Casey Stengel Community Supper

061403Guest-blogger Grandjoe checks in from his vacation in Vermont on a peculiar fusion of baseball, charity and cuisine:

This week, on June 30, the Woodstock Vt. community supper celebrated the the 119th anniversary of Casey Stengel’s birth.

The menu, as always, comprised, 5 courses.  This week: an hors d’oeuvre of baba ganush and bread; creamy fennel soup; cucumber delight salad; a main course of phylo chicken pie; and  pink pudding of some for desert.

The menu had nothing to do with  Stengel’s birth, which was just a pretext for dishing out another weekly dinner to anyone who wanted to come.

Unlike most  meals that are regularly served in the basement of a church, these are not specifically for people in need. The rich and the poor sit at the same long tables.  ( Woodstock itself is a boutique town; but poor people come down from the hills.)  A server asks you deferentially if you’ve  finished the present course before presenting you with the next. You’re being treated like royalty for no reason at all. Is this some kind of joke?

These meals have been going on for three years, now, week after week.  They make no sense to me. They might have something to do with Universalism, as the supper takes place  in a Unitarian-Universalist church, to which most of the cooks and waiters belong.

Universalists were originally reacting against the Calvinist notion that God has elected only a small group for salvation and heaven, the rest of us being predestined to eternal damnation. The community supper goes to the opposite extreme of letting everyone into the feast, scott-free.

If unmerited grace makes you uncomfortable, you can volunteer to wash the dishes– 5 courses multiplied by  60 to 80 people. Extracting dishes and silverware, still scalding hot from an industrial dishwasher, barehanded, rack after rack, is an exquisitely purgatorial payment for one’s sins.  But the people who put on these dinners don’t see them at all as an ordeal. They get some sort of kick  out of it.

Thursday nights, from 5-7pm– in case you want to pass through this strange experience.

Note: It’s not clear to me what – if anything – connects Stengel (longtime former manager of the New York Yankees, shown above) to Univeralism and/or Woodstock, Vermont. But perhaps we’ll get an update on that.

Leave a Reply