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Published September 24, 2012, 10:42 AM

Feeding the multitudes

There’s a piece of paper pinned up on the kitchen bulletin board of our church that says, “how to feed the multitudes.”

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — There’s a piece of paper pinned up on the kitchen bulletin board of our church that says, “how to feed the multitudes.” It’s a step-by-step set of instructions and ingredients to put together enough scalloped potatoes and ham to serve after a funeral or for fellowship after church.

We just had a potluck dinner after church recently, as we began to celebrate our 125th anniversary as a congregation. That’s another way to feed the multitudes — just ask everyone to bring something to contribute to the feed.

Somehow we always end up with more than enough food, and about the right amount of variety from main dishes and casseroles to salads (some with vegetables, some with Jell-O and marshmallows and fruit) and desserts (you name your favorite sugary sensation, we’ve got it).

Lots of coffee, some lemonade from the five-gallon cooler jug, and we not only fed the multitudes that Sunday, we gave people a chance to talk to each other and have real face-to-face conversations. Children ate as much fruit, whipped cream and Jell-O “salad” as fast as they could and went outside to play with the other church members of similar height and energy.

What you need

There are tools of the trade when feeding large groups of people — that 5-gallon water cooler, the big coffee boiler, paper or foam plates to save work for the cleanup crew, and the must-have 18-quart electric roaster.

I have a little experience in feeding the masses myself with a three-year stint as a chairman of our church lutefisk supper. A successful supper always hinged on a lot of hard-working church members, donated butter and pies and coleslaw, dozens and dozens of lefse made by the church women’s organization and a fleet of those must-have 18-quart electric roasters.

The secret, I’ve learned, to keeping the electric roasters going with their batches of meatballs and gravy, corn, melted butter, warm potatoes and such is a steady supply of — you guessed it — electricity. That’s when it’s handy to have a fully licensed electrician as a member of your church and your lutefisk crew.

To ensure a steady supply of uninterrupted electrons, our electrician designed a board of higher amp 110-volt plug-ins with circuit breakers fed by a 220-volt power supply and brought it right to the roasters. It works like a charm and we’ve never served a cold meatball.

So when I was going to a picnic with a friend recently, where we were bringing the slush burger, or sloppy joe’s, or whatever your neighborhood calls it, I wondered what we would do to heat up the roaster since it was a long drive and we were on a tight schedule.

She pulled out a brand new gizmo that converted the car’s cigarette lighter to 110-volt plug-in power. I raised one eyebrow and said, “uh, good idea, if it’ll work.” It certainly would be a time saver if we could cook slush burger and drive simultaneously. We’d pop out of that vehicle all smelling like a Manwich, but we’d be ready to picnic.

The plan didn’t quite come together, though. The 1,200 or more watts the roaster needed was a little more than the cigarette lighter adapter was willing to give. So we warmed up the slush burger the old fashioned way — a little at a time in a microwave — and took it to the picnic spot to plug in to a real outlet.

I guess it takes more than a cigarette lighter adapter to open up a mobile kitchen. Roasters may feed the multitudes, but cars aren’t made to do the cooking.

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