Free lunch at Langley CMA Church is set in stone

It was a rocking good lunch on Tuesday in the basement of Langley’s Christian & Missionary Alliance Church as volunteers in the kitchen served up “stone soup” to more than 250 people.

“It was an exciting day,” said Chef Dan Saul of Clinton. “We got a lot of people involved.”

“It was really nice,” he jokingly added, “except for the people who complained about breaking their teeth.”

The special event, a take-off on an ancient folk tale, was a salute to the city for its support of the twice-weekly free lunch produced at the church by community volunteers.

About a dozen city employees joined the regulars in the food line, and later were presented with an official certificate of recognition.

“We also put the stone in the mayor’s bowl,” Saul said.

“The stone soup was awesome,” Mayor Paul Samuelson said. “The stone is in my office on my desk. It’s still sticky.”

The stone-soup story tells of a group of hungry strangers who come to a village seeking food. When the villagers say they have none to spare, the strangers decide to make stone soup.

They put a stone in a pot of water, and bring it to a boil. Curious villagers, offering advice on how to improve the soup, each end up contributing a small amount of ingredients they decide they can spare after all.

Before long, a hearty soup has been prepared, enough to serve the entire village and the strangers, too.

The stone for Tuesday’s soup at the church was donated by Fred Evander, Langley’s assistant planner. Saul had approached city staffers to say thanks for the support, and asked what kind of soup they wanted.

Evander said Debbie Mahler, city clerk-treasurer, suggested stone soup.

“She said it sounds just like Langley — it has a little bit of everything,” Evander said.

He said the soup stone is round, about the size of a large fist, and has the look and color of a lump of dough.

“It was one we had around the house,” Evander said. “It looked like you could put it in water, and it might actually turn into soup.”

Along with the stone, Saul and his helpers, using Saul’s own recipe for “One Village Full Stone Soup,” added 19 other ingredients, including 12 green and yellow vegetables, garlic, cooked pasta and five pounds of cooked chicken meat in each pot. They made two large pots.

“It was a sweet-tasting soup,” said Evander, who finished his entire bowl full. “It was good. I couldn’t taste the stone.”

The kitchen volunteers have been preparing a community lunch at the church each Tuesday and Thursday for nearly seven years.

The program started as a way to provide meals to hungry people who need them.

The first lunch served about 25 people, Saul said, and since then attendance has steadily increased. Everyone is welcome.

Jean Matheny, who is in charge of the Thursday lunch, said the customer demographic also has expanded.

“We have a lot of people who come to socialize, too, because they’re lonesome and need support,” she said.

Matheny, of Langley, has been in on the program since the beginning, along with Sharon Giberson of Clinton, who helped to start it.

Matheny said about 15 volunteers regularly work on Tuesdays, and about 10 on Thursdays.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “Everybody’s been so good about pitching in.”

Saul is assisted in the kitchen on Tuesdays by Gary Van Dusen and Des Lyons. Matheny gets help on Thursdays from Sally Berry and Saul Kitz.

Saul and Matheny said the soup kitchen receives donated items from area individuals, stores and food banks. Each lunch usually includes at least one soup and other hot dishes, along with salad and dessert.

“Whatever we have, we use,” Matheny said.

The lunch is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Saul said each day’s meals cost a little more than

$100 to prepare, an amount usually covered by the day’s donations.

Saul, 75, has owned property on the island for more than 30 years. He said he has never been a professional chef, but has always been interested in cooking.

“They advertised for a cook, and I said here I am,” he said.

He’s been helping to prepare the lunches ever since, with the help of two large books of his own recipes.

The certificate of recognition to the city says that from now on, “Stone Soup will be known as Langley Soup.”

“I like that,” Evander said. “It’s cool.”

“It was a wonderful time,” the mayor said of the lunch. “The soup kitchen is a real community treasure.”

The soup kitchen at the Langley CMA church at Sixth Street and Cascade Avenue serves hot lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday. For information, to donate or to volunteer, call 221-6980.

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