VEHICLES STACKED UP three rows wide late Sunday morning, crawling toward Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown.
As Randy and I waited in our van, I clutched two blue tickets, our tickets to the hottest dinner in town. Or in this case, in rural Rice County. It was the annual Fall Dinner at this country church and school set in the rolling farmland west of Faribault and also the site of a popular July Fourth celebration.
We arrived early in the two-hour take-out event, a switch from the usual dine-in dinner due to the pandemic. But I didn’t want to risk Trinity running out of food. Yes, this full turkey and ham dinner with all the trimmings is that popular. And that good. And reasonably priced at $10.
So we waited. Creeping. Idling. Creeping. And while we snail-paced, neighborhood dogs barked. And free-range chickens foraged in the pastor’s yard next to the church. Volunteers sold tickets and directed traffic. And youth, some clad in cowboy boots, scurried to deliver the coveted meals prepared and boxed by many more volunteers in the church basement.
Twenty minutes later, I was reaching through my open van window to accept two bags with our meals inside. The air smelled of Thanksgiving dinner. And I felt thankful to be here, partaking in this annual event, although I missed gathering in the church basement for fellowship.
Instead of driving all the way back to Faribault to eat warm, rather than hot, food, Randy and I dined across the road at the July Fourth celebration grounds. I pulled on my flannel shirt, he his jacket, and we perched on the edge of the entertainment stage to fork mouthfuls of turkey and ham and sides.
“The potatoes are lumpy,” Randy noted.
“A sure sign they’re homemade,” I said, affirming his appreciation of real mashed potatoes. Nearly everything served in this generously-portioned meal is homemade. I especially enjoyed the squash, a vegetable I’ve not yet eaten this season.
We saved our coleslaw, cranberries and buns for later. And our dessert, too. Two bars and two slices of cake.
And while we dined, we chatted about the annual Fourth of July celebration held here on these grounds. We noted the names of parade grand marshals on wooden slabs backing the stage. We remembered the music and crowds and good food—always the food—and the fun times and talked about bringing our young grandchildren here to experience this on Independence Day.
When we finished eating, we bagged our empty Styrofoam take-out containers, plastic-ware and napkins, placed the slaw and cranberries on ice in a cooler and headed out. Randy noted how the mix of grass and weeds, always trampled flat by July Fourth fest-goers, now flourished. The site looked vastly different in the season of autumn, the season of church dinners in Minnesota. And this, my favorite, at Trinity North Morristown in rural Rice County.
TELL ME: Do you have a favorite church dinner? I’d like to hear.
© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Nothing better than some DELICIOUS food – my mouth is watering reading this 🙂 I am craving stuffing now – ha! I remember going to the chicken cookouts, turkey bingo, coffee and donuts after service, etc. growing up. This had to be quite the logisitics feat to pull this off via drive thru – glad they made it happen though. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂
Thanks for sharing your church dinner and other memories. And, yes, everyone had to work together to make this take-out dinner run well.
Sounds delicious! Maybe we’ll partake next year…and maybe it will be back in person next year?
Hopefully…if this pandemic ever ends. You would enjoy this meal.
My mouth is watering at the mention of lumpy mashed potatoes! Amen to homemade mash potatoes!!!
Favorite was our small town church located between Cromwell and Wright, MN on HWY 210. The basement Easter and Christmas dinners were a time of joy and real community from my childhood.
Paula, thank you for sharing your childhood memories of those basement church dinners. What a culinary treasure. And even more, all about community.
One of my two favorite church dinners happens at St. Ann’s in Slayton. The fall dinner on the first Sunday of October always features barbequed chicken, baked potato, corn, cole slaw, bun, and pie. It’s been going on for years. But, a change came this year. The church could not get enough chicken from the same source. I imagine they want it all from the same for consistency in size, quality, etc. So, they had to substitute ham. A good substitution but sad the supply chain couldn’t work for them. It was still a good dinner, all for $10 just like yours. All take out this year.
Colleen, thank you for sharing about St. Ann’s fall dinner. It sounds delicious. That’s quite interesting about the shortage of chicken.