Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent, a somber church season that prepares Christians around the world for Easter. Lent has a reputation for being serious, for being more about self-denial than indulgence, and brings to mind fasting and images of the crucifixion. What might not immediately come to mind is an important worldly part of Lent worth noting—the focus on food and fellowship. Lent provides more opportunities than normal for Christians to gather and share meals, as well as the chance to worship and pray together.
Churches that have midweek Lenten services with meals either before or after mesh religious life with rich history, reminding us of the early church traditions of sharing food and living lives together. Whether you’ve been particularly observant in the past or not, Lent is a wonderful time to delve deeply into the spiritual side of your life, and to enjoy good food with other believers.
From soups to stews, salads and desserts, Lent is time to try new foods and remember old favorites. Whether you’re out of new ideas to wow your fellow potluck cooks or new to cooking for shared meals, here’s some foods to add to your recipe rotation, and recipes to double or quadruple to share with your church family.
Go Allergy-Friendly With An Old Classic
Nothing says comfort food quite like chicken and rice soup, especially in a day and age where it’s likely that at least a few of your fellow pew sitters have an allergy (or three). Easily adaptable to suit what you’ve got on hand in the pantry or freezer, this quick soup is easy to make large quantities of. If mushrooms are your jam, try this version.
Go Simple And Flavorful With Taco Soup
Ok, so it’s not haute cuisine combining canned foods to make soup, but stick with me here. Beans, chicken, and the flavors of west-mex come together here to make a fast and affordable soup that’ll be different than the other offerings at your local potluck. Eight-can taco soup is accurately named and it’s easy to keep the fixings in a cabinet for last-minute meal prep. Serve with some tortilla chips, sour cream, and cheese, and you’re all set.
Step Back In Time With Borscht
Food can be an important way to teach traditions, and so it is with borscht. Most familiar to those of us with Eastern European families, borscht combines stock and beets to make a vivid soup. Available either vegetarian or meat-based, borscht packs a powerful nutritional punch with a deceptive amount of vegetables inside. Garnish with fresh bread and sour cream, and enjoy.
Hearty and Creamy Potatoes
Few things are as filling as a hearty potato soup, and Zuppa Toscana combines sausage, some leafy greens, and potatoes to make a creamy soup that will please any crowd. Recipes abound for this Italian classic, including versions close to those you can find at restaurants. This is another soup that easily adapts to allergen-free versions, so if that suits your needs, this is a great choice.
Try Something Different With Pozole
If you’ve never had pozole, the unique blend of hominy and pork brings together flavors and textures that might be a little intimidating. Take a chance and try something new, and you won’t regret it. Serve it with fresh veggies on the side, and be prepared to share the recipe with friends.
As for Salads
I promised salads, not just soups, and these pair well with the above dishes or on their own. The best part about making salads is it’s really impossible to go wrong when combining vegetables, fruits, sauces, and proteins. I polled my friends for their best salads, and these were the suggestions.
This year, try one of the many iterations of Greek salad, a tangy Catalina taco salad, or if you’re really interested in shocking friends, bring back a vintage (and possibly liturgically coordinated) Jell-O salad.
Focus on Christ this Lent, but also take the time to share a good meal with the family around you and your church.