20 Things Every Church Hostess Knows

Good Lord willing and the cakes all rise.

Hostess Tips
Photo: Hector M Sanchez

In the South, a church hostess is a special breed. Many would argue that she outranks the preacher. She's there for weddings and funerals—on hand to "feed the family" in times of joy or sorrow. She can throw together a social for 200 people with no more than a 15-minute meeting of her committee—held immediately following the Sunday morning service and efficiently run, so as to get everybody home for lunch before the slow cooker shuts off and the pot roast gravy starts to coagulate.

Bridal tea or baby shower, sunrise breakfast for 12 deacons, or dinner on the grounds for half the county—just tell her what's needed. She'll get it done. And she can give you plenty of advice because this ain't her first rodeo:

    Order your fried chicken from Publix because "you can't beat it for the price," and "who on earth wants to clean up all that grease?"

    There's no such thing as too much Tupperware.

    There's no such thing as too many congealed salads.

    A woman is only as stylish as the port-a-totes for her covered dishes. Baked-bean stains from the summer of '97 are a big no-no. Extra points for anything akin to Vera Bradley. Monogrammed? Well, of course.

    Keep a lookout for moist, fluffy deviled eggs, delicately sprinkled with paprika and served on bona fide deviled egg plates. Those belong front and center on the fellowship table. (Hide the runny ones with too much mayonnaise under some dinner rolls and pray they never see the light of day.)

    A big fellowship is no time to fret with tea pitchers. When you need 20 gallons of the sweet stuff, be practical and put it in plastic jugs with screw-on lids. That little-bitty plastic pitcher in the church kitchen will do for the unsweet, and you'll probably end up throwing half of it out because who drinks that stuff anyway?

    Bypass those cheap paper plates left over from Vacation Bible School and spring for some nice Chinet. It's just the right thing to do.

    Don't let everybody make the same casserole, because you need some variety. A good rule of thumb: 2 chicken casseroles, 2 chicken poppy seed casseroles, 2 chicken-and-wild-rice casseroles, 2 chicken tetrazzinis, and (if you live in Texas) 2 King Ranch chicken casseroles. (Don't go crazy and make enchiladas. Old church members can't handle that spice.)

    While we're in the casserole department, keep some slivered almonds on hand to dress up any dishes that look a little forlorn. And stock up on butter and Ritz crackers because you never know when you might need to make a crumble to hide the sins of novice cooks.

    Disposable foil pans are the new china.

    Invite the Methodists. They make good cobblers.

    Paint your initials onto the bottom of all 9x13 Pyrex dishes (Revlon Love That Red shows up especially well) instead of writing your name on masking tape and sticking it to the bottom. That tape will come right off in the dishwater.

    Make the men at least carry out the trash. It's good for them.

    Never let the coffee urn run dry. Things could get ugly.

    Never let the preacher lead the line—he'll talk too much and hold everybody up, trying to recruit Sunday School teachers when he ought to be focused on the potato salad.

    Use slotted spoons in the vegetables—NOT in the gravy. (Just let a new bride onto the hostess committee and see for yourself. It happens—bless her heart.)

    That upright piano in the corner of the fellowship hall will work just fine as a purse rack.

    There's no sin in microwaving.

    There's a place in this world for a dump cake.

    As soon as everybody looks full and happy, start clearing the tables. With any luck, they'll take the hint and scram so you can go home and prop your feet up. Amen?

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