The feeding of the multitudes has begun. As winter comes to Washington, volunteers from scores of churches and civic organizations are mobilizing to feed the thousands of homeless people who are beginning to move into area shelters.
Typically, the task of feeding the shelter people has fallen to these volunteers, who work in one of two ways: they share recipes and prepare smaller portions in their home kitchens for communal reheating at the shelter, or, they cook in quantity at those shelters that have large, fully equipped kitchens.
With a colder than normal winter predicted and the economy in a slump, those who work on the issue of homelessness are predicting that the demand for shelter, food and volunteer home cooks will be unprecedented.
The prospect of feeding more than 100 men, women and children on a single night can be a daunting prospect for a church volunteer, who can handle cookies for coffee hour but has never bought potatoes by the hundredweight.
The key is organization -- including lots of planning and telephone calling -- as well as keeping a few guidelines in mind, according to veteran shelter workers.
The first rule of thumb has to do with quality, which homeless advocates say should be high. The recipes that follow not only have made successful shelter meals, but also make good dishes for potluck dinners and scout troop feasts, as well as family meals.
"We'll not provide a meal to the homeless that I wouldn't feed to my own children," said John Steinbruck, pastor at Luther Place Memorial Church in Northwest Washington, which runs a group of shelters and group homes in the District of Columbia.
Second, the food should be easy to prepare, either at the shelter or at volunteer cooks' homes, and above all easy to serve.
With some dishes, you can run into what Barbara Halicki, of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria, calls "quantity control." Big hunks of meat such as pot roasts can present problems "to a bunch of amateurs who've got to cut it and serve relatively equal portions" in a hurry, says Halicki, who is assembling a booklet of recipes popular at Carpenter's Shelter in Alexandria.
Beef stew, meat loaf or chili, or individual pieces of chicken seem to work out better, she says.
About 50 groups, most of them churches, have organized to feed the homeless at Carpenter's Shelter, a 130-bed facility located on the edge of Old Town Alexandria. Kathy Thompson keeps the menus and the volunteers on schedule.
"Variety is key," she says. "They like pasta, but not every night."
Most who provide shelter meals say fruit is especially appreciated -- an apple or an orange that can be put in a pocket and saved for later, can be a welcome treat hours after a meal.
"Homeless people are like anybody else. They like to know what they're eating. They like food that is recognizable to them," says Mary Rupp, who organizes volunteer cooks from St. Paul's Episcopal church in Alexandria.
Meat loaf and fried chicken are favorites, she says. And when Rupp is planning the meal, she tries to serve both.
"If you're in a shelter, there aren't many choices you can make," says Rupp. Having a choice at meal times is one she likes to provide.
Occasionally, volunteers will bring something special for dessert, such as ice cream sundaes or ice cream cones, which are very much appreciated, say those who work in shelters.
Shelters with access to expansive kitchen facilities have the advantage of being able to accept large food donations such as turkeys and hams, which Steinbruck said are welcome at Luther Place. Luther Place also provides about 1,000 volunteers scattered throughout the area with a list of staples the kitchen there can always use, such as flour, sugar, coffee, tea, cake mixes, cocoa, instant oatmeal and half-gallon tins of fruit, pudding, and tuna fish sold at warehouse grocery stores.
The other advantage of large kitchens is that three cooks can prepare an enormous meal in a single location. Otherwise 10 to 15 volunteers must be found and assigned smaller quantities. Aside from the logistics, that also presents the problem of people saying they'll cook and then forgetting.
Alexandria teacher Jean Reid recalls the evening she was setting out the meal at Carpenters Shelter only to look up and see a courier arriving with an enormous bucket of Colonel Sanders fried chicken. Someone still at work had remembered at the last minute a commitment to provide part of the main course.
CHICKEN FIESTA (12 servings)
6 pounds chicken pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika, to taste
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 pound pork sausage
1 1/2 cups celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced green onions, including tops
6 cups cooked rice
2 cans (24 ounces) whole kernel corn with peppers
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Season chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Brown in melted butter in large skillet over medium heat. Drain chicken on paper towels; set aside. Cook sausage, celery and onions in same skillet over medium-high heat until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add rice, corn and lemon juice; mix well. Pour into buttered shallow baking dish. Arrange chicken on top of rice mixture, pushing slightly into rice mixture. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender.
