The room smelled like turkey strata and a spicy shrimp creole.
People from Greater Faith Christian Church brought gingersnaps, cream cheese cake, taco dip and more. Those from Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church brought zucchini salad, homemade rye bread, apple pie.
The churches are about five miles apart. One is made up of predominantly white members, one of predominantly black members. They’ve been sister churches for a little over a year, joining each other for worship services and a barbecue.
Now, they’re taking their relationship to a deeper level by sharing their food and their stories, working together to make a cookbook composed of recipes from each church.
“If you want to become friends with somebody, go to their house and share a meal,” said Greater Faith member Carlota Ponds, quoting civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. “I just added a little bit to that in talking with my husband … he said well people share their food pretty easily, people don’t always share their recipes. People who share their recipes become family. And that’s what we’re trying to do is become family.”
Members of both churches have submitted recipes for the cookbook. Wednesday night was their first “tasting” at Lorraine Avenue. They plan to have two more, with the churches taking turns hosting.
After eating, the cooks shared stories behind the recipes: of how Ponds worked to replicate the delicious shrimp creole she tasted at a small restaurant in California, how Warren Yoder grew up baking pies on a farm with his mother, how no one is quite sure what to call the dish made out of jello, pineapple and cream cheese.
The Rev. Lois Harder, co-pastor of Lorraine Avenue, pointed to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, when he called 11 on a Sunday morning “the most segregated hour of Christian America.”
Change has to start with churches, she said.
“Eating together is just a really important way to fellowship together,” she said. “When you can share a meal you can chat and ask how was your day, how was your Thanksgiving. It allows a relaxed kind of time to learn to know each other.”
Ponds referenced the same quote from King.
“We say it and we shake our heads and often on both sides we say somebody should be doing something about that,” she said. “Well we’re somebody. So here we are now doing something about it.”
Food is a perfect way to start, several people said.
The Rev. Cynthia Wolford, pastor of Greater Faith, said the two churches wanted to better understand each other’s cultures, so why not share recipes and tell stories?
Kimberly Bruce, a member of Greater Faith, said dining together and hearing stories connects people in a unique way.
As to a white church and a black church coming together around the dinner table, it’s “what we’re supposed to do,” she said.
“We say it all the time, there is no division in heaven,” Bruce said. “There’s no division in heaven, so we are supposed to come together on common ground to serve God’s people.”
That common ground, she said, is love.
“The love of food, the love of people, the love of God,” she said. “There’s the icing on the cake right there.”
The cookbook won’t be finished until sometime next year, but here is a preview:
Cream Cheese Cake
Submitted by Bertha Alexander of Greater Faith Christian Church
3 sticks of butter
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
3 cups of granulated sugar
3 cups of cake flour
1 tsp of vanilla
Mix first three ingredients until smooth. Add eggs one at a time. Beat after adding each egg. Add flour and vanilla. Beat well with electric mixer. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Bake for 90 minutes on 300 degrees. Do not preheat. Cake should begin baking in cold oven.
Cherry Berry Pie
Submitted by Warren Yoder of Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church
2 cups tart cherries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries (red)
1 cup blackberries
½ cup four
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar
Unbaked pie crust
For crumb topping:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3 T butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix ingredients together and put into prepared crust. Mix ingredients for crumb topping and cut in butter, spread over pie. Bake on rack on cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.