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SUBMITTED PHOTOS: BROADWAY ROSE THEATER - Broadway Rose Theater is presenting Church Basement Women, a comedy about food and its importance to church life. From left are Zoe Randol, Debbie Hunter, Kymberli Colbourne and Lori Paschall.


Does art imitate life or is it the other way around — life imitates art?

You may have to ponder that; this week we are adding the virtual dinner plate of our Lutheran friends from Minnesota to our table.

I was inspired by Broadway Rose Theater Company’s production, “Church Basement Ladies,” a comedy based on the book “Growing up Lutheran” by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson.

The play is set in 1965 in rural Minnesota and depicts life as the “ladies of the local church fortify their flock with love, wisdom, and of course, the food they prepare in the church’s basement kitchen.”

The play mixes together delightful original music, endearing characters and side (dish)-splitting scenes to yield a funny musical comedy.

My friend Eleanor Suman shared with me the play’s accompanying cookbook, “Lutheran Church Basement Women, Lutefisk, Lefse, Lunch and Jell-O.”

The book, written by Janet Letnes Martin and Allen Todnem in 2009, is full of fun tidbits of Lutheran traditions and recipes of what must be Minnesota favorites.

There were recipes for breads, cakes and bars (all cookies are referred to as bars), plus pickles, “hotdishes” or casseroles, most of which include cream of mushroom soup, and Jell-O salads. Martin and Todnem add quirky notes about the dishes, which just adds to the fun of the book.

They also include separate sections of foods appropriate to serve at funerals, Sunday school lunches, and other events and rules of etiquette for the Lutheran League.

It’s a delightful read and the reviews indicate that Lutherans recognize themselves and their own basement kitchen experiences in the pages.

As an item for our auction at Christ Church Episcopal Parish, Eleanor and I bundled generously donated tickets to “Church Basement Women” with a typical Sunday night Minnesota Lutheran dinner.

Our menu featured meatloaf, mashed potatoes, lemon-zested peas and carrots, assorted pickled vegetables, mandarin orange Jell-O and English toffee for dessert, which Martin and Todnem noted was an Episcopalian favorite.

Since we are Episcopalians, we thought we should try it.

The play has been a huge success for Broadway Rose. It continues through May 15, but it is sold out. You might give them a call at 503-620-5262 to see if they will extend the run, or bring the show back soon.

You won’t miss out entirely on having a Minnesota Lutheran experience. Following is a recipe from “Lutheran Church Basement Women,” along with the cook’s notes.

Modern-day Oregonian Lutherans are invited to send in their versions of these dishes.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Lutheran Church Basement Women, Lutefisk, Lefse, Lunch and Jell-O is available online at Amazon.com and also at your local library.

Chicken, Veal or Turkey Royale Fit for King Olaf

This isn’t an everyday hotdish and is too time-consuming to make for an ordinary church function. If the church higher-ups are visiting, this would be appropriate.

1 cup chopped mushrooms

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked chicken, veal or turkey

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper

Dredge mushrooms with flour and brown in 2 tablespoons butter.

Scald milk and add remaining butter and crumbs. Cool, adding remaining ingredients and pour into buttered shallow pan. Set in a pan of hot water and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until firm. Cut into squares. Serve with cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1/2 cup grated cheese

Melt butter, add flour and blend. Add milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from flame and stir in cheese.

Recipe from “Lutheran Church Basement Women,” 2009

Contact Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twittter: @barbrandallfood.

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