Soup kitchen season is no time to count calories

Soup kitchen season is no time to count calories By Bob Karolevitz This is soup kitchen season.

Hungry people congregate at churches, lodges and veterans' clubs to enjoy a fall-time tradition which is about as predictable as falling leaves and a disease called pheasantitis.

Phyllis likes soup kitchens because they mean she doesn't have to cook that day.

I like them because of the pies, all kinds of them donated by members of the ladies' aid, the women's committee and the auxiliaries. There are apple, pumpkin, cherry, custard, lemon cream, raisin cream, peach, pecan, chocolate and occasionally some you can't identify.

Invariably as I start down the dessert line, my eye focuses on a certain piece on the table ahead of me � and then somebody else always takes the one I have zeroed in on. It's the story of my soup kitchen life!

The soup I take because Phyllis says it's the healthiest part of the meal. I usually opt for the chili, although the chicken noodle looks good. It's not like the chicken soup I had in the army when they just walked a bird through on stilts. The homemade kind the ladies ladle out has a lot of meat in it.

And speaking of meat, the menu always includes taverns. At other places they're called Sloppy Joes, Tastees or loose meat sandwiches, but at soup kitchens they go by just one name. No matter what you call them, though, they're all the same. I like mine with pickles and mustard, thank you.

Because the election is coming up, politicians flock to club houses and church halls. Democrats, Republicans and Independents show up, not so much for the soup, but just to be seen. It's a lot cheaper than yard signs, and they get food, too.

Actually, soup kitchens are social affairs. Folks turn out to rub elbows, share crop reports, complain about prices or just plain gossip. It's also fun to see how much the kids have grown since last year's event.

The committee on decorations usually has pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks colorfully placed to provide an autumnal air. It's a seasonal thing, and it's got to look that way.

Oh, and I shouldn't forget the raffles and the cake walks!

Quilts, doilies and assorted handiwork are contributed to make extra dollars for church or club coffers. I fill out the slips and donate a buck or two, but I never win. I really don't need the cake anyhow, but who counts calories at a soup kitchen?

It's strictly a volunteer effort. Almost everybody from the congregation or the membership list gets into the act. The organization varies at the different affairs. Sometimes there seems to be more workers than necessary. They jostle each other in the kitchen and it looks like chaos reigns, yet somehow the job gets done.

My hat is off to the chairperson in charge. Something as big as this doesn't just happen. He or she has to pull all the pieces together: placing the ads; getting the ladies to bake the pies; assigning once-a-year soup-makers, disher-uppers, coffee-pourers and money-takers; and, last but not least, naming the cleanup crew.

It's sort of a thankless job, and nobody gets a medal for it. I'm sure whoever gets stuck with the task is mighty glad when it's all over.

Thank goodness they do it, though. Otherwise there wouldn't be anymore soup kitchens, and we'd all be the worst for it.

We've seen our passenger trains go, our country schools close and our old-time soda fountains bite the dust in the name of progress. I just hope that soup kitchens are here to stay!

© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz

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