The Harvest Dinner
This month, the Good Neighbor column celebrates the Harvest Dinner at Christ Episcopal Church, which will be serving up home-cooked food for the 68th year on November 17th.
- story by Pat Saik
One such event that the community looks forward to each year is the church’s upcoming a Fall Harvest Dinner. Begun in 1948 at the home of the late Mary and Charles Breath, the dinner marks its 68th year in November.
The Fall Harvest Dinner, organized by the Episcopal Church Women, is an event that engages every member of Christ Episcopal, who volunteer to help with everything from ticket sales to serving tables.
Event co-chair Susan Stevens said, “Our goal this year is to serve 600 meals to our friends and neighbors in the community. It takes the efforts of all church members to create this feast.”
The meal is not only fabulous, but a real bargain, too. Tickets still sell for only $10 and can be bought at the door, or beforehand from the church office or a Christ Church member.
For those who choose a sit-down meal, one may dine-in with others at the Parish Hall from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. Meeting and greeting friends while sharing a meal lovingly prepared is one special way to enjoy the Fall Harvest Dinner. Those who prefer to “take out” can do so beginning at 4:00 pm. and enjoy dinner at home.
Proceeds from ticket sales support three important missions, two in which the church played a major role. Recipients are the Hancock County Food Pantry and the Alliance for Health, two community organizations which the church helped institute. The Alliance for Health provides funds to those who are unable to afford medications. Thanks to the Food Pantry, Hancock residents in need have a place to obtain basic food items.
The third organization benefiting from the generosity of the church is Friends of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County, a shelter for animals in need of a “forever home.” Friends has played a major role in reducing euthanasia rates by providing a low-cost spay and neuter program that helps reduce the overpopulation of unwanted animals. Christ Episcopal’s contributions are a welcome addition to the fund to make better the lives of companion animals and to help their owners pay for the procedure.
As co-chair Susan Stevens describes, “Our greatest pleasure after sharing a meal with family and friends and neighbors is then sharing the monetary proceeds with those missions in need. That is our true Thanksgiving.”
“Generations of Christ Church families continue a tradition that started in 1948,” says co-chair Kim Lucas Uram. “Three generations of a family may work side by side, preparing and serving this special meal.” In fact, a fourth generation of the Lucas family now joins the ranks.
Parishioner Nannette Stroh remembers attending the very first harvest dinner as a child, when her mother helped prepare the meal of Hungarian goulash. She is looking forward to keeping her record of attendance unbroken and to overseeing the dessert table, a job she has had for years.
One special and favorite recipe is the cranberry relish. Some long-time parishioners perhaps know the recipe by heart. Named after Effie McCulloch, who used the recipe for all Harvest Dinners, the recipe was also known to Nannette Stroh’s mother and to her grandmother, Caroline West Chapman. (For those interested in this beloved acclaimed recipe, you’ll find it at the end of this story).
During the dinner, naturally, folks are happy to see friends and neighbors, but it is the homemade food that is the main attraction. The roast turkey with homemade gravy is mouthwateringly moist. Pork lovers can enjoy slices of glazed apple-smoked ham. Doubtless most will want both.
Accompanying the turkey and ham, expertly sliced by men who have doing the carving for years, is bread dressing full of turkey juices, homemade spinach Florentine casserole and made-from-scratch sweet potato casserole.
Everything is fresh and, if available, produced locally. The sweet potatoes definitely are not from a can. Slowly baked, the potato becomes so soft its flesh is easily scooped from the skin. Once mixed with spices and placed into a casserole dish, then warmed for serving, the casserole is topped with marshmallows that become gooey and crispy and melt in your mouth.
Other than the marshmallows, processed foods deliberately play no part in the creation of the dishes served. Using recipes handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter, dishes are made from scratch in the cook’s own kitchen and purchased with the cook’s own money.
Dinner rolls purchased locally and a mélange of tantalizing homemade desserts like pumpkin pie, pecan pie and chocolate cake round out the meal.
The Christ Episcopal parishioners see themselves as family and work together for the good of the church and the community. Its doors are open for all who wish to attend.
After the service on Sunday, attendees congregate to visit and to enjoy refreshments. “It’s simple,” Susan Stevens says. “We enjoy each other’s company.”
McCulloch’s Cranberry Relish
Combine the following:
1 quart fresh cranberries
3 ½ cups white sugar
½ lb. seedless raisins
Grated peel and juice of 1 orange
½ half cup vinegar (white or cider)
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1tsp. ground ginger
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and then simmer slowly to marmalade consistency.
Christ Episcopal stays involved over the years in fund-raising with projects like the annual rummage sale, known for high-end merchandise at bargain prices. In addition, the church fosters a close community by holding a festive event for parishioners at least every six weeks. At Christmas, the church buys gifts for the children of those incarcerated in local jails.
Christ Episcopal also brings to the community music and art at the Fourth Sunday at Four, a free concert in the church featuring local and interesting high-caliber musicians. After the concert, attendants may enjoy refreshments in the Parish Hall while perusing an art exhibit of a local artist that is a part of the cultural offering.