Whenever I tell my mom of my latest mass cooking endeavor, she gets a glint of glee in her voice (I would say, in her eye, but I can’t see her on the phone…) and asks triumphantly, “Oh, did they teach you that in college?” or some such variation.
I love that question. She’s exactly right, and I laugh with her! Sometimes I am saddened by how little of my music degree I use on the field as a missionary’s wife and a mother of small children; but most of the time, I’m too busy with said jobs to even think about it. I am so thankful for a mom who taught me to cook and plan in the kitchen. I wouldn’t call myself a chef, but it’s amazing how many events have utilized my what-I-would-deem “lowly,” or at the most, quite ordinary culinary skills.
Now, I say “Caterer” in my title, because “Cook” will better describe a slight distinction in my many missionary job descriptions, a time when I care for my family or unexpected guests. But “Caterer” carries the idea of preparation for, and transport to, several guests. My teammate and I have cooked for church dinners, youth conferences, pastor’s conferences, various parties and gatherings, a short term mission team (of men!), and college graduation luncheons.
So what are some things we make? Well, that will depend on the function and the guests. Sometimes we cook according to the traditional food here– “maize meal porridge” or “vuswa” in Tsonga, cornmeal cooked up thick enough to hold it in your fingers and eat. Add saucy side dishes to vuswa, and you have a feast: spinach, fried cabbage, beets, boiled tomatoes, butternut puree, cole slaw, beans, beef stew, and/or chicken.
Sometimes we try to do more snack-y, handheld items like salads and sandwiches. For a recent African Pastor’s Conference that we hosted, I happened to be the main cook, as we didn’t have adult ladies from our churches available at the time to help, and my teammate was likewise unavailable. I made muffins days in advance and froze them for an easy breakfast when the men trickled in. Lunches were also easy–sandwiches, fruit, chips, and homemade brownies or cookies.
I got some help for the dinners. Ladies from a nearby national church made the staples in their big outdoor pots–vuswa one night, and rice the next. I made the meat side dish and tried to keep it cheap–one night was chicken in a slow cooker (plus an extra borrowed slow cooker), and the next night was chili on rice. I also made most of the vegetable side dishes, but got some help with some of them as well as a “pudding” for dessert each night. In the end, I did not even have to travel to the nearby town with my children in order to oversee the meals. A lady from the hosting church (very small, mostly elderly members) put the prepared food on the serving table and directed the clean-up. I stayed home and homeschooled my children.
So it takes quite a bit of planning, personal doing, and help from others to cater, but it’s one of those things that either must be done in order for the function to exist, or it simply makes the function so much better. I enjoy it for the most part!
Aren’t you surprised sometimes at the jobs the Lord gave you to do? Yet He enables for each task. And likewise we, when we have done all those things that are commanded us, say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”