Judith Galas creates good food and goodwill. She and Cindy West have been married for eight years, and the couple have been together for 35 years. They share a blended family that includes a daughter and grandson.
Nurturers by nature — Galas is an educator, and West is a nurse-turned-Realtor — the couple are vested in serving food to those in need within their community through the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen or LINK.
“We have a strong sense of social justice, having come up through the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” West says. “We both like to cook, and feeding those who are hungry is really caring for people at the most basic, honest level.”
Q: Judith, what does Easter time mean to you?
A: Spring is just a natural time of renewal, and each Easter there is a refreshment of hope in an old world. This is the time of the year when faith, food, family and friends all seem to converge in the kitchen.
We are hosting international students from Iran and Mexico in our home for Easter. Regardless of people’s religions, Cindy and I choose to share our talents of cooking by feeding those who are hungry. We live a simple life, but great things come from feeding another human’s most basic needs.
Q: So, will you be serving bread pudding on Easter?
A: When we make bread pudding, rarely does it stay in our home. It is usually on its way to feed many people. About 20 years ago, Cindy and I became volunteer cooks for Lawrence’s homeless shelter and our community meal site. We started to bring large pans of bread pudding, triple the recipe I’ve shared with you.
This bread pudding is not only a dish I love, but is one that many in the Lawrence community enjoy eating as well. I adapted the recipe from an old Adele Davis cookbook, “Let’s Cook It Right.” Adele was a 1970s nutritionist who was ahead of her time, getting back to basics and away from prepackaged foods.
The recipe also has a symbolic link for me because some of the bread I use comes from the leftover, unconsecrated frozen communion bread at our church. Plymouth Congregational Church prepares and serves at LINK on the third Thursday of every month. Cindy and I make four large pans, which is 12 times the recipe I’ve shared with you, of bread pudding every time we are needed to provide the dessert. I’m told even volunteers who are serving that day vie for any leftovers.
Q: Do both Cindy and you cook together in the kitchen?
A: We each have our strengths. I am more of the baker, and Cindy is a great griller. I like to bake pies and make food look “fancy,” as Cindy says. One of the first meals we ever made to help feed the hungry was an outdoor picnic, where Cindy grilled and we served salads and watermelon for dessert. People loved it, because it not only filled people’s bellies, it also filled a need for normalcy.
Q: You seem very passionate about feeding people.
A: When a person is hungry, there’s little else one can think about, except food. But there can also be shame attached to hunger, especially if you’re a parent that’s working really hard and still not able to provide food for your family. To make a real difference in individual lives, we have to help feed people first.
Anyone who is feeding a crowd, especially in food kitchens, will really find this bread pudding is both economical and really sticks with people. And I don’t just mean in a physical sense, but in a psychological sense, too.
There are so many who live on the edge, and life just explodes around them. Health issues, a job loss or death can happen to any of us, but for the most vulnerable, these life changes can prove devastating. Guests who we are serving our bread pudding to at LINK will say things like, “My grandmother used to make this,” and “This reminds me of home.”
In a magical way, this custardy bread pudding can be a taste of comfort, which feeds not only the body, but also, the soul.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
For more information on LINK or to donate time or resources, go to LinkLawrence.org.
Makes 12 servings
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups stale bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup raisins, dried fruit, flaked coconut or nuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
In an extra-large mixing bowl, gently mix bread pieces and dried fruit, coconut or nuts together.
Slowly pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and gently stir with a wooden spoon until bread pieces are evenly coated with milk mixture.
Turn out into prepared pan and evenly sprinkle top with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 175 degrees in the center, without touching bottom of pan.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.
CHEF’S NOTE: Bread can also include day-old doughnuts, muffins, nut breads and stale oatmeal raisin cookies. Galas triples the recipe to fill a 13-by-20-inch steam table pan.
Per serving, based on 12: 130 calories (15 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 35 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 139 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.