Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Making Ends Meet (01/16/14)
TITLE: Sunday Dinner at Anna's-non-fiction
By Laura Hawbaker
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Anna was a widow in our congregation. Abandoned by her children, she provided our church ample opportunity to practice the true religion talked about in James.
How does one describe Anna? Odd, eccentric and stingy are words that come to mind. But so do words like feisty, cheerful and thoughtful. Growing up in Kansas during the dirty thirties Anna learned by necessity how to scrimp and save. Making the ends meet with a short, short rope became a way of life for Anna.
Problem was, Anna didn’t realize the depression was over.
Still, one couldn’t accuse Anna of being inhospitable. She not only entertained other widows, she opened her doors to young folks and families. True, her motive was often two fold. Anna would extend an invitation for a meal in exchange for fixing her back porch. Or she would invite the young folks over for a wiener roast along with a yard clean up.
Anna was well known for her cooking, in an infamous sort of way. Anna lived simply and she cooked simply. Not one for wastefulness, her cooking often resulted in an odd combination of flavors.
When Anna invited our family over for Sunday lunch (with the promise to cover her air conditioner) I lectured my children on proper manners. “Just eat whatever she serves. Be nice. Anna is lonely and her children don’t visit her much…” I was sure my children would behave, but a reminder wouldn’t hurt.
When we arrived at Anna’s she excitedly announced that pizza was on the menu. Sounded safe enough, but when I saw Anna’s “pizza” I knew we were in trouble.
When my family envisions pizza we think of a big circular crust covered with spicy, thick sauce, topped with pepperoni and/or sausage and covered with generous amounts of parmesan and mozzarella. Anna’s pizza was much simpler than our usual fare; a few crumbles of hamburger were scattered across the thin layer of sauce and sprinkled with dry cheese powder. Not fancy, but edible. It was the size of the pizza that worried me. The pizza was in a cake pan, but it wasn’t the typical 9 x 13 size. This was more like a 7 x 11 size. It wasn’t going to be enough for my hungry brood of eight!
As Anna seated us, I checked to see what else might be on the menu. A glass bowl of limp shredded cabbage, carrots and onions (Anna’s version of coleslaw) was the only other side dish. I looked at my children and silently pleaded for their cooperation. “Remember your manners.” I telepathically messaged them.
After the blessing, Anna passed the pizza around and we each took a small portion. “Oh, just enough!” Anna exclaimed when she helped herself to the last piece.
I was quite proud of the children as they politely ate their sliver of pizza. Some of them were even respectful enough to eat a spoonful of the coleslaw.
Dinner was proceeding rather well until Anna brought the dessert. “Gooseberry cobbler.” She announced as she handed my husband another small pan. “Guess we won’t fill up on dessert either,” I thought.
Anna went back to the kitchen and returned with two small dessert dishes. Each dish held a half of a very, very ripe banana. Cheerfully Anna set the bowls of slimy bananas in front of my youngest daughters. “The gooseberry cobbler is too tart for you little girls. Thought you might like bananas instead.”
It was the look of horror on the girls’ faces that did me in. Manners flying out the window, I desperately tried to choke back the giggle rising from deep inside. I looked wildly at my husband and realized he was struggling too. Nothing is quite as contagious as suppressed laughter and I could feel the humor building around the table. The little girls were sitting forlornly in front of their nearly rotten bananas, Anna was blithely chatting away and the rest of us were swallowing back giggles. Thankfully my youngest son quickly regained his composure and was able to carry the conversation for a few minutes.
Dear, dear Anna. She didn’t fill our bellies that day, but she did give us a good laugh. And that, says the wise man, is very good for our health!
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