A couple weekends ago, a group from our church went Christmas caroling at a nursing home and then on the front lawn of two home-bound members of our church. Our church members weren't expecting us, but they saw the headlights of our many vehicles and made their way -- one using a walker, the other a wheelchair -- to their front door to investigate before we managed to assemble all 40-some people in their yard. I have never seen three people (the two, plus their caregiver) quite so beautifully beam through tears.
And I thought, How little effort did that take? All we had to do was set aside a Saturday night to spread a bit of joy -- and we even got out of the deal a chili supper back at the church afterwards. It's too bad we in this culture don't take more time to bring people a little joy. It doesn't take much, but it means so much.
The caroling also brought back memories of a time when a visit to town gave me an experience I'd never had in my "farm girl" upbringing. When I was about 13 or 14, we were invited to friends' house in Elizabeth for dinner, and while we were eating, some carolers came to the door. I was probably old enough that I should have been blase about the whole thing, but I was so excited! I ran to the door and listened.
Carolers certainly never had shown up before at our farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, so this was my first experience with real, live Christmas carolers. I also got an education when the lady of the house opened the door and stuffed some money in the group's jar. I didn't know people caroled primarily for money. Later, when I went caroling with other members of my college choir just for the fun of it one night, many people came to their doors with money in their hands and looked incredulous when we said we weren't collecting, just spreading some cheer.
So here's a challenge: Go spread some cheer this Christmas season. Maybe you can't sing, but I'll bet you can find a way to do something sweet. And then, if whatever you do involves being out in the cold for a while (as we were when we sang on our church members' lawn), treat yourself to a steaming cup of capputeano (see recipe).
Maybe you can accompany that cup of capputeano with some homemade "church lady" Christmas goodies...
Holiday Baked Goods Sale: Nut, apricot, poppyseed and pumpkin rolls, holiday cookies, pirohy and halushky will be sold from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the St. John's Orthodox Church Parish Center, Fifth Street and Elm Road, Ambridge. 412-749-0675.
Volunteer to 'Taste the World'
The Peters Township Public Library Cooking Club is looking for volunteers to lead monthly classes on ethnic cooking for a series called "Taste the World" in 2013.
Thus far, guest chefs have volunteered to present Thai, Spanish and Polish cooking. Volunteers experienced in cooking foods from other countries are still needed. Food expenses will be reimbursed.
If you are interested in volunteering, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to attend the cooking classes, a $5 fee is charged to help defray costs of food samples and other materials. Advance registration is required before each cooking club meeting.
For information about upcoming events, check the library's Adult Programs page at ptlibrary.org.
The finalists for the 2013 Good Food Awards inclue two local businesses: Crested Duck Charcuterie of Beechview and Boyd & Blair Vodka of Shaler.
The two are among 183 finalists competing in nine categories. One hundred winners will be announced in January. The awards honor businesses that produce high-quality food while also being environmentally and socially responsible.
Kosher cook-off: Before Feb. 4, enter your best recipe in the seventh annual Man-o-Manischewitz Cook-Off competition. The recipe must adhere to kosher guidelines, be able to be prepared in less than an hour, use nine or fewer ingredients, and include Manischewitz broth (turkey, chicken, reduced sodium chicken, beef or vegetable) plus one additional Manischewitz product.
Five finalists will win a trip to the live cook-off in March in Newark, N.J. The grand prize is a $25,000 prize package including Maytag appliances, cash and a crystal trophy. To enter: manischewitz.com.
Submit your events
Planning a food-related event, charitable endeavor or the like? E-mail me with the details at email@example.com.
I copied this recipe more than 15 years ago from The Sharon (Pa.) Herald and made it for my tea-drinking boyfriend who soon thereafter married me.
-- Rebecca Sodergren
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cinnamon-apple or cinnamon-flavored teabags
In a small saucepan, bring milk and brown sugar to a boil. Remove from heat. Add teabags; cover and steep 5 minutes. Remove the bags. Serve in mugs and top with whipped cream and cinnamon.
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter: @pgfoodevents.recipes - foodcolumn