Who hasn’t wistfully lamented a lack of community in our lives? I mean, we can Facebook with friends halfway across the planet but how many of us really know our neighbors right next door? Ironically, in our modern cyber connected world many of us still feel a huge lack of connection.
That’s why Meghan Mason (above, with a volunteer) is so thrilled with the success of College Park United Methodist Church’s Wednesday Night Dinners. “Our goal has always been to offer a place where families can gather on a Wednesday night for a healthy, gourmet meal that’s as locally sourced possible,” says Mason, who has been bringing her culinary skills to the church’s kitchen each week since September to whip up supper for a growing crowd of about 90 attendees. “This is about bringing people back to the table. It’s about meeting new friends and being with the community.”
Each week, Mason sets to work with her crew of volunteers to cook a different meal from scratch. “We peel the potatoes and bake the cakes. Everything is done by hand. All the ingredients start as whole foods,” says Mason, who also co-owns a catering business called The Travelling Gourmet.
“A huge driver in my life is addressing social discrimination. Good, healthy food should be for everyone.” And at College Park United Methodist Church it is. Adults pay $6, kids are $4 and seniors pay $5. In return, each person receives a scratch entrée with sides and desserts served cafeteria style on the church’s vintage plates. Those that pitch in to help cook or wash dishes get to eat for free.
Most families stay to dine with old and new friends, but some grab and go. “People stay because it is so causal. You’ll see babies toddling around, kids banging on the piano, dads rolling up their sleeves to help with the dishes,” Mason says. “And there’s no catch. It’s not like now you have to stay and go to bible study. The church just wants to offer a place to come in and get a great meal.”
It’s all part of Pastor Josh Beaty’s master plan to connect more with College Park. “Eating together is an important part of community,” he says. “This is a healthy, cheap meal. We’re grateful Meghan has taken this on.”
Recent menus have included southwest pulled pork with micro greens and heirloom tomatoes. “This isn’t sloppy green beans out of can. I’m the kitchen lady and all I want to do is feed people good food.” On Thanksgiving week, Mason cooked up four organic turkeys and served them open-faced on rosemary brioche.
Wednesday Night Dinners at College Park United Methodist Church take place every Wednesday starting at 5:30pm until about 7pm. Attendees can sign up online or make a reservation by calling 407-843-7197.