Thursday, April 26, 2007

Family Tradition: The Methodist Kitchen

The Lyons Methodist Church that I grew up in owns and operates a café at the Burt County Fairgrounds in Oakland, NE. Every year in August, the ladies of the church pack up everything in the church kitchen: roasters, coffeepots, dishes, silverware, serving and cooking utensils and haul them the 7 miles to the little building at the west end of the fairgrounds. For the duration of the Burt County Fair, the tiny building would be a mass of activity. I can see it all in my mind: ladies pulling roasts out of the ovens, frying chickens, mashing boiled potatoes, stirring gravy or cutting up the homemade cakes and pies volunteers were bringing by the dozens. The men were stationed at the sinks washing dishes, peeling potatoes or slicing cucumbers for the ever-present bowl of vinegared cucumber/onion that sat at each table. I can see the fairgoers and “carnies” standing in the line that always ran the length of the building and sometimes spilled out the door into the Midway. And kids (like me) dashing around with trays to gather up the dishes, silverware and glasses and wipe down the tables. My friends and I made a game of seeing who could get their tables cleared off the fastest. We must have looked like vultures circling the diners, trying to spot who was going to be done next.
And the heat – it was ALWAYS hot and steamy in the place. Although it must have occasionally been cool and rainy in all the years we went there, it escapes my memory.
I’ll bet my sisters can add their memories of this particular family tradition to this posting.
One of the big rides – like the Tilt-a Whirl or the Octopus was always at our end and they blasted top 40s music constantly – to this day I can’t hear a Creedance Clearwater Revival song without remembering my days in the Methodist Kitchen.
When the crowd began to lull in the late evening, Mom would give me 50 cents or so and I was turned loose to go ride a few rides on the Midway before they shut down.
For as long as she was able, Mom did her time at the Methodist Kitchen. When my kids were small, we’d take them to that fair for one evening and stop in to eat supper with her.
I still eat at least one meal a year in the Methodist Kitchen, only now it’s with my husband’s family. We gather there on the last Sunday in July for a family potluck picnic. So some new memories are taking their place beside the old ones. One thing remains constant, though – it’s almost always HOT.


Anonymous said...

My memories of the kitchen are pretty much the same as Janell's.
I think every county fair has at
least 1 kithcen where home made
food is served. It is almost worth
the price of admission to have a
meal there. Expeciall the pie.

LaDawn said...

mmmmmmm, vinegared cucumber/onion salad. making my mouth water!

cdroses said...

One thing I remember is the continuous flow of pie and ice cream! Guess it's lunchtime lol Didn't they also hold an ice cream social at the same building, but not during the fair?

Janell said...

Cindy - they may have, but I guess I wasn't involved with that.