I once read a wonderful essay in a popular travel guidebook that lauded the good meals a person can find in the rural areas and small towns of Maryland. The writer of this essay, accustomed to dining in the restaurants of New York City, thought he would miss the famous cuisine of New York when he and his family moved to Southern Maryland.
He was surprised and delighted to learn about a new way of dining out -- at fire halls and American Legion posts and community centers, where volunteers roll up their sleeves, arrive at the kitchen at 4 a.m. to start peeling potatoes and mixing pancake batter that will feed breakfast to hundreds of townspeople, and at supper feasts in spring and fall where men and women peel shrimp, shuck oysters, prepare turkeys and fry chicken to feed the masses.
Through these community meals, this former New Yorker discovered he could eat quite well on a budget -- and that the price of his meal ticket went for worthy causes.
You'll discover the same joys of dining out over the next few weekends in the fire halls and community centers of Northwest Carroll.
One of the rites of spring in this end of the county is Taneytown Lions Club's community breakfast, to be held March 18, beginning at 5 a.m. and ending at 11:30 a.m. at the Taneytown Carnival Grounds Building.
This breakfast bonanza will offer pancakes flipped before your eyes, eggs cooked to order, sausage gravy that has been simmering all night, grilled sausage patties, hominy and pudding.
Nearly 50 Lions Club members get involved in the breakfast, from setup to cleanup, cooking to publicizing, ticket-taking to baking. The event includes a bake table and a raffle for two hams during breakfast hours.
"It's a labor of love for people who are a part of Lionism," said Claude Elmore, public relations officer for the club. "Wives are as much a part of this as the men are. These people do a fantastic job. People get to the breakfast as early as 3 a.m. to start cooking."
In the unofficial competition of weekend breakfasts in Carroll County, the food at these feasts is unbeatable for quantity and taste.
Mr. Elmore takes a lot of pride in the absolute freshness of ingredients and cooked-to-order food.
Tickets are $4.50 for adults; $2.25 for children 6 to 12. Proceeds will benefit the Taneytown Fire Company Building Fund.
Anyone who has driven down Baltimore Street in Taneytown in the past few months has noticed big changes in the fire company building, and its remodeling will be complete before the end of the month. No federal, state or local government funds have been used for this remodeling effort.
"In today's world, as I see disinvolvement in federal, state and local government, volunteers are picking up the lion's share of what needs to be done," Mr. Elmore said. "Volunteers are involving themselves in activities to help people who wouldn't get it any other way."
For information about the Lions Club or the breakfast, call 751-1227.
You won't have to cook at all March 18. The Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8806 in Union Bridge will sponsor a Chicken 'n' Ham Smorgasbord at the VFW hall on Locust Street in Union Bridge from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.
The event is all-you-can-eat for $7 for adults, $3.50 for children 6 to 12 and free for children under 6.
The menu will include fried chicken, ham, au gratin potatoes, green beans and fruit cocktail -- everything is made at the post -- plus desserts, from layer cakes to gelatin molds, created by members of the auxiliary.
Money raised by the dinner will benefit community projects and needs, from the mortgage on the new Union Bridge Town Hall to children who are cancer victims.
After the dinner, stay for a country dance sponsored by the
auxiliary and featuring disc jockey Gary Toms.
Beer, chips and pretzels are included in the admission ticket price of $8 for singles and $15 per couple. A cash bar will be available.
Anyone interested in helping at the Union Bridge community breakfast March 19 at the community center on Ladiesburg Road should call Elaine Holmes at 775-7017.
Don't forget the toy show sponsored by Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Taneytown Fireman's Activities Building. Admission is $2 for adults; children under age 12 will be admitted free. Information: 756-6039 or 756-2430.
Winners of the American Heritage essay contest, sponsored by Taneytown Lions Club, are Traci Wenzing of Frizzellburg and runner-up Kristi Partner of New Windsor. Both are students at Francis Scott Key High School.
Traci's essay on "What My American Heritage Means to Me" has been entered in the Lions Club's regional essay competition. Both young women read their essays at the February meeting of the club. Traci won a $100 savings bond; Kristi won a $50 savings bond.