Friday, May 3

Nicole Taylor: Dinner on the Grounds

Nicole Taylor (at right) is baptized at the East Friendship Baptist Church, ca. mid-1980s.

SFA guest blogger Nicole Taylor is Brooklyn-based writer and radio host with Georgia roots. You can follow her on Twitter at @foodculturist.

When I was growing up in Athens, Georgia, sandwiched between the Ides of March and the red roses bursting into bloom was Youth Revival & Day at the East Friendship Baptist Church. I’m positive that families no longer make their spring break plans around worship-house happenings. I was baptized during one of these rebirth events, and my best memories are those of the after-service meal.

At my 113-year-old home church, all potlucks were orchestrated by a cast of cooks, mostly women who have now “gone to glory.” No starring roles, just ladies dedicated to the tradition of feeding. I would sneak out before benediction and linger around the fancy etched punchbowl, watching the reheating of string beans with iced potatoes and the slicing of homemade pound cakes. Piling your plate was frowned upon, so my selections were calculated and always included a heap of Mrs. Magnolia Weaver's “country club” wild rice.

As the curtains closed on the 20th century, the nimbleness of the kitchen committee disappeared and a new cast of faithful personalities started setting the table. For millennials, religious rites of passages and reverence for the church supper are fading. But I hold fast to a reprise of starched tablecloths and made-from-scratch dishes. Until then, I'll remember the sacred place where my taste buds were formed.