Finding Grace in the Church Kitchen
“Our next potluck is November 20. Use it as your lab to try out the dishes you plan to serve on Thanksgiving.”
The invitation in our church bulletin a few months ago enticed me to finally try to reproduce my grandmother’s corn pudding. She’d often served it at family gatherings. Those meals were always special–while she’d lived, I’d figured it was the food that made them so memorable.
Her corn pudding was smooth and full of the flavor of sweet corn, with both a substance and lightness about it. Tucked away in my kitchen sat the blue Pyrex casserole dish she’d always served it in. I’ve never used it, because I don’t have her recipe. I’d asked around.
Nobody has her recipe.
I’d have to trust my imagination and my tastebuds’ collective memory to recreate the dish. That task had always intimidated me. The pastor’s invitation to use our monthly potluck as a proving ground spurred me to finally act. I pulled out my vintage cookbooks. I cruised various recipe sites on the internet. Finally I settled on a recipe that sounded like it might recreate the flavor and texture I remembered.
My co-grandma Judi was driving from San Diego that Sunday morning to join us for worship and the potluck. Before I began cooking the corn pudding, I baked a batch of blueberry muffins for us to enjoy before church.
Then I turned to the recipe. I doubled it so I’d be sure to have enough to feed many mouths at the church potluck. Almost immediately I realized I had a problem: That blue Pyrex casserole, which had sat waiting in my kitchen cabinet for so long, would not contain the quantity of pudding that was accumulating as I prepared the ingredients.
I sighed and pulled out a bigger casserole dish.
I popped my creation into the oven. Judi arrived. We sat and munched on the muffins. Periodically I checked my pudding.
It wasn’t setting up. I cranked up the heat another 25 degrees and waited. I checked it again. Still soupy.
And now it was time to go to church. “Well, hopefully it’ll taste good,” I mumbled, as I pulled the too-thin pudding from the oven and strapped my casserole dish into its insulated carrier.
We hurried to church, as I’d waited until the last minute, hoping for a miracle right there in my GE oven that morning. My husband Rich carried the casserole dish to the church kitchen while Judi and I took our seats in the sanctuary.
I blotted my failed pudding attempt from my mind as I tried to refocus, preparing my heart for worship. Rich joined us and the music began. My embarrassment over the failed pudding experiment receded from my mind as we sang praises to God.
Halfway through the second song Judi began to cough. A tickle had lodged itself in her throat, refusing to move on. “Would you like a glass of water?” I whispered. She nodded. I slipped out of the pew and made my way to the church kitchen.
I found a handful of ladies from the church gathered there, making ready for the feast we’d share after the service. As I entered, Margie held my casserole carrier. “I wonder what’s in here?”
“It’s corn pudding,” I said. “I don’t think it’s very good. I’ve never made it before and it didn’t bake long enough. It’s still runny.”
“Oh! Well, we’ll just put it in the oven for awhile,” Margie said. Gara nodded. “Yup.”
“That would be awesome,” I said. “Thank you!”
I fetched a glass of water for Judi and returned to the sanctuary.
After worship, we made our way to the fellowship hall. With considerable trepidation, I scanned the buffet. There sat the corn pudding casserole. Several people had already helped themselves.
And I could see that the texture was just right. The top was delicately browned, the inside looked light. And it wasn’t soupy.
It hadn’t occurred to me to ask for help with the half-baked casserole. But my sisters in Christ redeemed my mess. They turned it into something marvelous.
9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 (NASB)
The pudding is done when it’s set and golden on top.