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FROM THE BACK PEWS: A taste of all sorts of tradition

I am a sucker for free food. And this past weekend was very tasty.

I went to three places where the opportunity for free food presented itself. I sometimes joke that the only reason I go to the events I am invited to is because of the free food.

The first event I photographed was the Ramadan potluck held at the La Cañada Community Center on Friday night hosted by the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge.

The place was packed, and so was the food table. Everything from traditional dishes to In-N-Out burgers was served. It was incredible. People were piling on as much food as their paper plates could hold, and eating it just as merrily.

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Of course, you have to realize that half the people there had been fasting for hours. I had several people telling me to get something to eat; I had to politely decline, since I find it difficult to work and eat at the same time. By the time I had finished photographing the event, most of the food was gone, but I felt happy for the Islamic congregation that the event had been such a success.

The second place I photographed was the Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting held at Memorial Park on Sunday afternoon.

The place was packed, and so were the wine and food tents. Everything from fresh peaches wrapped in prosciutto with a balsamic glaze, to pulled-pork sandwiches, to red velvet cupcakes was served. And enough wine and beer was available for the city of La Cañada to open its own winery and distillery. Even though the event was not religious in nature, I’m sure most of the people who attended would put wine and beer among the top three religions.

I had several people telling me to get something to eat and drink; again, I had to politely decline.

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The last place I went to was the Bernhard residence, where I would be photographing the family partaking in the traditional meal eaten after Yom Kippur.

Mom Amy had prepared an abbreviated version for me of the meal that would break the family’s fast at the end of Yom Kippur next week. The meal included servings of lox, or smoked salmon, bagels with cream cheese and cinnamon rolls.

The rolls are nontraditional. The cream cheese is spread on the bagel, a slice of red onion is placed on top of that, and the smoked salmon comes next. By the time Yom Kippur ends, the family will have gone without eating for 25 hours, so the foods served post-fast have to be light or dairy in nature, hence the salmon, bagels and cream cheese. I have to say, by the time this assignment ended, I had to partake in what Amy had prepared.

These foods reminded me of my own religious and nonreligious traditions and their associated foods. I hearkened back to the days of posadas and champurrado and tamales at Christmastime; enchiladas, beans, rice and chiles rellenos at quinceañeras and Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations; respados, paletas and corn on the cob covered with butter, mayonnaise and salt (you know, the ones with the stick coming out the end, sold by the man with the cart?) after Mass; or the fresh beef tacos, sprinkled with lemon and salt that our prayer group sells each week fresh off the barbecue.

I’d be curious to know what your foods are. What are the foods of your religious and nonreligious traditions? Do you still eat them? Or are you like me, craving a warm cup of champurrado right about now because you haven’t had it in years?


?MICHAEL J. ARVIZU is a reporter for the La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader newspapers. Reach him at (818) 637-3263, or e-mail michael.arvizu@ latimes.com


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