Saturday, February 14, 2009

That's Amore

Have I mentioned recently that we really like teenagers around here? Overseeing the youth group at our international church in Amman has been one of the biggest joys for Dear Husband and me this past year and a half. Somehow, sometime, before we got involved, the tradition of holding a Valentine's banquet had developed. Last year, Dear Husband and his faithful leaders (I was on the audition trip) carried on the tradition, though Dear Husband did try to shift the focus to honoring marital love vs the twitterpated love we remembered experiencing in high school. This year we, with the support and help of our great youth leaders (young adults otherwise working in Amman), encouraged a bigger shift: We planned a Valentine's banquet in which the youth would serve their parents in an gesture to show gratitude to their parents and to honor their commitment of true love in marriage. We prayed, we planned, we organized, we worked hard, and on Thursday night, we served. What fun we had together!

Our theme, Italian. Our plan, divide and conquer: we had a cooking crew, a decorating crew, a sound and set-up crew, and an entertainment crew.

Active Son, head of Sound and Set Up, Ruth, one our indispensable leaders and the visionary for a parent's banquet, and "Luigi and Alfredo" our Masters of Ceremony who stayed in Italian character the entire evening, accents and all.

The decorating crew transformed the hall of a local school where we have our youth meetings into and warm, elegant, dinner show venue. Parents we greeted at the door by youth who politely (we've been told) seated them, taking coats and pulling out chairs for the ladies.

I oversaw the cooking crew, so you'll mostly hear about the wonders they achieved, serving a three course meal to 64 people without a kitchen. Now, I have to give partial credit to my dear sister-in-law who just happens to live in Florence, Italy and who just happens to be a gourmet Italian cook. She provided me with some good ideas and recipes. We obviously couldn't make a completely authentic Italian meal, but we tried to come as close as we could, given our money, ingredient, and facility constraints. Our menu:

As I mentioned, we didn't have a kitchen, but we did have tables, borrowed dishes and utensils, electrical outlets, hot water heaters for tea and coffee, and my microwave. Here's how we did it--in case you ever have to server 60+ people without a kitchen.

The salad greens, grated carrots and sliced bell peppers, along with the salad dressing had been completely prepared beforehand and were and transported in containers. We toasted the bread for bruschetta and chopped the tomatoes and basil (a home) right before the banquet.

Cooking crew preparing the bruschetta on platters.

After the starter course, servers collected the salad plates (which would be washed in a tub of hot, soapy water so as to become dessert plates) and we began serving the Tuscan Lasagna--almost completely authentic, minus the pork. Delicious! The lasagna was served with sauteed carrots, zucchini, and colored peppers. Our plan for serving a warm meal sans a kitchen: The lasagnas were baked right before the banquet by a few helpful moms and brought wrapped in towels, and the vegetables, all cut beforehand, were sauteed the day of the banquet and warmed in the microwave. It worked! All the food~ garnished with parsley~was hot when served.

Serving the lasagnas and sauteed vegetables

Encouraged by how well the food was working out, we breathed sighs of relief and prepared to serve the desert. Meanwhile, the parents, while enjoying their meal, were being entertained by other youth. A few samples:

A scene from Romeo and Juliet (by the way, that's Juliet) ala Reduced

A Middle Eastern tabli duet by Artist Son and friend, so authentic it elicited an undulation from a Moroccan mom

A Golden Oldie love song performed by two of the youth songbirds

The final course, dessert, was served, a simple tiramisu (made the day before), garnished by Chef David (who also made most of the lasagnas) with an After Eight mint, a sprig of fresh mint...

...and served with a smile.

After desert, male youth regaled the parents with the 1952 hit made famous by Dean Martin, "That's Amore".

"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore"

Praise God, the evening was a huge success: the parents expressed amazement at how well the youth had prepared and executed the evening for them. They felt loved and honored. And the hard work of preparing the banquet had brought out the best in the youth.

As we were falling asleep that night, Dear Husband commented, "I wonder if this is a little bit of what heaven will be like...we will all be serving each other, joyfully. " Amen.

(Recipes to follow soon...)


MagistraCarminum said...

What a fabulous time! Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos!

macmahon7 said...

What a wonderful idea and looks like it was carried off fabulously! Wish we could have been there!

Jenny said...

What a great idea and what looks like a great deal of fun!