Many places of worship, and a lot of non-religious organizations, have a “coffee hour” or “fellowship time” or some other name for “when we all mill around and have a little something to eat and drink.” At our church, this is a particularly vital time. Many interesting conversations happen, friendships are formed, and plans for activities are worked out during coffee hour. We’re really into food, too, especially healthy and/or unusual food, and we have a lot of people in the parish who enjoy cooking–but we don’t get competitive about it. Coffee hour is not a time to outdo each other with as-seen-in-glossy-magazines fancy cuisine, just a time to share some good food.
I’ve been to a lot of churches where the food served alongside coffee is always super-sweet stuff like cookies and donuts. I appreciate a treat, sure, but with my metabolism, a cup of coffee plus a snack of white sugar, white flour, and vegetable oil leads to a carbohydrate/caffeine buzz that feels a little scary while it’s happening (I can lose my temper quickly in that state!) and even worse when it drops me suddenly, hungry and shaking, just about the time I get home. A coffee hour that follows a late-morning event is being served around lunchtime, when most people’s stomachs are pretty empty, and then it may take a while to get home and cook lunch . . . so it’s better to serve food with some protein and/or fiber so it digests more slowly. Remember that it’s not a sit-down meal, though! You want to serve finger foods that aren’t too messy to eat off a napkin or small plate while standing. To allow for various tastes, provide at least two kinds of food, and if you know that someone in your group is allergic to a food (or abstains from a certain food for some other reason), bring a food that is free of the allergen and label it accordingly. Because people do like sweets and may feel annoyed if the refreshments seem “too healthy”, serve something that’s at least somewhat sweet–but it doesn’t have to be nutritionally bankrupt!–and also something savory, creating an appealing variety of foods.
My seven-year-old Nicholas and I have a lot of experience serving coffee hour! All his life we’ve taken several turns a year to bring the food, set up, and clean up. Nicholas gradually has become more and more helpful, and these days he does nearly half the work of choosing serving plates, arranging food on them, filling the cream pitcher and ice-water pitchers (or sometimes we make lemonade), and getting out the napkins and sugar bowl and coffee-stirring spoons and coffee cups and water glasses and, if needed, small plates and/or forks and/or serving utensils. (We always use real dishes; it’s easy now that our church has a dishwasher, but even when I had to hand-wash, it didn’t take a whole lot of time.)
I’m going to share our menu for coffee hour this past Sunday, and then I’ll list a few other foods that have been popular at other coffee hours. Read more…