Orange Salad and Johnny Marzetti


Louise Buff Christie, my son Rhett’s great-grandmother, was a renowned cook. In fact, from the time of her husband’s death in 1948 until her own in 1972, she baked and sold goodies from her home kitchen for hostesses of almost every event in Denmark, South Carolina, to supplement her income. Her delicious cakes, pies, and party desserts were sought after by brides for weddings and receptions, by organizers of bazaars, and by many a sweet-toothed church potluck crowd.

After I became her granddaughter-in-law in 1963, definitely one who did not share the “renowned cook” status, Grannie Christie’s special treat for me was divinity fudge, a box full every Christmas. I loved it (and her lemon meringue pie, too). The only problem was that other family members near to me when I opened my fudge thought it was for them, too! Sharing her cooking was part of the pleasure, I guess.


Today, as I started preparing her recipe for Orange Congealed Salad, affectionately known in our family as Orange Goop, for our Abel House potluck tomorrow night, I felt her presence there beside me. I miss her, but readying for Abel House brought her back for a time.

And then I noticed the changes I and health concerns have made in her recipe. Gone are the old Jello that was mostly sugar and the high-fat mayonnaise. Dream Whip is not even any longer available. Now, the dish is just as scrumptious made with no-sugar Jello, Kraft Lite Mayo, and Kraft Lite Cool Whip. I still used the Philadelphia original cream cheese, I confess. I wonder what Grannie Christie would think about those changes.

Still getting ready, tomorrow, I will prepare the Johnny Marzetti as a second dish for the feast time at Abel House. No family tradition with that! In fact, I have never eaten this dish! Don requested it, saying that he used to go to a home church to which one of his favorite people always brought marzetti or “something like that.” Now, I have read every single Donna Leon book and eaten Italian food every chance I ever had in my lifetime, but I had never ever heard of a dish called marzetti.

A quick Google check turned up recipes for Johnny Mazetti or Marzetti or several other names with the story that the dish was concocted not in Italy but in a restaurant owned by Teresa Marzetti on Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio. The legend is that she named the hamburger-pasta casserole after her brother-in-law, Johnny. In one of those strange twists, Teresa Marzetti ran her restaurant until her death, also in 1972. By then, her Johnny Marzetti dish was well known and popular all over the Midwest—and apparently in Florida, too! The green olives in it that Don especially liked were added by someone in Panama.

As almost everyone who knows me knows: I am no cook! But preparing for the Abel House feast is bringing me great joy. I have reconnected with a woman who welcomed me into her family more than fifty years ago and met another family of great Italian cooks making what has become an American dish, and I have begun the preparation of my heart and mind for the fellowship and learning I will find anew Wednesday evening at Abel House. Just as I shared that divinity fudge and those countless Italian meals with people I love, I will share food, time, and God’s word with my new family. That is joy! And along with looking forward to the fellowship, I look forward to the positive changes I know the gathering at Abel House will make in us all.

34 Souls


What an amazing evening. You could almost feel the energy in the air. There was amazing food. Amazing people. More than that, it was it was an amazing call.

Our call is not to do, rather, it is to be.


When we gather, it is to see ourselves for who we are, the Church. The hands and feet of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) Eating a meal together reminds us that God provides. Here in America, it is possible to waste. We have been given so much we forget that God does in fact provide. His providence is so abundant we take it for granted.


Getting together to have dinner, then sitting down to enjoy that meal, we are reminded that God is the one that assembles us, and then distributes us to the world. For the the world’s benefit, not ours. As He provides for us, he provides us to the world.


A family of families. Our call to be the church crosses affinity and it crosses bloodlines. It is deeper than that. It is an eternal belonging. A place of unconditional love. At the same time, it isn’t safe. It is messy. Belonging to a family has its hardships and difficulties. It is uncomfortable at times.

Being a part of Abel House begs you to follow the Great I AM, loving those around you. And that my friends, is living a sacrificial life. (Romans 12:1-2)

Gathering Times and Places


Abel House is a distributed church. Our name has its roots in Abel’s offering to the LORD. The LORD took pleasure in it. (Gen 4:3-5) Our desire is to live a life that is a worthy sacrifice to God as Romans 12:1-2 tells us; that He might hold us in regard.

The Details

When not playing games together, we typically get together on Wednesday nights from 6:30pm to 9pm. While we do rotate houses we meet in, we will mostly meet at Rob’s House. You can find us here:

Dinner is at 7pm. Study time starts around 8pm. Bring your Bible. If you don’t have one, that is okay. We will get you one. We are reading through the all of the Prophets, seeing Jesus in them. (Luke 24:13-35, Acts 10:43)

Tweet me to let me know you are coming. Would love to see you.

Our First Gathering


May 27th! 7PM, if you are bringing food please come at 6:30pm to prep; that would be great so we can eat at 7.

We will say a few words regarding communion each week, then we will eat for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then we will gather in the living room and start our lesson time.

Hopefully we will wrap up around 9PM. There isn’t really a time I will kick you out, but that is when I will put my kids to bed. (I have had people stay as late as 3AM!)

Also, Please RSVP (tweet me) so that we know how much food to serve. You can see who has RSVP’d and what food is being provided here:

Already, lasagna and enchiladas are slated to be served.

While you are here, have a look around. Sue and Trish have posted some excellent articles here. Lindsay has some things she is also working on for it as well. As time progresses it will be a great place for reflection and information.

So, who is coming, and what are you bringing?

I cannot tell you how excited I am!