Ageless adages. I began hearing them somewhere in my youth or childhood. Wise proverbs such as:
· The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
· People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
· Better late than never.
· Two wrongs don’t make a right.
· Cleanliness is next to godliness.
And if she said it once, I heard my mother say a million times, “many hands make light work.” I totally agree with that, but in some cases, I’m not convinced that “too many cooks spoil the broth!”
Especially when you go behind the scenes and step into the kitchen as preparations are underway to serve hundreds of people at a Sacred Heart School Lenten Fish Fry.
I saw many pairs of student hands dip Alaskan walleye fillets in milk, roll them in breading where they would eventually be plunged into bubbling hot oil.
Look at all those fish
Breaders and shakers left to right: Christopher Kowalski, Sam Modeen and Markus Crayton
Those who slave over hot grease
Step up. Let me serve them to you after you have placed a steaming hot Red River Valley baked potato, coleslaw and freshly baked bread on your plate. I dare say you will have a dinner that will draw you back six Friday nights in a row.
No question about it – all those hands are needed to keep the wheels of such a huge operation greased.
I was deeply honored when Michelle Senger called to ask if I’d be a server again this year. I’ve lost track, but last Friday had to be my seventh or eighth time. I do know that this is the 27th year Sacred Heart has done this during the Lenten season as a fund-raiser for the high school’s athletic departments.
But it’s so much more than a fund-raiser. It’s a camaraderie-filled community social gathering where you see many friends and neighbors who josh about this, that and the other thing as they enjoy what the many hands have prepared.
It’s like people have been cooped up all winter and are busting out with spring to the tune of 700 to 800 men, women and children every week.
Young and old are so friendly, polite and fun-loving. I recall one year when a gentleman whom I had just served asked, “Where do they get all the fish?”
My smarty-pants answer was a little shy of honest. “Oh, I catch it all at Lake of the Woods,” I replied.
His next query left me like a deer-in-the-headlights. “What do you use for bait?” Yikes! I don’t know that I’ve ever ice-fished at Lake of the Woods. I think I responded, “Red and white daredevils.” Later I asked Larry the Neighbor guy (Page) who fishes up there all the time. He said my answer should have been, “minnows.”
Each year this Lutheran lady dons her “Kiss the Cook,” white apron over her Sacred Heart purple sweater before going to her serving position with tongs in hand.
Down through the years, I’ve had much fun with the folks who comment on the message on my apron. I assure them I’m off the hook because, “the cooks are in the kitchen and I’m not.”
Last week I found myself baited.
When friends and neighbors Paul and Dorie Orr and Joe and Gerrie Chapa approached me and at the behest of Dorie, Paul and Joe stepped on each side of me to plant kisses on each of my cheeks. I felt a flush that did not match my blush.
Jerry Pribula, the potato man and I had a good chuckle over that. Then it was time to settle back down so as to keep the line moving.
Dining room workers are among the many hands who make the work light. Besides those in the kitchen, other students, parents, faculty and staff buzz around the diners making sure water glasses and coffee cups are kept full as well as keeping the tables tidy.
Cost of a meal is $10 and take outs are available.
In a corner of the dining area are tables of homemade pies. A slice is an additional $1.50. I’ve got my favorite. It’s the best, bar none.
Those of us who serve are referred to as, “celebrity servers.” I hear our new mayor, Steve Gander, will be one of us.
Sacred Heart’s fish fries continue from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays through the Lenten season culminating on April 7. If the good Lord is willing and the Red don’t rise, I hope to make them all.
Tip of the hat to Dorothy Jerik, maker of the best strawberry pie this side of heaven.