09 August 2012

the philanthropy of fry bread

At a typical American county fair, the 'good, healthy fun quotient' is absolutely astronomical.

But the 'good, healthy food quotient' is gro-daciously gastronomical.

Delicious? Most of the time (particularly if you enjoy having most anything, from veal to Velveeta, Twinkies to Testies, deep fried).

Nutritious? only if you plan to have your arteries squeezed out like a sponge and flushed out like a radiator afterwards.

But all in all, it's good fun.

This was the first year in seven living in Missoula that i had the chance to step into one of the famed food carts at the Western Montana State Fair and dish up some death-defying deliciousness. My son, Trevor, along with dozens of other bright young musicians from Hellgate High School, are headed to Chicago next winter as one of only 4 high schools in the nation invited to take part in an exclusive music festival hosted by the Chicago Symphony. During their time in the Windy City, they will have the opportunity not only to sit in on a private rehearsal of the Symphony, but also to perform in the Symphony Center Hall. It promises to be a musical highlight of a lifetime. 

(Of course, T's biggest draw to the experience is to finally have the chance to taste some 'authentic' deep dish pizza...but i digest... ;)

And so, in tried-and-true and fried-right-through tradition for the musical Knights, students and parents alike pitch in to run the Fry Bread concession at the Fair to raise support and awareness for the music program in general, and the Chicago adventure in particular.

Now mind you, these golden discs of diet-smashing delectableness aren't just frozen frisbees of decades-old dough flung into a cauldron of boiling fat. Each one is uniquely hand-made from fresh dough and flour, hand-kneaded and tossed and stretched until it's so relaxed, i swear i could hear one incanting the sacred word 'OM' before it was gently and artistically laid atop the bubbling bouillabaisse of scalding sunflower oil (at which point, the 'OM' quickly turned to 'AAAAGGGGH!!!'). And suddenly, the spongy sarape coalesced into a light, crispy-yet-chewy gyronomic globe of greasy goodness. Kind of like this...

(Is it just me, or do you see two little figures
that look like Pillsbury Doughboys
fighting each other on the right hand side,
with a little bear like Corduroy hanging on the back of one of them
playing a little piccolo trumpet?
And NO, we did not add Peyote to the dough mix... ;)

Delicious? Absolutely! (Especially with some honey, cinnamon and powdered sugar...or as a 'turnover' with apple or cherry pie filling inside...yummers :)

Nutritious? No comment.

An effective way of raising needed resources for the cultural adventure of the year? Certainly.

Although by the end of my four-hour shift flingin' dozens of discs drenched in carbs and calories, flavour and fat, the thought did cross my mind...

'Is selling food that is so gastronomically gluttonous and ubiquitously unhealthy really the best way to promote a program that is SO tasteful in its approach and SO healthy in what it creates in our community and in our students?'

In other words, in this scenario, 'does the end justify the means?'

T and i slowly peeled off our sticky aprons and grabbed a cool drink. And instead of heading straight out to our car, we decided to stroll the grounds of the Fair, particularly the Food Court...partly to check out our competition...and partly just to see what other kinds of confections other folks were serving up.

And the more i walked, the more i was amazed.

'Famous Chicken Pitas from Christian Life Center.'
'Stir Fry Bowls' from the stirred up saints at SHEC (South Hills Evangelical Church).
'Vikings' (corn 'veal dogs' on a stick) for the Sons of Norway.
'Veggie-Friendly Treats' from the Poverello Center for the homeless.
'Nachos' from the 'bandos' at Big Sky HS.
'Greek Gyros' from the Greek Orthodox.

Each stand was not only selling some kind of specialty.

Each stand was doing it as a way to raise awareness and funds for a worthwhile cause.

To help those in need of food, clothing, shelter, friendship, and Love.

To help those who serve others in need for the sake of Love.

To help those who are running on the fumes of despair to discover or rediscover Hope.

To help some young musicians not only have a great musical experience, but to be cultural ambassadors on the part of our little town in the mountains of Montana.

And i was stunned by the beauty of the people and what they were doing...
And the real, incarnate wholeness and irreligious, healthy holiness they were embodying...
And the life-giving and life-loving health that was on display for all to experience and embrace amidst the junk food being served up with a soda and a smile.

It was, in its own way, a miracle no different than the One who took two dirty little fish and five little discs of fry bread, and blessed them and broke them open, and in so doing broke open the hearts of thousands to feed and be fed, to bless and be blessed.

To take the most ordinary and unexpected of means, and use them for some truly extraordinary ends.

The philanthropy of fry bread.

(two drained distributors of discs of deliciousness :)

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