Per serving: 772 calories, 68 gm protein, 37 gm carbohydrates, 38 gm fat, 12 gm saturated fat, 248 mg cholesterol, 819 mg sodium.
Adapted from "Hearty Soups and Casseroles" (Favorite Recipes Magazine, Vol. 5, 1989) MEAT 'N' TATER PIE (10 servings)
3 cups crushed corn flakes cereal
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 cup milk
3 pounds ground beef
6 cups stiff mashed potatoes
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 teaspoons parsley flakes
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups shredded American cheese
Paprika, to taste
Combine 1 1/2 cups of the crushed cereal, the salt, pepper, mustard and milk in large bowl; beat well. Add ground beef, mixing until combined. Gently press meat mixture in bottom and up side of 9-inch pie pan. Beat eggs lightly in small bowl. Add potatoes, onion and parsley. Stir until combined. Spread potato mixture evenly in meat shell. Place pie pan on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 1/2 cups crushed cereal with melted butter in a small bowl and set aside. Sprinkle cheese evenly over potato mixture. Top with cereal mixture. Bake 10 minutes more or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.
Per serving: 585 calories, 43 gm protein, 26 gm carbohydrates, 34 gm fat, 15 gm saturated fat, 250 mg cholesterol, 461 mg sodium.
Adapted from "Hearty Soups and Casseroles" (Favorite Recipes Magazine, Vol. 5, 1989) SAUSAGES WITH BLACK-EYED PEAS (10 servings)
This earthy recipe from Lisa Yockelson was originally designed to feed a smaller number of people. The quantities have been increased to accomodate 10 people. The cooked sausages can be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to three days, awaiting a final reheating with a cupful of cooked black-eyed peas.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
20 mild Italian sausages, pricked with a fork
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 green bell peppers, cored and diced
4 cups plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup minced parsley
10 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet that can later accommodate all of the sausages. Brown the sausages in two batches in the hot oil; remove them to a side dish as they are browned and season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pour off all but 6 tablespoons oil from skillet. Add sliced onion and cook slowly for 2 minutes. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in pepper; stir-cook 1 minute. Add plum tomatoes, minced parsley and browned sausages. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, turning sausages in the tomato mixture from time to time. Cool.
Transfer sausages to a storage container, add the cooked black-eyed peas, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
For serving, reheat the sausages in a covered skillet until piping hot. Adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Serve the sausages from a deep platter.
Per serving: 377 calories, 20 gm protein, 39 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 22 mg cholesterol, 502 mg sodium.
CUCUMBER SALADSTART NOTE: Attribution? END NOTE (12 servings)
10 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup wine vinegar
Fresh herbs, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients and chill.
Per serving: 202 calories, 2 gm protein, 10 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 3 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 mg sodium.
SCALLOPED POTATOESSTART NOTE: Attribution? END NOTE (10 servings)
14 medium potatoes
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons enriched flour
5 cups milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped onion
Pare and thinly slice potatoes. Make white sauce of butter, flour and milk. Grease 9-by-13-inch baking pan, put 1/3 of the potatoes in, cover with 1/3 of the sauce, seasonings and onion. Repeat steps two additional times.
Cover and bake in 350-degree oven for one hour. Uncover and continue baking until top is browned.
Per serving: 372 calories, 9 gm protein, 55 gm carbohydrates, 14 gm fat, 8 gm saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 162 mg sodium.
RICE CUSTARD PUDDINGSTART NOTE: Attribution? BobK. END NOTE (10 servings)
5 cups cooked rice
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of sultana (white) raisins
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 eggs, beaten
4 cups milk
Pinch of salt
Cinnamon for sprinkling
Mix the rice, 1 cup of the sugar, the raisins and vanilla. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add the milk, the remaining 1 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the rice and raisin mixture to the milk and eggs. Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the custard is set. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve cold with whipped or plain cream.
Per serving: 467 calories, 11 gm protein, 91 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 3 gm saturated fat, 232 mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium.