Time was when Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue, smack in the midst of a farming community, held sunrise breakfasts so busy farmers could have coffee, a meal and a short service and get into the fields to plant crops.
These informal meetings, held at homes, are still going on, four in the spring, four at fall harvest time. Now, however, few who attend are actually farmers; they just like the custom, or they like the notion of church at 7 a.m.
At one breakfast earlier this month at Donna and Carl Czajkowski's home in South Jamesport, George Reeve, 61, descended from one of the oldest Long Island families, was the only honest-to-goodness farmer in attendance.
He said he is "retired" but, "I'm there every day" at Bayview Farms in Aquebogue, the farm stand run by his brother. Reeve said he recalls the breakfasts back when he was in high school, when there were fewer farm stands. "Retail demands you be there every day," he said.
The crowd at breakfast "used to be mostly farmers," Reeve said. "Nowadays, it's diversification," he added as he sipped a cup of tea on the Czajkowskis' sun porch overlooking Peconic Bay. "We always grew some vegetables, but now we grow more than 50 different crops."
Janet Wright and Nancy Dillingham of Aquebogue told of a cowboy church service they had attended at the Alamo in Texas, and showed around a "Cowboy Bible," inspirational rodeo stories interspersed with Scripture.
The next week, the Rev. Ledyard S. Baxter conducted church in front of a Hoosier hutch at the home of Maribeth and John Andresen in Aquebogue. The Andresen place is a 7-acre working farm with goats, sheep, horses, dogs and cats, so blessing the animals was part of the service. (John Andresen is a veterinarian.)
The Andresens, busy with farm chores, put out purchased croissants and doughnuts instead of the homemade French toast, pineapple dish and cake the Czajkowskis had served the week before.
Nobody minded. On a farm, such tasks as milking must be done daily, even on Sunday.
Donna Czajkowski adapted this recipe from the cookbook that came with a GE microwave in 1979. She left out the rum at breakfast time.
1 medium fresh pineapple
1 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin orange sections, drained
1/2 cup maraschino cherries without stems, drained
1/2 cup sweet orange marmalade
1/4 cup light rum, optional
1. Cut pineapple, including leafy crown, in half lengthwise. Cut out fruit, leaving shell intact. Remove woody core; cut remaining fruit into chunks.
2. Toss pineapple chunks with coconut, almonds, orange sections, cherries and marmalade.
3. Place pineapple shells in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch dish or on a serving plate suitable for microwave. Fill shells with fruit mixture. Cover with wax paper. Microwave on high about 2 minutes, or 3 if pineapple was cold.
4. If using rum, place in glass cup and microwave on high for 20 seconds. Remove 1 tablespoon rum; pour rest over pineapple. Ignite rum in spoon and pour over pineapple to flame at table. Makes 6 servings.