WAUSEON -- The old saying that many hands make light work has never been better proved than it is each November at the chicken pie supper at First Christian Church in Wauseon.
I have known about the public supper for several years via e mails sent by Sally Lutz, who has an active part in the annual event sponsored by the Women’s Christian Association to raise money for the general church fund.
I finally made it to the downtown church Nov.14 to enjoy the food and fellowship that radiated among the hard-working church members.
While milling from kitchen to dining room where tables were set for 500, to the set-up room for hundreds of take out orders, past tables laden with pies, and to the bake sale I asked several of the busy church members how many people were on the committee to orchestrate food and service for more than 1,000 people.
I always got the same answer.
Everyone in the church is on the committee to make it work smoothly and to uphold the reputation of the supper that spans 133 years. Yvonne Baumgartner and Joyce Ferreira, both of Wauseon, were co-chairmen this year.
The chicken pies, unlike the standard round 9 or 10-inch dessert pies, are baked in 13 by 21 inch pans that are 6 inches deep. The savory pie with a biscuit topping was a new taste experience for senior pastor, the Rev. Mitch Maxted when he came to the Wauseon church in 2004. He grew up in Iowa but came to Ohio from Japan where he had pastoral duties seven years.
The heavy traffic in downtown Wauseon the afternoon of the supper shows that townspeople appreciate the tradition. Cars driven by the hundreds of customers who had ordered take out and drive through meals began to form long lines before the 4:30 opening.
Whatever the task is, from boiling the whole chickens Monday before the Wednesday dinner, to picking them and paring potatoes on Tuesday, to slicing pies, and finally to clean up duties, the essential jobs are not new to the helpers. One of the keys to success at First Christian is that whatever job you did in previous years will be your assignment the next year. No one complains about his or her task.
The responsibilities at the several food preparation stations also are passed to the next generation in families.
Melanie Meyer and Marcia Pike, who were responsible for baking the pans of chicken pie in a convection oven, are an example of the way jobs are passed down.
To insure the biscuit topping bakes evenly to a golden brown the Wauseon sisters move the pies to upper shelves and rotate them five times during the 30-minute baking time. They are the third generation to be in charge of the oven. Their mother Eugenia Johnson, Wauseon, inherited the job from their grandmother, the late Betty Bishop.
My supper was one of the 595 take-out dinners. It stayed quite warm after the hour-long drive and required only 1-½ minutes reheating on high in the microwave. The pie with a thick tender biscuit topping dates to old fashioned from scratch comfort foods when plenty of chicken and homemade gravy were steaming hot under a thick biscuit crust, so tender it perhaps was made with lard. Mashed potatoes and small cups of cranberry sauce and slaw completed the meal packed in a large Styrofoam container. What a deal for $8, plus a choice of several kinds of pie from apple to pumpkin and including blueberry and mincemeat.
The churchwomen remind customers where the dinner came from. A printed dinner prayer was taped to the top of the box.
The supper was not the only food brought home from the Wauseon church experience. My star purchase was the best angel food cake I have ever eaten or even hoped to eat. Phyllis Burkholder, Wauseon, baked it for the bake sale. I was told that she only bakes four of the cakes for each sale and that I was lucky to be there early enough to get one. I agree. I loved the note on the top of the cake: “Not from a mix.”