Saturday the Methodists held their annual church fundraiser. The church itself is just across the alley from our Tarpum Bay house, so Lynn and I are accomplices in all the congregational activities – and there are many, including choir practice, two Sunday services, Friday night youth groups, and a whole host of mission outreach volunteers from the US who stay in the church dormitory.
In our living room, we are surrounded by Brother Ian’s Sunday exhortations, the dirge-like hymns (complete with a snare drummer with a questionable rhythm sense), and Saturday afternoon-long funerals. And just to make sure that we don’t miss anything, Brother Ian loves his microphone and speakers at full volume, into which he shouts and sings enthusiastically (if not tunefully), at the least excuse.
Being neighbors and participants (however reluctant) in daily church life, Lynn and I couldn’t avoid the fundraiser, either. The accepted fund raising activity here in Eleuthera revolves around food, of course, and is almost formulaic in its design. A ‘fundraiser’ is synonymous with a barbeque meal, take-away fashion, served in Styrofoam compartmentalized boxes filled with an over-indulgence of carbohydrates and grease. The Methodists, who know a good thing when they see one, are no different. Here’s the menu:
Meat (chicken or steak)
Slaw (creamy with a hint of hot pepper)
Macaroni and cheese, baked
Peas (pea beans) and rice
frozen corn on the cob
dessert (the Methodist offered either a fruit tart or a pineapple upside down cake)
sodas (no wimpy ‘diet’ drinks for the Bahamians)
And, of course, the ever present conch fritters were available, 6 for $1 extra, handed to you in little brown paper sacks, dripping with grease.
This menu is pretty much the same wherever you go on the island. The meat portion may be a little different: sometimes you’ll be offered barbecued ribs or fried fish, but choices are fairly limited. Never will you find hamburgers or hot dogs or shish kabobs.
The Methodist ladies began the preparation on Friday with an all-day cleaning of the church meeting room and kitchen. Then they began cooking, and we could smell the cake-baking aromas. The men, meanwhile, set up the wood burning barbeque cookers in the parking lot behind the house, and also a tent and picnic tables, should anyone wish to eat on the premises (no one did).
We did our laundry on Friday, knowing that if we waited until Saturday our sheets would smell like woodsmoke all week. We also parked our car in another lot to give our neighbors all the room they needed to conduct the activities of the day, which began early Saturday morning.
Women from all over town began arriving early bearing pots of food. Miss Barbie provided the rolls, Geoffrey’s wife Miz made the ‘cold’ slaw, and so on. By about 11AM the fires were lighted and the smoke began drifting up. Fortunately the prevailing winds pushed it away from our house and into town. By noon, Miz began announcing that “The food is ready, it’s time to eat, thank you Jesus.”
Brother Ian began his day’s activity of bringing the meat cooked in the parking lot into the church hall where the food line was set up, and the cash table ($10 for the food, plus $1 extra if you wanted the fritters) was firmly established at the front door.
Lynn and I were among the first customers, our appetites having been stimulated by 24 hours worth of aromas of baking and barbequing. We carefully selected what we wanted as we moved down the line, admiring the offerings and gossiping as we went. We were careful not to neglect the dessert table, and carefully paid our extra dollars for the fritters which were in themselves enough food for a meal.
The fundraiser lasted through the rest of the day, with cars stopping next to our house and people running inside the church to buy their meals. Those who didn’t drive wandered down Lord Street, wrinkled bills in hand, and left carrying an all-you-can eat meal that may well serve an entire family.
If the traffic in and out of the social hall is any indication, the Methodists should be able to pay for the new church roof in cash!
It’s customary, at a Bahamian food event, to serve everything in Styrofoam accompanied by a non-recyclable can of soda, a napkin, and a totally inadequate plastic fork. If you order more than one meal, you’ll also get a plastic bag to make it easier to carry things. And all the food is usually cooked and served in disposable aluminum foil baking pans. I mention this only because I am constantly in awe of the amount of trash generated on these islands, and the lack of concern about waste disposal.
But that’s an American concern, certainly not a Bahamian one, and on Sunday morning litter and trash was blowing up and down the parking lot and street between our house and the church.
Not to worry. At 7 AM two of the church ladies appeared, brooms in hand, and the clean up began.