs are a New England tradition, and Southington – a town in the Quinnipiac River Valley and known for its orchards and farms – holds a town event called the Apple Harvest Festival . It’s grown to a two-weekend event, and hosts the usual assortment of crafters, souvenir hawkers, baby-kissing politicians, and of course, an assortment of foods. Times being what they are, we seem to see fewer apple-related treats and more of the “deep-fried ice cream” or the “chicken-on-a-stick” genre. We don’t mind, though, because it’s all delicious. Diets take a back seat to deep-fried donuts, fritters, and of course, to the now-famous Friendship Lodge “Apple Wedgies.”

Hey, wait a minute… I wrote this last year!

The usual gang of overworked and underpaid craftsmen persons were on hand, starting with putting down the floor and putting up the tent on Wednesday evening, then setting up the grills on Thursday, and cooking up shaved steak on Friday, and (barely) waking up on Saturday morning to put in a full day of doing it for the rest of the weekend.

Being a Past Master, I was on hand in a purely supervisory capacity. More correctly, people were supervising me to make sure that I didn’t wander off or get in the way of people doing the heavy lifting. Very important to stay out of the way of those who do the real work.

Sales were a bit slower than last year, although several of the booths that regularly hit the fairs mentioned the same thing. Too many fairs and festivals get crammed into September and October, which makes a virtual competition out of drawing in the crowds for each weekend. Southington runs the festival for two weekends, which helps to mitigate the problem of several large and well-attended agricultural fairs that always occur at the same time. Nonetheless, by Sunday night we had gone through several hundred pounds of steak, and almost 500 tart, tasty Macintosh apples.

Sunday morning saw great weather, which meant that the Apple Harvest parade would proceed as per schedule. Last year, a morning downpour forced the parade to be postponed until the next weekend, which meant that few outfits could march, as some had commitments elsewhere. The parade always elicits groans from some of the marchers – it’s a short route, but waiting in the lineup for almost 2 hours to march for 30 minutes is frustrating, especially when you can smell the various aromas wafting from the food areas. But as usual, thousands mobbed the streets to watch and wave us on. More encouraging, some people even seemed to recognize us as “The Masons,” which is much better than in past years where I’ve heard people ask a neighbor “Who are those guys in the suits?”

Actually, every year is a fun, exciting time – a little bit the same, a little bit different. The rush of getting food out during hungry periods, the story-swapping during the lulls, the complaining during the evening cleanup are all part of the experience – corporate HR departments spent thousands of dollars for team-building exercises that aren’t nearly as much fun, nor do they leave you with the satisfaction of a job well done.

The Shape of Masonry

August 20, 2007 Leave a comment

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.

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Categories: Blogging, Dinner, Food
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