Tag Archives: church

89. Dinner on the Ground

24 Mar

The first two things you should know about dinner on the ground are: 1. It’s not dinner and 2. It’s not on the ground. Ok, actually, it IS dinner for Southerners, but I didn’t want to confuse folks who think of dinner as an evening meal. In the South, dinner is served once a week (at noon on Sunday) or possibly twice if there’s a holiday involved. All other midday meals are called “lunch” or occasionally “brunch” (for fancy people). The evening feeding event is called “supper.”

During my time as an expat Southerner, I’ve rarely heard the word “supper,” apart from that short-lived “supper club” trend that swept Los Angeles in the late 90s. But I try not to think of that, seeing as my only supper club experience involved stopping Gary Busey outside the bathroom to tell him, “I loved you in Carny!” and “Stay off the motorcycles!!” Yes, there might have been demon liquor involved. But as my mother always reminded me: I don’t have to tell everything I know.

While dinner on the ground may or may not be considered “dinner,” it is definitely NOT on the ground. Unless you are the type of person who doesn’t mind the occasional speck of dirt in your mashed potatoes or grass stains on your Sunday best.

I’m sure my non-Southern readers can’t wait to find out what this mysterious event actually is, so here goes: It’s a potluck meal after church on Sundays. I know, kind of a letdown – unless you actually GO to one.

I’m not sure how the tradition of dinner on the ground got started or how it evolved off the ground and onto folding tables. I suspect it had something to do with the desire to boost church attendance. Even the worst backsliders (and y’all know who you are) will endure a sermon and some hymn singing for an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of Southern delicacies. For free, no less! (Or at the low, low price of a two-liter Coke or a pack of those crappy dinner rolls parked next to the hot dog buns at Kroger.)


Dinner rolls: Right!

As a general rule – based purely on my personal observations – the farther into the backwoods you go, the better the food’s going to be. I suspect there are some city churches that don’t even do dinner on the ground anymore, which just seems terribly sad.

If you want a true taste of Southern cuisine at its finest, try to finagle an invitation to a dinner on the ground. I’m partial to the Baptists, but I’m sure a Methodist spread might do. You’ll find a funeral food worthy display of casseroles, meat-flavored vegetables, and homemade Dixie sweets – with the added perk that nobody actually died.

In case you ever happen across a dinner on the ground, here are a few helpful pointers:

Whose green bean casserole will reign supreme?

1. Get in line early and often.

2. Do a little reconnaissance: know your options and save room for the best stuff.

3. If you encounter two or more versions of the same casserole, opt for the dish that’s most empty. Don’t hesitate to take the last serving or the person behind you might swoop in and beat you to it.

4. Avoid desserts with tell-tale signs of store boughtness like those dinky tin pie trays or cookies in a plastic tub. I like to make a sampler plate of everything that looks promising. But if there’s something special you want, get it before it’s gone.

5. Aim for the best seating option: a table with chairs. A chair without a table is trickier, but anything beats the last resort – the ground.

6. Don’t start fixing a to-go plate till everybody’s done eating. Wait till folks start retrieving their casserole dishes and then act quickly.

Dessert: YES!!


This may sound counterintuitive considering how fond Southern people are of their food, but nothing makes a cook happier than returning home with an empty dish. And you can be sure folks are keeping tabs on which dishes moved the fastest. Leaving with a dish that’s still ¾ full is like being the last team member picked during P.E. class. But worse because who cares about P.E.?

Before you leave dinner on the ground in search of the nearest surface suitable for napping, make sure you find out who made your favorite dishes, praise them lavishly, and ask for the recipe. Don’t be surprised if you’re swept up in a spontaneous hug. Many Southerners equate food with love, so if you love what they cook, they’re sure to love you back.

What’s your favorite dinner on the ground delicacy?

Photos from Flickr Creative Commons: Green Bean Casserole by littlemaiba, Pecan Pie by leah1201l

29. Vacation Bible School (Crafts and Cookies for Christ)

3 Mar

Yes, I realize this sounds like a doxymoron. And yes, I just made that word up. But really there ought to be a word for a double oxymoron, which Vacation Bible School most certainly is: vacation + school, vacation + bible.

Anyhoo, I don’t know if Vacation Bible School (VBS) is strictly a Southern thing, but since I’ve never heard any yankee types pledging allegiance to the Christian flag, I’ll proceed with my assumption.

If you like Kool-Aid, chances are you’ll like Vacation Bible School. And I don’t mean Jim Jones Kool-Aid, I mean “the guy in the giant pitcher costume crashes the party” Kool-Aid. The consumption of Kool-Aid is one of the more popular VBS activities. Right up there with making yarn and popsicle stick “God’s Eyes.” Or learning the hand motions to “Deep and Wide.” (Which, taken out of context, sounds more like adult entertainment.)

I’m pretty sure there was some sort of bible teaching going on, but if so I can’t recall. I will say that I know the names of Jesus’ disciples because I learned them in a song:

“There were twelve disciples
Jesus called to help him
Simon Peter, Andrew,
James, his brother, John,
Phillip, Thomas, Matthew
James the son of Alphaeus,
Somebody, Thaddeus, Judas…(hold the note)
And Bartholomew.”

Apart from the singing and crafting, the only thing I distinctly remember is eating a lot of those butter cookies with the holes in the middle. You may not be familiar with them, as I don’t believe I’ve encountered them outside VBS. The thing to do was poke your finger through the hole and eat around the edge of the cookie. Um, maybe you had to be there…

After a 25-year hiatus from VBS, my sister went back last year. This time as a teacher. MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA! She called me up all bent out of shape because the class she was teaching turned chaotic right off the bat. Nobody was listening to her and they flat out refused to obey. Not the kids, mind you. The parents. No Kool-Aid and cookies for them.

Any fond (or not so fond) memories of VBS? Please share!

13. Big Ass Churches (With Comfortable Pews)

12 Jan

My sister lives in Memphis, which features the largest concentration of megachurches in the known world. All the world I’ve known, anyhow. It’s the rodeo-champ style buckle on the Bible Belt.

There’s one that’s got so many bells, whistles, and jumbotrons, my sister’s husband, Shawn, dubbed it “Six Flags Over Jesus.” Of course, after a visit to their church, I figure they ought to be pocketing those stones.

If a church has three or more of the following, you’ll know there’s too much “junk in the trunk:”

1. Parking lot attendants. Bonus points for trams.

2. Nosebleed seats in the sanctuary.

3. Coffee bar.

4. Cupholders.

5. Jumbotron.

6. Basketball court.

7. Ferris wheel.

8. Map.

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