I really like eating international church and mosque food. I ate an amazing meal last week at an incredibly friendly Norwegian church, and I enjoyed one of the best meals of my life in a parking lot behind an Indonesian mosque in Astoria. So when I found out that there was a Lithuanian festival in a church in Williamsburg, I was pretty excited. This was going to be awesome!
So I went to Williamsburg and… thud.
Supposedly, the Lithuanian festival was scheduled until 4:00. I arrived a few minutes after 3:00, and didn’t see any signs of life anywhere near the church—just a single, small, handwritten sign in Lithuanian, which didn’t help me too much. Eventually, I ran across a priest and an elderly lady on the stairs of the church. I smiled and waited patiently to ask them about the festival… and they steadfastly ignored me for an uncomfortably long time.
Eventually, the priest deigned to glance at me, and I politely inquired about the food. “Sorry, all gone,” he said, and walked away. As he walked away, I saw a $20 bill flutter under a parked car. I grabbed it, politely called for his attention, and asked if he’d lost the money.
“Hm. That’s weird,” he said, pocketing the cash. He didn’t look at me or thank me.
Um… yeah. You’re welcome, Father!
Despite the unfriendly start, I had a funny feeling that there was some food left somewhere, so I loitered around the church until a much friendlier lady tottered down the front stairs. We struck up a pleasant conversation about the festival and Lithuanian cuisine, and I asked if there was any food left at all. She said that there might be some baked goods or kugela left in the basement, and invited me inside the church.
I went downstairs, and was eventually greeted by a pair of friendlier Lithuanian parishioners, who pointed me toward the bakery table. I took one of everything that was left: a piece of babka (lightly sweetened bread with a swirl of blueberry jam), a tasty crumb cake with raisins, a piece of lemon cake, some sort of fruit turnover dusted with powdered sugar, some stale raisin bread, and—oddly enough—a brownie. I jokingly asked if brownies were Lithuanian. The answer: “Yes! They are Lithuanian because they were homemade!” The friendly Lithuanian lady explained that many of the other items were legitimately Lithuanian, and then she proceeded to overcharge me slightly for the baked goods. Whatever.
So there you have it. I ate Lithuanian food, baked by real Lithuanians. I did not, however, eat the jaundiced hotdogs that were sitting on an unattended table by the stairwell, rotting away in their sad little buns. I also did not eat the bloated, jaundiced hotdogs that were floating in an unplugged crock pot on the other end of that same table. Nobody offered them to me, anyway. I paid the nice Lithuanian lady, and left.
But I was sad: that was easily the lamest international food experience I’d had in a long time. No food blessings for me at the Lithuanian church.
To ease my pain, I trekked over to the Tacos Morelos truck on the corner of North 7th and Bedford, which serves my favorite Mexican food in NYC. I drowned my sorrows in a ridiculously tasty tlacoyo ($4 with meat, $2.50 without): a lovably thick torpedo of grilled cornmeal, topped with refried beans, cheese, onions, sour cream, chicken, guacamole, and one of the best Mexican-style hot sauces I’ve encountered in NYC.
I felt somewhat spiritually healed after eating the tlacoyo, but there was still a little hole in my soul from being denied the pleasure of a full Lithuanian church lunch. So I trekked a few blocks further east, in the direction of the ferry home to Midtown, and ran across the Brooklyn flea market. The Vaquero family (of Red Hook ball fields fame) was selling their usual array of fruit, juices, and corn, so I finished cheering myself up with a nice cob of grilled corn ($3), rolled in butter, cheese, and chile powder, just like they make in Mexico.
I’d finally received my high-calorie blessing for the day. Too bad the blessings were bestowed farther away from the Lithuanian church than I’d expected. Viva México!
usually parked at Bedford Ave. & North 7th Street, Brooklyn
Subway: Bedford Ave. (L train)