After church we walked down the hill from the church, past the school to the lunch spot. One of the moms in the community opened her home to our 5-person delegation and about 25 community members. The Family Commission, women leaders from different sectors in the community, came together to cook the celebration feast. It began with soup - big bowls of steaming soup filled with big chunks of vegetables and chicken parts. Stacks of piping hot tortillas were set in the middle of the table and cold grape soda was served in styrofoam cups. The silverware was carefully wrapped in napkins like in a fancy restaurant, and the tables were covered with lace and embroidered tablecloths.
The soup itself was more than sufficient for a meal, but then out came the rice - tasty when added to the soup or piled on a plate. Everyone had china plates, and the women must have gathered them from each of their homes and their friends' homes so that there were enough. One of the women brought around a big pan full of freshly grilled chicken breasts, pounded thin and seasoned lightly. It must have taken hours to grill all of that chicken on the tiny grate over the oil-drum grill.
We weren't expecting dessert, but then it appeared: a tray filled with styrofoam cups with spoon handles sticking straight up and jiggling rapidly as they were served. Yes, it was JELLO - grape JELLO.
To eat it, or not to eat it, that was the question. I did not worry one bit about eating it, and dug in with my white plastic spoon. It was cold and delicious. The other delegation members, well-trained not to drink the local water unless it is boiled were skeptical.
"It's half-boiled," one person reasoned.
"Then I'll only eat half," another replied.
It was hard to refuse such a treat, made with great effort in a very hot place where very few have refrigerators. "That probably means they used ice to make it jell."
Oh no, the dreaded ice - we all know the effects of the dreaded ice.
In the end, everyone ate the grape JELLO, and then came the waiting for the special effects. Gracias a Dios, no ill effects were experienced.
Two days later, we sat around a big table at another home with another set of wonderful cooks, and another serving of JELLO - this time, cherry red. The little boy next to me was so excited, "Gelatina!" he crowed, "just like I told you - it's my favorite food!"
Some ate half, some ate it all, and all was well.
Why this sudden popularity of JELLO - something we had never eaten in El Salvador up to this point in time? Who knows...maybe someone in the community got a refrigerator that works...or maybe they are more skilled at getting JELLO to jell with ice than I am.
And why did we not feel any ill effects of what was certainly made with water that is notorious for causing extreme effects? Well...maybe JELLO made by Lutherans and eaten by Lutherans really is a food made in heaven.