I’m used to controversy, but I’m really wading into deep water now. What is the appropriate food to serve with coffee after church? I ask out loud to combat snack inflation and to make the task — if it needs to be a task at all — easier to overtaxed church volunteers.
Let me paint a picture.
Two church services. Two different places. Two different approaches to food. Let’s review.
The first is New Harmony Universalist Church, Loganville, Georgia. Don’t look it up at UUA.org; it left the association in the 1980s, and had “gone dormant” before that, when that part of Georgia was open country and not in the exurbs of Atlanta. Today, it meets once a year in September for a homecoming service and de facto family reunion. And the food comes out. Homemade food: salads, various preparations of chicken, cornbread, congealed salads plus barbecue and a vat of Brunswick stew deep enough to baptize an adult, if so inclined. Homemade food to celebrate the church and the family. Dinner on the church grounds under a large shelter build for that purpose. (There is no church hall; there is, however, an outhouse.)
The second is St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland, in Rome. My husband Jonathan and I visited St. Andrew’s for the Christmas Eve service a couple of years ago. We had just flown in that morning; so did the family we shared the pew with! This is a lively in-town parish, with a multinational congregation, and no doubt a large number of tourists. Christmas Eve in such a setting is no more typical than the reunion at New Harmony, but the refreshment options have be handled differently. The parish hall is in another part of the church complex. There we found simple but well-chosen refreshments. A choice of drinks — tea or mulled wine — served by members from trays rather than at a station, if I recall correctly. (When I visited in 2003 for an ordinary Sunday, it was tea or juice at a table.) At a long table, the church set out generous slices of brioche-like pandoro and fresh mandarins, some with their leaves attached. I think the children got small gifts of candy, and possibly a different drink option. This wasn’t a family reunion, and many of us were strangers, but the Christmas cheer (and jetlag) inclined us to sociability, and the well-considered and straightforward offerings left a lasting positive impression.