Traditions die hard in small towns and our church’s annual ice cream social was no exception to this rule. Each summer our church would hold an ice cream social usually as a fundraiser for our youth group –FLY–First Lutheran Youth.
My church was our town’s Swedish Lutheran Church. In a small town with less than 600 people we boasted four churches. Three were Lutheran…Swedish, Norwegian and German and then there were the Baptists. The basic difference between Lutherans and Baptists as far I could tell was that we could dance and they could not.
In my early teens, I was vice-chair of FLY and my older more responsible cousin was chair. What I may have lacked in responsibility, I certainly more than made up for with a strong desire to help God out, great capitalistic attitude, endless creativity and boundless enthusiasm.
As it happened right about the time I became part of the leadership team for FLY, we needed to raise quite a lot of money to send our entire youth group on a mission trip to Holden Village in the state of Washington. Minus me as my parent’s would not let me go because of my bad asthma and I was a year younger than everyone else because I had been put ahead a year in school. I was not ever going to see Holden Village, but I did need to help raise the money so that the other members of our group could go and have a great time. It was decided that our summer ice cream social would be one of our biggest fundraising events.
The first test of my leadership came from Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless. This grey-haired paragon of virtue wore her hair in four Princess Leia buns, two on the side and two in the back all covered with a black hair net to keep the birds out. She stood over six-feet tall with a solid body mass of well over two hundred pounds of retired teacher who often used her head of the class Sherman Tank social skills to intimidate just about everyone in our congregation.
Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless decided she needed more food than just pies and ice cream at our church ice cream social…..? Using the strongest terms allowed without offending the Lord, she explained that she did not like when traditions were not followed to the letter in HER church and that the menu for the event needed to be changed to include barbecue beef on buns, potato salad and most importantly baked beans. It had always been done that way and it would always be done that way as long as she was a member of this congregation. If I did not follow her wishes she would have to take the issue up with the church council!
Now, I would never want anyone to judge Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless harshly. She really wasn’t a bad person, she had just never learned to share anything except her opinion.
Expecting immediate capitulation from a shrimpy thirteen year old, she turned several shades of brick red when I respectfully declined to take her well-meaning advice. She snarled into my face that I would never raise any money without serving beans. Then, with those great watermelon-sized bosoms of hers heaving fake strands of pearls viciously from side to side with each angry step she took in her well-heeled black orthopedic shoes, she marched off in a gloriously righteous huff.
A sense of mercy for her descended upon me at that moment for she did not know who she was dealing with. I had been raised on the farm with an older brother and cousins and had survived all of their torment. As a member of a dairy farming family, I acquired a natural gift and excellent expertise in the art of staring down and taunting angry bovines. This skill was successfully employed each spring when we needed to take the calves away from their mamas and into the safe warm barn. In addition, I had survived many a near deadly asthma attack and my doctor had just informed me that my heart was beginning to enlarge from the strain and that I would never live to see twenty. I feared God and not much else.
But mostly I gained courage from instinctively knowing that I would have the full support of the all-male leadership of our church’s council. If they knew that all it would take to get her to offer her expertise on every ecclesiastical topic to another congregation was not serving baked beans at an ice cream social–that gaseous producing side dish would have been banned from the church’s potluck menus long ago.
It wasn’t just to spite her that I had banned a broader menu that included her cherished baked beans. It was a practical matter of capital gain. I needed to sell pies to make a profit and from past potluck experience I knew that when farmers, who had their bellies jiggled and overheated driving tractor in the fields all day, dashed into town to be a part of their community’s festivities and ate a plate full of baked beans they inevitably left behind more than just their free will offering and appreciation. It is hard to sell desserts to folks in a hurry to vacate a hot un-airconditioned church basement that smells like the barn just got cleaned out.
I must confess that my conversation with Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless made me ponder for a brief moment the wisdom of my present course of action for the ice cream social fundraiser. However, I quickly came to the conclusion that if the good Lord wanted beans Miss.She Who Will Remain Nameless, who was full of them, would have been in charge not me. Then, I focused on making the event a profitable success.
The planning for the big ice cream and pie social went full steam ahead. Advertising posters were designed and strategically placed throughout our fair town. Requests to many a great cook for donations of homemade pies went out. The ladies of our church came through in spectacular form. On the morning of the social many homemade apple, peach, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin and lemon meringue pies were delivered in mass. There were a few store bought pies, but these were always kept out of sight in the kitchen and served to the teenage boys who were doing the dishes. If they wanted pie for free, they had to work for it.
Soon the church basement was quite filled with people enjoying delicious pie topped with a generous scoop of Minnesota made Land O’ Lakes vanilla ice cream.
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that we had more pies than people and were not going to sell out all of our pies. What to do? Quickly our advertising signs were modified to say homemade farm fresh pies for sale. Then, deploying a blessing that our church youth group had in abundance….busty blonde teenage farm girls…were sent down by the highway next to the church to hold our advertising signs to attract additional customers.
This method of marketing our pies showed very little promise until God intervened on our behalf and supplied us with an entire Minnesota National Guard Convoy on its way to camp Ripley. Well, those boys in all of those hot jeeps and trucks must have been really hungry because they noticed the signs the girls were holding right away and stopped to buy pie in support of our cause. Soon, the highway’s traffic came to dead halt, but our pies went flying out the door!
Eventually, a man in a very important looking uniform wanted to talk to the person in charge. The pastor pointed to me. Thrilled with my battle field promotion, and that we were were sold out of pies, I did agree to remove our signs–and their holders–as the poor man feared that otherwise his convoy would never make it to camp.
Yes, our pie social made a profit, the youth group had a great time on their trip and I, with a lot of help from the Lord and the Minnesota National Guard, had bested Miss She Who Will Remain Nameless. The funny thing is that this was not the only time that God and the Minnesota National Guard have come to my rescue.
I would like to thank all the members of our nation’s military, Minnesota’s national guard and veterans for their service and sacrifice that has and always will protect the freedom of our nation and the liberty of its citizens.
This patriotic pie is the perfect dessert for any July 4th celebration or summer pie social.
Red White and Blue Patriotic Pie
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell
1 3/4 cups frozen blueberries, thawed, drained, reserve juice
1/4 cups fresh blueberries (for garnish)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin
11-ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups strawberries, sliced
¾ cups strawberry glaze
Prepare, bake and cool a pie shell.
Thaw frozen blueberries and reserve juice.
In a small saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup of sugar, cornstarch and gelatin and reserved blueberry juice plus enough water to make 1 cup. Over low heat, slowly warm, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Boil and stir for one minute. Add blueberries and cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. After the mixture has thickened, pour into pie shell and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
Beat the cream cheese, milk and 2 Tablespoons of sugar until smooth. Carefully spread over the cooled blueberry filling layer. Arrange strawberry slices attractively over the cream cheese layer, leaving space in the center for the reserved blueberries.
Spoon glaze over the strawberries, fill the center with blueberries. Refrigerate covered, for several hours and serve.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry jello
In a small saucepan, bring the first three ingredients to a boil until thick and clear. Boil at least one minute stirring constantly.
Add 3 tablespoons of jello. Cool completely.
Have a safe and happy Fourth, and God Bless our Nation!