Interfaith Coalition of Washington County hosts first potluck

About 20 people from various faiths gathered at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren

December 14, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • Marge Poling of Hagerstown brings a dish of baked apples, made by her husband, for the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County potluck Wednesday at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

Food can bring folks together, which it did Wednesday night when people of various faiths gathered in Hagerstown to celebrate the season with a potluck dinner.

Interfaith Coalition of Washington County hosted its first potluck as a way to share holiday traditions, said Ed Poling, coordinator of the coalition.

"I think its the start of something," said Sandy Boyer, spiritual leader of Unity of Hagerstown.

About 20 people from various faiths gathered at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren Wednesday evening for the meal.

Spread across the table, each telling its own story of celebration, was a buffet of sweet potatoes, meatloaf, franks and beans, stollen, mincemeat pie, baked apples, crudités, cookies, Waldorf salad, spaghetti, eggnog, finska pinnar — or Finnish fingers cookies — and meatloaf, potato and corn casserole.

Poling asked each person to describe the food that they brought and how it fit into their holiday tradition.

"It absolutely wouldn't be Christmas without stollen," said Brigitta Puthawala.

Originally from Germany, Puthawala described how on Christmas it was not turkey and stuffing that her family would enjoy, but rather a goose stuffed with apples, she said. But it was stollen — a traditional German bread-like cake with fruit — that she brought to share at the potluck.

Esther Boleyn, who is from a Pennsylvania Dutch family, said each winter her family used what they had, usually apples, nuts, and some crunchy vegetables, so she combined them all into an apple salad, also called a Waldorf salad.

In Ed Branthaver's family, each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas mincemeat pie would be served, so he brought one to share, he said.

Merry Stinson has been making finska pinnar cookies for about 40 years. While not Scandinavian herself, she said the almond cookies have become a tradition in her family.

A member of the Bahai Faith, Paula Myers said color should be part of a celebration, which is why she brought a spread of colorful crudités, or sliced raw vegetables.

Each Christmas eve, The Rev. Valerie Wills, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown, said her family would cook hotdogs over an open fire and serve them with beans or potato salad. For the meal Wednesday, she brought beef hotdogs with beans.

Christmas Eve was when Boyer's family would decorate their tree, she said. In an effort to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, her mother would put on a pot of sauce, a pot of water — and they would enjoy spaghetti. She said she continues the same tradition with her family and brought spaghetti to the potluck.

Despite what might differentiate people, food is a common denominator, Boyer said.

"It's interesting to see all the family traditions," she said. "Food brings people together."

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