Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I'm gathering ideas for what to serve hungry university students on Sunday evenings following our 5 p.m. Evensongs (which range from Taize to traditional choral to jazz). Pizza seems to be the ever-popular choice, but this is a university city with food coops and sushi bars; Ethiopian, Italian, Mexican, Irish and Middle Eastern eateries are found within easy walking distance of the church. I suspect that students' taste buds are more adventuresome than they once were. I don't wish to serve boring food, but neither do I want to serve weird food. We don't have much $$ in the budget. Help!

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Blogger Sarah said...

Been there, done that; continue to do it, even out of college. No big surprise that the students bond with each other, form friendships over the meal. The fellowship becomes important, what is on the plate, secondary.

But first you have to grab them, and the quickest way to a student's heart (and time) is his stomach. Lasagna, spaghetti, chili, Cincinnati chili, soup/stew (stone soup is my favorite; everybody bring something (yes, with stone!)), tacos, chicken wings (buffalo, greek, or terriaki), make-your-own sandwiches (with the good stuff), casseroles, crock-pot anything (if you have 2 or 3 crock pots, all the better). If you have a grill, burgers with favorite toppings are a hit; hot dogs, grilled chicken, steak for special occasions. Salad with any of the above. Three or 4 gallons of powdered tea or lemonade (about half a family-size bottle). Brownies, cookies, frozen ice, popsicles, ice cream, pie, cobbler, or sheet cake for dessert.

If you do a meat dish, have a vegetarian alternative (do you know if you have vegetarians?). Even planning that, dinner for 30 to 40 usually goes from $40-60. Defray the cost by having the students pitch in. We shopped and cooked for each other, cleaned up too. Cooks and cleaners got a free meal, everyone else paid $2 or $3 (the price went up with inflation). Of course, all the money went through the ECM budget directly, or shoppers/cooks were reimbursed grocery costs.

Overall, the weekly meal with my ECM was the best one of the week. Cheap cost, friends, and almost homemade. Don't try to shock or amaze college palettes. They are usually appreciative of anything, and will recognize the care with which the meal is made.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

At my campus ministry, we took turns cooking for each other! It doesn't work for every group, but it can be fun to cook in twos or threes for your friends. You can do it cheaply. We always made everything vegetarian to keep it simple, and had frozen stuff from Cosco stashed away in case of emergencies.

It was a nice ritual to share together.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Emily Williams said...

I started going to Canterbury Northwestern only recently, but my first time there, I stayed for dinner after the 5pm Eucharist. I am broke, and free food is good.

As a vegan, I'm used to going to communal meals and not finding much, if anything, I can eat because so many meals are made with one animal product or another, be it eggs, butter, milk, cheese, or meat. In fact, that evening, I had eaten a snack at home right before I left for Eucharist so that I wouldn't find myself in the awkward but familiar situation of being hungry during a meal with others but not eating much.

I was pleasantly surprised, and relieved, to find that supper that night had been brought in from a Middle Eastern restaurant and I found not only one but several things to eat! Everyone at the table raved about how good it was, too, and Liz, the chaplain, was glad to tell us that it was also cheap -- only about $40 for the whole thing, served buffet style. While most of us with dietary restrictions are accustomed to fending for ourselves at communal meals outside the home, the fact that I *was* able to eat at a meal at a church I hadn't been to before made me feel intrinsically welcome. It just felt so good to receive that kind of hospitality.

Of course, I don't expect everyone to provide for me or others like me all the time. But I have a hunch that a good number of your college students are vegan or vegetarian, so it's a good thing to keep in mind. I know first hand. :)

On the other hand, however, when it is my turn to cook or otherwise provide dinner, I want to treat the group to a vegan meal. And that will be really fun!

5:14 PM  
Blogger Emily Williams said...

Oh, wait -- I found a few more cents, too!

Having been to Iowa City several times this year, I'm getting familiar with its gastronomical scene. (I dig the Pioneer Co-op, the Red Avocado, the various Indian restaurants, Panchero's, and the Java House, among others.) And, yeah, while I agree that the type of food served is definitely secondary to the fellowship involved, I do encourage you to serve different genres of food throughout the year. As Sarah mentioned, nothing needs to be fancy -- I didn't know what fancy *was* until well after college -- but variety is good, and I venture to add that it helps to keep students' interest, too.

And, it helps us to explore our identities as creatures in a this marvelously vast and varied world, and the possibilities of living in right relationships with our neighbors and with the Creator of it all.

Food rocks.


5:32 PM  
Blogger Emily Williams said...

P.S. Raisin, I added you to my blogroll a little while ago, too, but I don't know your current email address, and I couldn't figure out how to comment correctly on your page until now. Anyway. Cheers!

5:38 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Macaroni and cheese (either box or homemade), pasta with tomato and mozzarella, pierogies, veggie chili, and spaghetti and meatballs (separated out) have consistently been popular with both camp staffs and campus ministry groups I've cooked for. I've also convinced them to try my "everything couscous" (throw in chickpeas plus whatever veggies are on hand) and vegetable risotto, and once they've gotten over trying things they've never heard of, they've liked both.

Oh, and tacos/burritos/fajitas. And breakfast for dinner. And some groups have liked baked potato bar...

We used to use student vegetarian cookbooks for ideas, actually, and build on that.

9:43 PM  

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