For the 43rd year, the women of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church are serving dozens, even hundreds, of salads.
And soon after 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 24, the line was to the door of the gymnasium in the building. Hundreds of people – mostly older, mostly white, mostly women – gathered to eat.
Tables laden with salads awaited. There were lettuce and spinach salads, Jell-O and fluffy salads, cabbage and pasta salads. And then there were the potato salads – hot and cold. Deviled eggs with little crosses made from herbs on top and trays of cookies and sweets are there as well.
At the end of the table is the hot chicken salad.
Aside from being a great name for a punk band, hot chicken salad stretches the imagination when it comes to salads.
Carolyn Schmanske serves hot chicken salad.
Is chicken with mayonnaise, cheese and celery really a salad? I’d call it a casserole, but whatever you call it, it eats the same.
People from the parish brought hundreds of salads. And they made 27 pans of hot chicken salad, according to chairwoman Claire Hartman and former chairwoman Theresa Hock.
Here’s the recipe for a pan of hot chicken salad:
8 c. cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
8 c. celery, chopped
2 c. sliced almonds
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 1/2 T. lemon juice
2 t. dry mustard
3 c. mayonnaise
Combine ingredients. Put in large pan and top with broken potato chips. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
If you don’t want to make your own, you can get a similar version at Charlie’s Butcher Block. The “hot almond chicken salad” is on special today, of all days, for $6.49 a pound.
Women were asking me if I’d find the best salad in Elkhart County at the salad luncheon. I don’t think so, but there were some very good ones. The trick is tracking down who made it. I heard Father Bill Sullivan name the maker of a biscotti and Kathy Lucchese told me which German potato salad she made, but it’s not always an easy thing. I’d love to know who made the thin, buttery bars that tasted like browned butter, but I struggle to describe them, much less find the baker.
Hartman, Hock and about 50 other people put in a lot of time to feed around 500 people. They raise money for the church’s altar supplies and local charities. And the event is just lovely.
Nancy Tooman, newly retired, was there for the first time with seven other women from Trinity United Methodist Church. She liked what she was eating after their morning Bible study.
“Very nice. Nice selection. Lot of people,” she said. “I love salad.”
To go to a potluck such as this requires a bit of faith. You don’t really know who made the salads, but you trust that what you’ll eat is good. That’s appropriate for a meal in a church gymnasium and the food usually is good.
And that faith, along with the conversations with friends and the sense that maybe you have to think about salad in a new and old way at the same time makes this event a lot of fun.
But I still think Hot Chicken Salad would be a great name for a band.
Father Bill Sullivan talks with Kathy Lucchese after serving from a tray of dessert. (All photos by Marshall V. King)
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