Friday, October 17, 2014

Ingredients for Life

Last Saturday, I helped serve a funeral dinner at our church. Some made "Methodist meatloaf," our church's go-to main dish for funeral dinners. Some made cakes, salads and potato casseroles at their own homes and brought them to be shared by the grieving family. A few of us gathered to serve the meal, pouring out smiles along with hot coffee.
I think the dinners are among the most important services at our church. Our family has been on the receiving end a couple of times. Having a place to gather around a meal after saying goodbye to a beloved family member is a priceless gift.

Marion and Wanda can probably make the meatloaf without a recipe, though they have it all recorded in a massive 3-ring notebook, with the ratios of hamburger to cracker crumbs to ketchup to eggs all broken down in a handy chart. That notebook also holds a record of some of the precious people of our church who no longer share our earthly pews (like my in-laws who always sat in the balcony).

This month, Pastor Ben has been sharing the stories of saints during our Sunday morning worship services. Some of them, like St. Francis of Assisi, are people we've all heard about. Others aren't household names, but they made a difference that reached beyond their little corner of the world. For example, Jennie Fowler Willing , 1834-1916, was one of the saints Ben talked about last week. The Women's Home Missionary Society she founded is a forerunner to today's United Methodist Women. At our church, that's been the driving organizational force behind the funeral dinners, though others contribute to the bounty of food offered to families.

It's good to remember people who have impacted the world. But Pastor Ben has also brought it closer to home. We've had the opportunity to fill out postcards, remembering saints more near and dear to us. It's been good to remember the people who've made a difference in my faith walk. Like me, they weren't perfect people. But they walked alongside me and others in a way that impacted all of us.

For most of us, it's not a big deal to make a strawberry cake or throw together a salad. But, as we cut squares from the cake pans and lined up salads on the serving table, I thought about how we can all do just a little bit and end up making a big difference. Maybe cooking isn't your thing, so you're not on the "call list" at funeral dinner time. And that's OK, too. Isn't it a blessing that we all have different talents and abilities to share?


I made this Crunchy Poppy Seed Coleslaw for the funeral dinner. I also served it at the PEO luncheon I was in charge of earlier this month. It won't be the last time I turn to this easy, yet tasty, salad that serves a crowd. 
Crunchy Poppy Seed Coleslaw
Adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up blog
1 (16 oz.) bag tri-colored coleslaw mix
3 tart apples, chopped
8-10 green onions, finely chopped
1 (12 oz.) bottle Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing
2 (3 oz.) pkg. ramen noodles (discard seasoning packet or use in another recipe)
1 to 1.5 cups roasted, salted cashews
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: I used Jonathan apples because I liked the tart red apple for a color variation with the coleslaw mix. Since those are not always available, you may use Pink Lady, Honey Crisp or another favorite apple. Granny Smiths would be good, too, but wouldn't give the color contrast.

Combine coleslaw mix, chopped apples and chopped green onion (white and green portions). Pour dressing over the salad. You may do this part 1 hour ahead of time, but it shouldn't be more than 2 hours before serving. Crush ramen noodles and combine with cashews. (Discard the seasoning packet or use for another recipe). Just before serving, toss ramen noodles and cashews into the dressing-covered salad. Stir; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes about 10 servings.
I served the leftovers from the PEO luncheon to Randy with a hamburger and baked beans.


  1. Thank you for the great recipe I love church suppers and as a matter off fact am going to one next week. Hugs B

    1. I love church potlucks. It's amazing to see all the different things people bring. Have a great weekend, B!

  2. I absolutely agree that funeral dinners are one of the most important things "church people" do. Some of those saints in Marion & Wanda's book taught me about helping in times of need. I've also seen members of my family step up to bring food, so it has been natural for me to do the same. Our family has been on the receiving end more times than we'd like, but it is always just what we need. The good food, friendly faces, and time together are very important. Thanks to you and all those saints of today that continue this tradition.

    1. Your mom is still providing salads for funeral dinners also. I, too, grew up with a mother who helped with funeral dinners and/or took food to the homes of families who were grieving. On the surface, it seems like such a small thing. Then, when you're on the receiving end, you realize what a meaningful ministry it is.