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Food is meat-free and dairy-free at Orthodox churches

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070306/ART06/70305029/0/ART03 Toledo Blade Article published March 6, 2007 Food is meat-free and dairy-free
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7, 2007

      Toledo Blade
      Article published March 6, 2007

      Food is meat-free and dairy-free at Orthodox churches


      During the Lenten season, members of Orthodox Christian churches
      gather for potluck dinners after the presanctified liturgy on Wednesday nights.

      All the food is meat-free and most is dairy-free, in accordance with
      the fasting guidelines observed during Great Lent, which started Feb.
      19 for the Orthodox Church.

      "At the Pan-Orthodox dinner following presanctified liturgy, church
      members bring dishes custom to their ethnic background," says Julie
      Olmstead who attended the Lenten season's first Pan-Orthodox potluck
      dinner at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Wednesday evening.

      Among those at the service were members of St. Elias Antiochian
      Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, St. George
      Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, and St. George Antiochian Orthodox
      Cathedral in Toledo.

      It's not uncommon to see Lebanese-Syrian dishes such as hummus,
      lentils and rice, and vegetarian grape leaves; Bulgarian foods such
      as Margaret Ostas' Potato Manja (potato in tomato sauce), and Greek
      dishes such as Mediterranean Salad , Spinach with Rice, and Peas and
      Artichokes. Mrs. Ostas is a member of St. George Orthodox Cathedral
      in Rossford. There also is Midwest cooking with salads and vegetable
      dishes such as a corn medley, pasta dishes, and a 4 Bean Salad made
      by Mrs. Olmstead, who is also a member of St. George in Rossford.

      Wednesday evening was no different. The table was filled with
      vegetarian dishes worthy of inspiring any cook. People think they
      can't cook with all vegetables, but it's amazing to see the variety
      of combinations, agree Holy Trinity members Ann Mulopulos and Olympia Ntakos.

      Mrs. Mulopulos prepared Cauliflower Casserole , 3 Bean Vegetable
      Chili, and Carrot Cake. (Desserts are made without dairy products, too.)

      Mrs. Ntakos prepared a big dish of Mediterranean Salad minus the
      crumbled feta cheese (which is not used during Lent because it is
      dairy). The recipe has many variations, depending on the ingredients
      at hand. In summer, for example, seasonal fresh vegetables such as
      green pepper, cucumber, and eggplant may be added, she says.

      Holy Trinity member Mary Markham made Peas and Artichokes. She likes
      to use canned peas, but frozen peas may be used. Greek Potato Salad
      made by Demetra Theodorou was a simple combination of cooked
      potatoes, tomato, onion, salt, pepper, olive oil, and oregano.

      Many of the hot dishes are casseroles such as an okra and potato dish
      flavored with tomatoes. But whether they are baked in the oven or
      cooked on the stove top, many start with sauteing onions in olive oil.

      Lenten fasting
      The tradition of fasting in the early Christian church includes
      abstaining from meat, poultry, fish (with a backbone), cheese, eggs,
      milk, and other dairy products.

      Shellfish such as shrimp or squid and octopus are allowed, Mrs. Ntakos says.

      Thus there were at least two casseroles with Shrimp and Rice at the
      dinner. One was made by Ann Hadgigeorge, wife of the Rev. Chris
      Hadgigeorge, pastor emeritus of Holy Trinity.

      During the Lenten season, cooks are always looking for new recipes
      using vegetables.

      But the development of the fast and the importance of the Lenten meal
      with meat-free and dairy-free foods with other Christians has great
      spiritual significance, says the Rev. Paul Albert of St. Elias
      Antiochian Orthodox Church on Harroun Road in Sylvania.

      "It is an austere and penitential time," he says. "The positive is
      the types of foods are a closer diet to those in Paradise in Genesis.
      Our foods [for fasting] are simpler and healthy and filling. We eat a
      little less. Fasting is linked to prayer and giving to the poor."

      Preparation for fasting began this year with Meatfare Sunday on Feb.
      11. "It was the last Sunday we are eating meat until Pascha
      (Easter)," Father Paul says. "It is the equivalent of the Carnival
      Sunday in the West. Beginning with [Feb.] 12th, we enter in the first
      phase of Lent, which is the meatfast, but when we are still eating
      dairy foods."

      On Feb. 18, Cheesefare Sunday, the day preceding Great Lent, was
      observed. "It was the last day of eating dairy foods until Pascha,"
      Father Paul says. Forgiveness Sunday began with evening vespers. "We
      are called by Christ to forgive one another and to ask forgiveness of
      one another. We bow before one another and give a 'holy kiss' by
      kissing on each cheek and asking forgiveness."

      On Wednesdays during Great Lent, presanctified liturgy services are held.

      Potluck tradition
      In the first week of Great Lent, each of the four area churches holds
      its own potluck dinner following the liturgy. In subsequent weeks,
      members of the churches join together to share a meal after the service.

      With a common understanding of fasting "[that] is the reason why you
      can come from any culture," Father Paul says. "It's the same
      discipline and practice of the faith, even though they come from
      different backgrounds. Everybody can come to the table with their
      unique ethnic traditions and still uphold the fasting discipline of
      the church."

      On Wednesday, the churches' members joined to observe the liturgy
      followed by a potluck dinner. On March 14, they will gather at St.
      George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford; on March 21, they will meet at
      St. Elias Church in Sylvania. For the final Wednesdays, they will
      return to their respective churches for potlucks.

      The result is an interesting array of meatless, dairy-free vegetarian
      dishes. The recipes may be used by anyone interested in vegetarian recipes.

      The foods are filling, delicious, healthful, and quite economical.
      Contact Kathie Smith at: food@... or 419-724-6155.
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