Guest Columnist - John Ropa
Posted: April 10, 2009
The news spread quickly - someone in the community was in pain. It didn't matter what caused the pain, and it didn't matter what church they attended. If someone were hurting, the small congregation would find a way to help. Even though my wife, Arty, and I were transplants to Elizabeth,IL, we were included among those on call. We were about to be introduced to the bandage that covers all wounds.
"What is a potluck?" I asked. "It's very informal," said Marilyn, one of the organizers. "Just bring a dish that we can put on the table for everyone to share."
Arty and I had never been to a potluck. Back in the Chicago suburbs, the equivalent of a potluck was to figure out which restaurant served the best buffet. Later, at home, Arty seemed puzzled. "What should I bring?" she asked. "Use your Greek heritage," I said. "Make keftethes. They're awfully good and probably no one around here has ever had any. There aren't too many Greek restaurants around."
For those not familiar, keftethes are savory Greek meatballs, made from ground beef or lamb, flavored with salt, pepper, onions, and predominantly, allspice. When made properly, which Arty always does, they are slightly crusty, causing them to retain all of the delicious juices inside. The first poke with a fork usually results in a tiny eruption of delicate sauce and delivers and aroma capable of bringing Athens directly to the table. Instead of being round, like meatballs, keftethes are shaped more like flying saucers. They are not for cholesterol watchers.
We arrived at the potluck on time and deposited the bowl of keftethes on the table among the other dishes. Already there were four dishes of potato salad, three bowls of meatballs, four pans of baked beans, one three-bean salad and a huge variety of pastries. The smell of the foods were tanatalizing. The keftethes were the most pungent of the offerings and I was hoping there would still be some left by the time I got to the table.
Arty and I were almost at the end of the line and there at least 30 persons ahead of us. When we got to the serving table, after slipping a few bucks into the donation bowl, we couldn't help but notice the still full bowl of keftethes. No one had taken any, not even one. "They're probably going to get them when they come back for seconds," I said. I could see Arty's disappointment, so when she wasn't looking, I took three for my plate and surreptitiously slid two more into a napkin which I discreetly put in my pants pocket.
Later, when the potluck was over, Arty was too embarrassed to pick up the still nearly full bowl and take it home. So, of course, she told me to do it. On the way to the parking lot, I realized that it is not a good idea to put paper-wrapped keftethes in the same pocket as the car keys; and that paper napkins are not nearly as absorbent as they used to be. But the potluck was a success. Someone's pain had been eased by the community's contributions and leftover keftethes make good sandwiches.