Eric Bergeson: Those Lutherans can really put on a spread
Last week, I spoke to a women’s gathering at an area Lutheran church. I arrived good and hungry because those Lutherans can really put on a spread.
But when I read the program at my place setting, my heart sank. After the welcome, the devotional and the special music, it said there would be a “salad luncheon.”
Salad? For supper? Isn’t there some verse in Leviticus which declares salad for supper an abomination, a crime against nature?
I needed some protein! Would they have blue cheese dressing for the salad so I could get my protein there? Would I be able to fill up on croutons so I didn’t collapse during my talk?
The devotional lady talked about getting through hard times. She seemed unaware we were in hard times at that very moment.
The devotional ended. We were then favored with special music, during which a miracle happened.
As the song proceeded, a stately procession of Lutheran ladies bearing crystal dishes emerged from the kitchen. Each gently set their dish on the table and then floated back the kitchen to get yet another one. It went on and on.
The three-table buffet filled with serving dishes. It was like Christmas. After the table grace, I invoked speaker’s privilege and budded in line right behind Table #1. I piled my plate high.
Silly me. I had forgotten about the Lutherans and their salads.
Lutheran theology has loosened up a bit in the past century. Some parishioners think a little liberalization is just fine, while others have peeled away to form congregations with fewer impurities.
But nowhere are the good Lutherans more liberal than in their definition of salad.
Under constant pressure from the California lettuce cartels, the Food and Drug Administration has long insisted in order for a dish to be called a salad, it must contain 64.9 percent iceberg lettuce by weight.
In 1975, the old Lutheran Church of America (which later merged into the ELCA), threatened then Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale that they would encourage their membership to write in Harold Stassen if the feds didn’t make a religious exemption to the salad rule for Lutherans.
Citing separation of church and state, Lutheran lawyers argued before the Joint Committee on Food Regulation that forcing Lutheran salad makers to include lettuce in every salad would ruin most Lutheran salad recipes, particularly the salad with whipped cream, Oreo cookies and jelly beans.
The Lutheran lawyers then brought in the Lutheran theologians, who read from a long-outdated blue hymnal which contained liturgy whereby the minister would transfigure whatever food was on the smorgasbord into salad. Although the form of the food remained outwardly the same, after the minister’s pronouncement, it was “salad” for legal, theological and dietary purposes.
Confused by these religious justifications, FDA administrators agreed that salads served in Lutheran church basements would from henceforth and hitherto be exempt from the federal minimum lettuce requirement.
To celebrate this great legal and moral victory, Lutheran women loosened the definition of salad to the point where it has lately become almost meaningless.
Today, as far as I can tell, anything you serve in a church basement chilled, including jello with whipped cream, can be called a salad.
Under the amended regulations, tater tot hotdish served cold can be called a salad if the planners of the Spring Fling decide they want something called a “salad luncheon” but still want to provide attendees a meal fit for a thresherman.
In the case of last week’s salad luncheon, the ladies served about a dozen dishes which contained macaroni, meat, cheese and a handful veggies. They were little more than cold hotdishes.
There was a taco type thing that contained beans, burger, cheese, corn chips — and two shreds of lettuce, which I think was a kitchen activist’s (every church basement has one forward thinker, at least until they are ousted) defiant gesture towards the FDA.
Every dish was excellent. When it came time for me to speak, I waddled to the podium, having overeaten once again.
Nobody lost weight at this so-called “salad” luncheon. But so what. The scrumptious dishes provided us all much-needed nutrition for the upcoming spring rush.
What a relief from the hypocrisy of other religious groups which serve their women’s gatherings a bird’s portion of egg salad dabbed on a croissant, only to force attendees to go home and eat butter pecan ice cream right out of the carton for twenty minutes just to fill up.