Once every few Sundays at Calvary Baptist Church, we take part in communion. Instead of the small squares of bread and plastic cups of juice being passed down each pew like it was when I was growing up at Timber Crest Baptist Church, congregants at Calvary leave the pews and come to the front of the sanctuary. There a deacon or a minister, holding a small loaf of bread, tears off a small piece of the bread, hands it to the person and says, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.” The person then moves to the left and dunks the bread in a goblet of grape juice as another deacon or minister says, “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.” The congregant then eats the bread and returns to the pew. This method — the dipping of the bread — is called communion by intinction.
“There is something significant that happens when a minister or deacon at Calvary tears a piece of bread, looks you in the eye, and shares that this is the ‘body of Christ, broken for you,’” said Calvary’s pastor, the Rev. Mary Alice Birdwhistell. “It’s a sacred moment to share that with one another.”
For the past several years, the bread used for communion was baked by Brenda Bradley. The church began using her bread for practical reasons: the stuff that was from the store was either too hard, or it simply crumbled as it was being torn. “Brenda thought she could help. But I very quickly realized that what Bradley was offering was simply an act of love,” Birdwhistell said.
Most families at Calvary received a loaf of bread from Brenda at one point over the years, but it was the most recent bread — possibly her last batch — that meant the most to Birdwhistell. On a Friday in April 2019, Bradley learned that she had pancreatic cancer. The day after Bradley received that diagnosis from her doctor, Birdwhistell went to the Bradley house, and Bradley was baking bread for the next day’s communion.
“I think it may have been the last time she was able to do it, with everything that transpired in the days that followed, but she made it with such joy that day,” Birdwhistell said. Bradley, who over the years taught English at Baylor University, McLennan Community College and Oklahoma Baptist University, died on January 1, and at her memorial service on January 18, everyone who walked in was handed a card that had a lovely photo of Bradley on one side and her bread recipe, in her handwriting, on the reverse.
Including a recipe as part of a memorial isn’t new. Over the years, The New York Times has published recipes in obituaries for prominent chefs. A recipe for Cajun Popcorn accompanied the obit for Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme on October 9, 2015, while the obit for Judy Rodgers, who owned Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, included her recipe for Zuni Cafe Chicken, on December 4, 2013. And the January 24, 2000, obit for Craig Claiborne, the longtime Times food editor and cookbook author, included his recipe for Braised Lamb with Basil and Garlic Stuffing.
Much has been written about the connection between food and mourning and healing. They’re all connected; that’s how the term “comfort food” originated, in a Palm Beach Post article from 1966: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’ – food associated with the security of childhood.”
Shortly after Pat Melton died in 2017 — she had been a member of Calvary for more than 80 years! — her husband, D.G., passed along to Abby a copy of Pat’s recipe for Cowboy Cookies. D.G. often came through the line during the years that Abby prepared Wednesday night meals at Calvary, and they developed a friendship. He knew that she would appreciate Pat’s recipe.
This month’s recipes obviously include Brenda Bradley’s bread and Pat’s cookies but also a casserole recipe if you need to take food to a loved one who has suffered a loss. And if you need to offer up a toast to one who has passed, there’s a recipe for Tom Collins con Pellegrino, from the book “Drinking with the Saints.” The Tom Collins is a drink featured on May 15, the day that honors Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers and the father of modern pedagogy. “He was a true pioneer in the field of education, serving the poor, teaching with kindness…” author Michael P. Foley wrote.
Brenda Bradley’s Bread
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 package yeast
- 3 tablespoons potato flakes
- 1 cup very warm water
Mix all of the starter ingredients in a quart jar. Cover with a lid that has a few holes poked through with an ice pick. Place in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
For the bread:
- 1 cup starter, at room temperature
- 6 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 package yeast
- 1 1/2 cups very warm water
To make the bread, after 3 to 5 days: Allow the starter to come to room temperature. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water. Add the starter and mix well. Knead a few times and then place in a large greased bowl, turning once to make sure all sides are greased. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces and place in greased loaf pans. Let the dough rise, but not long enough for it to spill over the top of the pans.
Heat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves out onto a rack to let cool.
For feeding the starter:
- 3 tablespoons potato flakes
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup very warm water
To feed starter, add the potato flakes, sugar and water to the starter and mix. Let sit on the counter for 8 hours, then return to the refrigerator.
The starter can be re-fed up to five times.
- 5 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups brown rice
- 10 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped; reserve the celery leaves
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 6 cups cooked chicken, cubed
- 1 jar (4 ounces) pimentos, drained and chopped; divided
- 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon celery leaves, chopped
In a large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the rice and stir. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook until the water has been
absorbed and the rice is tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and keep warm.
Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add half the mushrooms to the skillet and cook until they’re golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Move the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of butter and the remaining mushrooms to the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add to the other mushrooms. (Editor’s note: The mushrooms should be cooked in two batches. Cooking them in one batch simply steams the mushrooms. This method adds color and flavor.)
Add the remaining butter to the skillet and allow to melt. Then add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the top and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the broth and half-and-half and stir until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, add the rice, chicken, most of the mushrooms and pimentos, tarragon, salt, pepper and sherry. Mix until well blended. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly. Right before serving, sprinkle with the remaining mushrooms and pimentos and celery leaves.
Makes 10-12 servings.
Pat Melton’s Cowboy Cookies
- 1 pound butter, softeneds
- 1 cup sugars
- 4 cups brown sugars
- 4 eggss
- 3 teaspoons vanillas
- 4 cups flours
- 1 teaspoon salts
- 2 teaspoons baking powders
- 4 cups oatss
- 12 ounces chocolate chipss
- 4 cups shredded coconuts
- 4 cups chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350 F. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the butter-egg mixture and combine.
In a large mixing bowl, add the oats, chocolate chips, coconut and pecans and mix together. Add the creamed ingredients to this bowl and mix. The dough will be stiff, so mix by hand if necessary.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Scoop the dough onto the sheet by the tablespoonful, 2 inches apart, and bake for about 11 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown.
Makes about 9 dozen cookies.
Tom Collins con Pellegrino
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- Lemon wedge
- Orange slice
Pour gin, sugar and lemon juice into a shaker filled with ice and shake 40 times. Strain into a Collins or highball glass that is also filled with ice. Add Pellegrino to fill the glass. Stir gently and garnish with lemon and orange.
Makes 1 drink.