Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I Don't Care for Wearing Name Tags in Meeting

Strange, I know. Wearing name tags in Meeting is one of those Quaker traditions hard to shake- even though it's not particularly traditional as all, as far as my extensive investigations reveal.

It is also a custom so petty that it's questionable why I'm bothered by it at all. But I am. Granted I'm not routinely concerned about it. On a scale of 1-10 of Great Quaker Issues, this rates probably a 2-3, barely beating out the eternal Rug Debate (bare hardwood floors or tasteful area rugs in the meeting house?) and ranking far, far under things like NEYM's relationship to FUM (I am SO not going there today). But occasionally the Name Tag Affair gets to me- like today.

The point of a name tag, of course, is to be friendly towards outsiders, to help everyone get to know each other, and to promote a sense of community. I'm afraid that for me, it doesn't really do any of the above.

I want people to have to ask me my name. I want that initial interaction. If I've forgotten a name that I should know, I want to be humble enough to ask! Conversely, if someone has forgotten my name, I want them to come up to me and ask (or at least ask the person on the bench next to them). More community is formed from these simple social niceties than is ever created by wearing tags.

I don't want the artificial familiarity that name tags create. I don't want someone to come up and call me by name when we have not met- I find this very uncomfortable. I want to be approached and asked for my name. Names, I believe, are a gift, always to be politely asked for and graciously given (or not given, depending on the circumstance!) . Name tags, I feel, make it too easy for us to pretend to know each other.

A practice intended to make visitors feel welcome does, I feel, just the opposite. If I walk into a room and everyone is wearing name tags but me, I feel like I am intruding upon a strange fraternity. It's almost more awkward when I, the visitor to this group, am asked to make one myself. More than once, in fact, I have been approached by a friendly greeter who skips right over introducing herself and asking my name- in favor of asking me to make a name tag! How backwards is that?

In a true community, everyone knows everyone else (more or less) by name. This much is true. But it doesn't make our Quaker meetings any better of a community by faking it! I've noticed that more traditional denominations- the Baptists, the Catholics, the Seventh Day Adventists- would never dream of asking all their congregates to wear name tags. And yet, their sense of community does not seem in suffer. And visitors certainly don't hesitate to come- aren't the Baptists one of the fastest-growing denominations in America?

Perhaps, instead of wearing name tags, we could make a greater effort to reach out to one another. Perhaps, instead of huddling with our particular friends after Meeting (and I'm guilty of this one, too!) we could approach someone we don't know as well. I'd like to see more fellowship in my Meeting, absolutely. In fact, I think that a lack of fellowship a 10/10 on the scale of Great Quaker Issues. I'm just not sure if we're going about it in the right ways (and something tells me that NEYM cutting itself off from FUM isn't the right way to go about it, either . . . but, wait! Not going there!).

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Ministry of Food

I love to cook. I feel like feeding everyone who comes into my life is a ministry, one I often feel called to. Sometimes it is not only a pleasure and a ministry, but a delightful adventure, the latest of which I will now share.

The Meeting I currently attend has 'hospitality' every week- a light spread of snacks for everyone to nibble. Love of cooking or not, I had avoided volunteering for a week, because I am often overwhelmed with other responsibilities. This past First Day, however, was a business meeting, when a heavier lunch is provided. And I volunteered.

Now, I cooked for 75 at my wedding (with generous help with many friends) and I love to take on projects, as mentioned above. So, 7th day evening, I set out to make a half-dozen spinach feta pies- a delicious cross between quiche and spanakopita.

Shopping for this endeavor was an endeavor in itself. I got hilarious looks from the deli manager when I asked for four pounds of feta cheese- just for instance. But I got it all home (including six pre-made pie crusts), mixed it all up in a 2 1/2 gallon stockpot, poured it into the pie shells, and cooked off six 9-inch quiches over the course of two hours (they had to go into my oven in shifts). Rob and I ate half of one for dinner 7th day night, and gave the other half to our landlord and lady. Four pies went to Meeting the next day. Two were utterly consumed, and the other two were wrapped and popped into the Meeting freezer, to be saved for a needy member. The last pie we split yesterday evening with two friends, a big salad, and a bottle of fine wine. It all came out beautifully. Next time I'll make my own pie crust, as well.

I love cooking on the grand scale even more than I love cooking for me and my husband alone. I love buying ingredients by the pound. I love improvising the tools of an industrial kitchen in my tiny apartment kitchen. But mostly I love how many people I can reach. I love being able to feed everyone in my Meeting, all at once. I give to charities and all of that, but I'm afraid I'm a rather literal-minded Quaker, and I like the immediacy of this sort of feeding the hungry.

I've volunteered to cook dinner at Quarterly Meeting, hosted by my Meeting this 12th month, and I am already excitedly planning the meal. Updates to follow, I hope.

Recipe for Spinach-Feta Spanakopita-Quiches, adapted from Moosewood.

6 nine-inch pie crusts (bought or made)
Two heads hard-neck garlic (or 10-12 large cloves softneck).
2 1/2 pounds yellow onions.
2 pounds frozen spinach (or somewhat more fresh).
2 dozen eggs, plus one.
2 1/2 pounds Ricotta cheese (you could substitute grated Swiss for part of this measure- I will next time I make the recipe).
4 pounds Feta cheese, crumbled.
2-4 ounces fresh dill, depending how dilly you like things (I used 4 and it was a bit much).
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Olive oil for sauteing.

Preheat the oven to 350. Thaw the spinach, or cook it if needed. Drain well.

Saute the onions and garlic together with the olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Remove from heat. Beat in the eggs, followed by the remaining ingredients. If using Swiss, reserve 3 cups at this point for sprinkling on top of the pies.

The batter should be quite thick, more scoopable than pourable. Divide among the six pie dishes, right up to the brim. Top with 1/2 cup of Swiss per pie, if desired. Bake for one hour at 350. Remove, and let set for one hour before serving. Serves 36-48, depending on slice size and what else people are eating!

Enjoy! Feed the world!