Forgive me if I punctuate every conversation for the next few days with, “You get green beans and a salad with that. Enjoy!”
I said it for more than seven hours straight last night at our fair at The Church of the Archangels in Stamford.
Yes, the ladies there let me near the food (they must not have read Friday’s blog post) and so instead of busing tables, I served the customers. Pastitsio, Moussaka, Chicken. The mid-afternoon lunch push was steady, but manageable, and we managed a nice camaraderie behind the line.
Basil was out at the grill cooking shish kabob and souvlaki. He declared the grill tent a site of high testosterone. Catherine and a friend from the GOYA youth group kept their eye on one of the jewelry booths. And an army of parishioners kept things moving in the kitchen, at the cash register, the vendor booths and everywhere else.
It was good to chat with some of the ladies I only see from a distant pew at church or wave hello to at coffee hour. Many of them have known each other for a lifetime; I’m just the xeno who married in.
Anyway, we gabbed about our kids (served a piece of Moussaka); the latest fashions (carved a piece of Pastitsio out of the tray); how the fair was going (sent someone down the line for Spanikopita); and otherwise got to know each other.
Then all hell broke loose.
The rides, games, face-painting and other attractions the organizing committee gambled on this year did their magic. Suddenly, there was no time for talking, just serving, serving, serving.
For awhile I did nothing but make up the trays with plates and cutlery. As fast as I stacked them up, they were whisked away. Then I swapped with another lady and landed on chicken duty for a bit.
A peek around the corner revealed a line of families, couples, friends and teenagers out the door that lasted for more than 90 minutes. We ran out of lamb and wound down to just one tray of Pastitsio. Our voices became hoarse from explaining the menu over the sounds of the bouzouki-playing band. Our backs and feet began to ache.
Catherine and the other kids were pressed into service collecting and washing trays to keep up with demand.
A school friend of Catherine’s, dropped off to have some fun, is owed a special shout-out: Julia didn’t ride the rides, play games or sit with us to eat. She, too, collected and washed trays (now THAT is friendship).
(I want to briefly run off track here just a moment to send a special thank-you to the fellow who replied to the kids’ question about whether he was done with his tray by telling them to “F off.” You, sir, are a class act.)
How wonderful to see the church in its role as community touchpoint. Many of the folks who stopped in last night were not members of our church (I spied several Jazzercise friends and a food writer I used to cross paths with when I was a journalist!) Some had never been by our fair before.
A few were stalwarts who planned their night carefully — they knew just what they wanted because they wait for the fair each year. Others were new to Greek cuisine and, after hearing our explanations for various dishes, inevitably chose Chicken and Potatoes — or even just potatoes, especially if it was for the kids.
No matter. I heard no complaints about the food and everyone except the sourpuss referenced above seemed to be having a great time.
We get to do it all again this afternoon (my back has already demanded different footwear for today’s outing).
And, imagine, all three Vaneches spent the day having a great, if exhausting, time helping others. We went several hours without touching a computer keyboard or phone screen … and we didn’t die! (In case you’re wondering, yes, this was engineered by me as a parenting moment; I hope Catherine remembers how good it felt to do and not watch for a few hours.)
About 9:30, I finally took a break to eat the most amazing piece of Spanikopita, an act that took me back to those Tarry Lodge days of eating a post-shift pizza at midnight.
I did not have green beans and a salad with it.
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