Food is meat-free and dairy-free at Orthodox churches
Article published March 6, 2007
Food is meat-free and dairy-free at Orthodox churches
By KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.