Steve Garrow has been cooking meals for the community at the West Fairlee Church since 2004. Before that he helped at the Chelsea United Church with their Chicken Pie Suppers and Roast Beef Suppers, preparing potatoes and vegetables.
From 1953-1955 Steve was a cook in the Army serving three hundred officers three times a day for sit-down meals at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He would have gone into cooking after that but he could only earn ninety cents an hour in a restaurant, a far cry from the dollar and a quarter he earned at the woolen mill. This was when a loaf of bread and a gallon of gasoline were each seventeen cents.
Steve has also cooked at home since he was quite young, growing up as the son of a cattle dealer in Woodstock, Vermont. His mother had health challenges, and taught him to cook because the help was genuinely needed.
Steve and Lorna moved to Vershire in 1985, when they lived on the farm near West Fairlee on Rt. 113 where the barn has fallen in but the silo remains standing. Now they live on Rt. 113 closer to the center of Vershire.
The Garrows are members of The West Fairlee Church besides offering food to the community there. Steve describes the congregation as “comfortable feeling” where a person is not “in the clique or out of the clique” as he has found at other churches. He like to “keep the drama out of the church and home.”
The Church also hosts a meal after each Sunday’s 5:30 service, including soup, lasagne, quiche, chicken pie or other entree, salad and dessert. Steve says, “It’s a good relaxing time. Everybody cares about one another.” In addition, there is a Soup Night on third Thursdays of the month. Before the new church kitchen was put in they used Bean Hall for events.
Steve now organizes a crew to offer community meals such as the Game Supper in West Fairlee that can require “twenty-five people all together to put on a meal this size” with two seatings and serving “toward three hundred” hungry diners. Charlie Gillingham and Bruce Hook are two of Steve’s regular assistants.
The publicity is also primarily Steve’s job. He reaches out through It’s Classified, the local list servs, Front Porch Forum, the Journal-Opinion, the Valley News, Channel 3 and several radio stations as well as an email list and paper flyers on bulletin boards. Most of the advertising and calendar listings are free, with some at half-price rate. He starts publicizing the month before each event and often packs a sell-out crowd.
This evening at 5:00 folks will gather for the annual Home-Cured Corned Beef Supper to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. A sell-out crowd is expected, but you can still come on down. Besides the West Fairlee Church, Steve also helps with community meals in Thetford Center and North Thetford. He and his wife, Lorna Garrow, have also been known to take food to Riverbend Residential Home in Chelsea.
The hams for these meals are cured by Steve in the fall, and smoked, the venison is also smoked and pickled, and sometimes moose as well. He says people love the home-raised and home-cured meat and his home-cooked meals are always appreciated by folks from many towns in the area.
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