Last week I filled you in on some details of our annual youth retreat at the Crest Haven Family Center and promised to tell you about some of our experiences we’ve had there as cooks. Some details are a bit embarrassing and, yes, Amish cooks can and do make mistakes — even after years of cooking experiences!
Several months before Julia was born, my husband, Daniel, and I — along with my uncle, Paul, and his wife, Leah — were responsible for planning, organizing and serving the six meals at Crest Haven. On Friday evening, the youth filed through to fill their plates for the first meal. As they did so, Leah rushed me over to the window.
“Look!” she said. “Look at that line of boys! Are we going to have enough food for everyone?”
The long line seemed endless and you know how young people can eat, especially boys! Quietly we heated some extras which we had planned to use for a later meal.
After supper, we did some investigation and calculations and discovered quite a few youth to be present who hadn’t made reservations before they came. The amount of people totaled an astounding figure of 300 people who needed to be fed six meals throughout the weekend. (My parents who were janitors could also tell you some interesting stories of trying to find sufficient space for everyone to sleep.)
I love cooking, yet it did look a bit challenging. Those to be fed at each meal was similar to the number of guests at a small Amish wedding. We were so thankful to others who chipped in by helping with dishes, cutting up veggies for salads, peeling potatoes for our mashed potatoes or whatever needed to be done.
The amount of food, by the way, that it took to feed everyone was staggering. For Saturday morning breakfast, for instance, we made a breakfast casserole, scrambling 41 dozen eggs (almost 500), 20 pounds of tater tots, eight pounds of sausage, eight pounds of ham, 12 quarts of cheese sauce, 33 dozen cookies, 10 gallons of fruit with glaze, and throughout the weekend, we served close to 60 eight-quart casseroles of hot dishes (mashed potatoes, barbecued meatballs, etc.).
After supper the first evening, Daniel and I went over all the menus, adding to each one. Someone was sent to my uncle Paul’s grocery store to purchase needed items, such as plates, cups, milk, etc. Meanwhile, I made phone calls to ask some of the church ladies to make more soup, casseroles and desserts for the following two days. Running out of food is a dreadful feeling, especially when feeding a crowd, so extra precautions were taken to avoid that from happening.
All was going well until Saturday evening when we returned to the kitchen after listening to one of the question-and-answer sessions with the ministers. A peculiar smell greeted us. Something must be burnt, we decided. Sure enough — upon investigation, our fears were confirmed. The soup had been turned up too high and a few of the kettles had scorched bottoms, which added an aftertaste to the soup, a taste that every cook dreads discovering.
Now just what could we do? Serving burnt soup would never do, but dumping it out wasn’t an option. And starting over was impossible with the short amount of time we had until supper time. There was simply no time to lose but exactly which route should be taken? Thankfully it wasn’t all burnt. Yet the stark reality of two large kettles of soup with a burnt flavor loomed in front of us.
Luckily, we were able to make a quick call to someone who was at Paul’s store and willing to pick up several items to add to the soup in hopes of masking the scorched aftertaste.
I must say Paul and Leah, who were in charge of the soup, did an excellent job of adding choice spices and hot pepper cheese to hide the insulting flavor.
We debated whether the guests would detect what happened.
“It’ll be much better to face it and tell them what happened than to just be quiet about it,” Paul said.
Bless his heart, no one wanted the job of making an embarrassing announcement, as such but finally he agreed to do it and simply told the 300 guests what happened.
After supper, one young boy stepped into the kitchen and asked if we had the recipe for our soup. Ha! It certainly made a good laughing piece for the days to come. I’m guessing that, 20 years from now, we and Paul will still be talking about our burnt soup episode.
Last week I told you about our confusion with lemon yogurt and sweet and sour dressing, and now I shared details of our ordeal with burnt soup. Can any of you share your stories of kitchen failures and how you handled it and what you learned from it?
I will share my recipe for refreshing homemade lemon yogurt. The lemon Jell-O may also be replaced with several cups of fruit glaze or pie filling. The lemon yogurt is especially delicious when mixed with fresh fruits, such as grapes, bananas, kiwis and strawberries.
2 quarts milk
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
½ cup water
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
½ cup sugar
6 tablespoons lemon Jell-O
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat milk to 180. Remove from heat. Dissolve gelatin in cold water and then add to milk. Cook to 130 and add yogurt and sugar. Let set at room temperature for 8-10 hours. Refrigerate, then whisk in lemon Jell-O and lemon juice. Very refreshing.
Gloria Yoder is an Amish mom, wife and writer in rural Illinois. Readers with culinary or cultural questions can write Gloria directly at Gloria Yoder, 10568 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427-2019. To see more on the Amish go to www.amish365.com.