On Tuesday, after I got home from the Maadi Women's Guild meeting, I started prepping for Tuesday night. Jeff and I had volunteered to host this week's meeting of our cell ... uh, life ... group. These small groups, affiliated with Maadi Community Church (MCC), used to be called cell groups. Soon after I first mentioned them in a blog entry, a friend from home sent me an email joking that back there, "cell group" meant something entirely different from how it's used at MCC. Well, our pastor told us just a couple of weeks ago that the Egyptian government was a little concerned about our cell groups . . . so we changed their name to "life groups." Apparently that's all it took to satisfy the government. I guess the phrase "cell group" means the same thing to the Egyptian government as it does to most Americans :-)
Anyway, Jeff and I were hosting this week's life group meeting. That would be why I cleaned all day on Monday. So I spent Tuesday afternoon dusting the table tops again--funny, how dust reappears on the horizontal surfaces overnight in this part of the world--and moving the arm chairs from the den into the living room to provide some extra seating. Then I started cooking.
At our last meeting, I had discovered that the South African members of our group didn't quite understand what we Americans meant when we said the word "biscuit." They had some crazy notion that biscuits are sweet, cookie-like things. One even said how disgusted she had been when she heard Oprah talk about biscuits and gravy. So I decided that when we hosted cell ... life group this week, I would educate them about biscuits. The snacks for this week would include biscuits (complete with "filling" options of butter, apple butter, grape jelly, strawberry jam, and real Jimmy Dean pork sausage), apple pie, chips'n'dip, and peanuts. Then for good measure, I decided to add monkey bread. For those of you who aren't familiar with monkey bread, it's a cake consisting of chunks of biscuits coated in sugar and cinammon. The icing is a mix of powdered sugar and milk. I thought monkey bread would be great for cell group for two reasons: (1) it's another form of biscuit and (2) one of our life group members has started a running joke by convincing the small child of another member that "Monkey" is a more appropriate name than "Mommy." By introducing monkey bread, I could add a little fuel to that flame without actually getting involved. The trouble-maker in me just couldn't resist . . . and actually didn't try all that hard.
This was to be my first time making monkey bread without my mom actually being there. All went well while I prepared the monkey bread and put it in the oven. Jeff volunteered to pull it out after it was ready and put the icing on it while I went to get a shower and get ready for life group. The problems started 45 minutes later, when I came back to the kitchen to put the pie in the oven. The monkey bread was still in there, and it wasn't done yet. I had been thinking that it only took 15 minutes or so to cook, but it was nowhere near done. So we left it in for another 10 minutes or so . . . still not done. At this point, the pie had to go in the oven, and it had to cook at a hotter temperature than the monkey bread. So I turned the heat up to get the oven preheated for the pie, then did what any daughter does in a situation like that: I called Mom. It turns out that monkey bread usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to cook, and I had used more biscuits than Mom usually does, so it was going to take longer. Mom suggested that I take the monkey bread out of the oven, divide it into two pans, and put it back in for a few more minutes. But by then, I was fixated on getting the pie in, and Jeff, who hadn't eaten lunch or dinner, wanted to munch on the parts of the monkey bread that were done. I left the monkey bread in the oven a little while longer, then pulled it out, with predictable results. Part of it was burnt; part of it was raw; part of it was just right. Jeff ate the just right and part of the burnt. I put the pie in the oven and told Jeff I'd try to make him some more edible monkey bread some other time.
So eventually, the pie came out of the oven, the cats went in their own little room (they're not so good at staying off tables, especially when there's food around), and the food went on the table. People started showing up not long after that. The biscuits were a huge hit. Apparently American biscuits aren't readily available here, and I knew the pork sausage would be a rare treat. So the Americans in our group were delighted, and the South Africans seemed to understand and appreciate American biscuits too. Our discussion--about community, fellowship, and outreach--was peppered with references to sausage biscuits. It wasn't until after the Bible study was over that I mentioned that no one had touched the apple pie. "There's apple pie too?! I didn't notice that!" And three-fourths of the pie disappeared. I'd say the evening was a success, and the monkey bread wasn't missed . . . although it sure would have been fun to introduce.