Food-centered Activities

Making fish shaped pretzels

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To make fish shaped soft pretzels, which are part of the Festal Meal, use your favorite basic bread recipe, either white or whole wheat, or use defrosted frozen bread dough. After letting the dough rise once, punch it down and divide it into golf ball size pieces; dough made with four cups of flour will make about 20 balls. Have the children roll their balls into ropes about 10 inches long. To make fish shapes, have the children make ovals with overlapping ends (these ends function as the fish tails). Put the fish shaped dough on a well greased baking sheet about an inch apart and let rise for 20 minutes. This would be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the 20 minutes of rising time, have the children take turns brushing the fish-shaped dough with a mixture of one egg yolk beaten lightly with one tablespoon of milk or cream, then sprinkle coarse salt, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds over them (it's also fine to leave them plain). Put a shallow pan of boiling water on the lowest oven shelf, and on a higher shelf bake the pretzels for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks and save for the Festal Meal.

on the loose in boston While the children are working on their pretzels, you could remind them about how the angel Raphael stopped the fearsome fish from swallowing the boy Tobias, and about how he got to eat the fish instead! You could also talk about how angels took care of Jesus when he fasted for 40 days in the desert; it's nice to know that even Jesus himself was cared for by angels. As the dough rises, you might tell the story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes--as they watch their own fish-shaped "loaves" get bigger and bigger.

Menu ideas for the Festal Meal

For the main course, maintaining the focus on fish, this might be a good time to prepare your favorite tuna casserole. If you don't have a favorite, try this very simple and fun version: empty the following five cans into a bowl, mix together, and bake for 30 minutes at 350: one can of tuna, one can of cream of mushroom soup, one can of cream of chicken soup, one can of evaporated milk, and one can of Chinese noodles (the noodles end up looking like worms, much to the delight of the children). If you want, you can crumble potato chips over the top before baking.

For dessert, consider an angel food cake with whipped cream. Having children help whip the cream is a good lesson in the power and presence of that which is invisible: invisible air changes the liquid cream to whipped cream.

Other foods to put out on the table: sliced apples to dip in honey (an ancient Jewish custom for this time of year), dates and raisins as reminders of the dried foods travelers such as Tobias would have carried, as well as almonds and olives which are native to Israel, and blackberries or blackberry jam for Michaelmas.
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Preparing the table

Because Michaelmas has also traditionally been a festival honoring early autumn, each child could make a name card for the table by drawing, cutting out, and coloring an autumn leaf and then writing his or her own name on it. As they write their names on the leaves, remind them that each of us has a name that is precious to God. If you want to establish who sits where, collect the leaves and set them out just before the meal; otherwise let the children put them at their places once they have finished making them (you could continue on here and have the children set the table as well). As a centerpiece on the table to be used for the Festal Meal, arrange a vase or a bowl of fall daisies, choosing what is available in your region, from the tall blue New England asters to the low growing white daisies of the Southwest -- or fill a bowl with autumn leaves. If the children have made angel mobiles, hang them in the room where the meal is to be held. In front of an adult's place at the table, place a candle, to be lit at the start of the Festal Meal, and a bell to ring midway.

For plans and liturgy for the Epiphany meal, click here.

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