Today I did something that I haven’t done in a while. I filled in as guest musician for a friend at a small, Presbyterian Church in a little town south of here. Playing at a new church is always an adventure, and today was no exception. While this church can boast 2 organs – one a very, very old pump organ in a lovely case and the other, a vintage Hammond organ complete with the infamous Lesley speakers, the instrument I got to use today was a very, very, very old upright piano complete with a round, antique piano stool that had a bad case of the weeble wobbles. Now, I’m not a piano snob by any stretch of the imagination, but my initial thought was “Oh dear God! Please at least let it have been recently tuned.” This was prior to my sitting down and discovering the frailty of the stool or I would have added “Oh, and please don’t let me fall on the floor!” While the piano might have had a sound reminiscent of one you might find in a honky tonk bar, the experience as a whole was quite pleasant and the members of the congregation were very lovely and welcoming.
In this day of mega churches, it rather warmed my soul to be a part of this small congregation, if only for a short time today. From the moment I walked in the door of their fellowship hall and was greeted with a cheery good morning and the offer of a cup of coffee to the lady who came up behind me as I was playing my postlude and threw her arms around me, hugged me soundly, and started talking with me, it was a lovely start for a Sunday morning.
All that is to say that one of the best kinds of cookbooks around are those that are put together by some of the best cooks in the world – the ones that have made covered dish dinners an enduring event used to gather church folks together in fellowship and community. The one I have in front of me today was published in 1981 by the Christian Women’s Fellowship of University Christian Church in Tyler, Texas. “From Thy Bounty” is also almost like sitting down with several dear friends that I have lost touch with for one reason or another. One of the more prolific contributors in the book was Martha Marshall, who passed away last year.
One of her recipes that stands out and would make a great meal for colder weather (I just know it’s got to be heading this way – I just know it!) is for Cowboy Casserole. This is also a good time to start planning ahead for the busy holiday season and making up some dishes that freeze well for that busy time of the year. First, cook 1 8 ounce package of spaghetti until just tender. Then brown one diced onion in butter and add 1 ½ pounds of ground round and cook until browned. To this mixture add 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon seasoning salt. Mix well and add 1 can cream of mushroom soup and 1 can tomato soup along with a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix the spaghetti into the meat mixture, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Now pour into a casserole and top with 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella) and heat in a 350° oven until the cheese melts. Served with a green salad and garlic bread, this is one really great meal. It also freezes and travels well (to those covered dish suppers) and tastes just plan yummy!