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Sabbath Lunch at the Spectrum Café


As a college student studying in Spain, Sabbath lunch favorites like haystacks and Fri-Chik were nowhere in sight. I didn’t miss them. My peers and I were too busy circling around the potluck perimeter like hungry tiburones (sharks), waiting for the chance to politely, but quickly, strike. Potluck and the community it created was the same, despite a different menu.

But even better than church potlucks was an invitation to a Spanish family’s house. If, until 3 p.m., one could overcome hunger with patience (the Spanish enjoy a leisurely, late lunch), a feast appeared on the table, dish by fragrant dish. Conversation centered first on the food, to a student chorus of muy, muy bueno, then drifted into international waters.

In broken Spanish that grew better as the year progressed, we discussed languages, beliefs, shared experiences and new perspectives—even politics, after clearing the table of breakable glassware. Sabbath lunches lingered into dinners; they were well worth the wait. And as a vegan in a country where I was once asked, “If you don’t eat meat, what do you eat?” Sabbath lunch was a chance to feast with abandon, no questions asked about ingredients.

“Food is our common ground, our universal experience,” James Beard said. The renowned American chef and writer understood that meals shared with others are one way to begin a conversation. Initiate discussion on the merits of a casserole or taco, and dialogue continues beyond the first course. We share experiences, discuss beliefs, build community. By the time that coffee (decaf or regular) is served, so is our human need for friendship–just as much as our need for nourishment.

Sabbath lunches are part of this celebration of rest. They offer one of few meals not hurried by work the next day, or other weekly concerns. Instead, we linger, dribble the last drops of mushroom gravy over Special K loaf, or, as Adventist cooking absorbs international flavors, discretely scrape the bottom of a bowl of fragrant curry. Then we head for the hills on a hike, or sink into the couch for a Sabbath siesta—traditionally.

In this and following columns, we look forward to setting a feast for you. You’ll read more about the people that make Sabbath meals memorable—a food blogger and her relationship with her online community; a college church host who experienced a modern version of the feeding of the 5,000; and why one Spanish doctor was horrified by the first (uneventful) dinner seminar he attended in the U.S. We’ll share thoughtful perspectives on Sabbath lunches, then and now—and what makes the tradition worth keeping, whether in a restaurant or at home.

As a takeaway, we’ll also include a tested-and-true recipe for your own Sabbath table.

We’d also love to hear stories of your memorable meals. What was an unforgettable Sabbath lunch? What dish will you feature on your Sabbath table? Let us know in the comments below. And as the Sabbath hours draw near here on the West Coast, buen provecho (enjoy your meal)—and thank you for sharing lunch with Spectrum.

Rice and Lentil Salad with Papaya Mango Dressing (pictured)

This week’s recipe is for Wild Rice and Lentil Salad with Papaya Mango Dressing, from Kathleen Burnham in California. In addition to seeing family members after a year in Spain, this dish was one of things I appreciated about home. A main dish with fresh flavors that appeals to vegans and just about everyone else, it can come together in 15 minutes with pre-cooked ingredients. Prepare it the night before—or combine in a large bowl while hungry lunch guests pace outside the kitchen.

For those who live near Trader Joe’s, all items can be purchased at this store, and most grocery stores. Disclaimer: Kathleen Burnham is my mother.

Serves: 8 (approximately)
Prep: 15 min.

2 cups cooked wild or brown rice (can buy frozen, then reheat, for convenience)
2 cups cooked lentils
½ – ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup orange-flavored or plain dried cranberries
½ cup (approximately) fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Lettuce, chopped

1 ½ cups papaya-mango salsa, or similar
¼ cup (or to taste) extra-virgin olive oil

1. Mix salad ingredients together in a large bowl, with proportions to taste.
2. Prepare the dressing by thinning the salsa with extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad, and mix thoroughly to combine. If making ahead, pause here and refrigerate.
3. To serve, place the chopped lettuce on a large platter. Pile the salad on top, and garnish with cilantro.

Can make one day in advance (add more cilantro before serving for fresher color). Freezes well.

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