The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

AT THE TABLE WITH: Gary Russell


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gary Russell comes from Pittsburgh, Pa. After college, he served four years in the U.S. Army. He served in Korea and then with the 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, N.C., as a paratrooper. Gary made 38 jumps in his time there.

He and his wife, Carol, have been married for 50 years. There are five Russell children with seven grandchildren. Of the five Russell children, there are two girls and three boys, which includes a set of identical boy twins. The family is now scattered throughout the country.

Gary spent 40 years in the steel industry, which led him to the King of Prussia area. New to the area in 1976, the Russell family was in search of a new church. Father James Evans called on Carol at the Phoenixville Hospital after the birth of the twins and led them to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Phoenixville.

Gary and Carol are people who volunteer. In the early 2000s, the church started to hand out bags of groceries to those in need. This kind and generous effort led to St. Peter’s Church expanding the mission. By 2010, St. Peter’s added a breakfast and several years later began offering an additional pantry on Monday nights. In 2012, St. Peter’s Pantry was set up and offers a self-shopping program.

This all-volunteer program has extended to all people who need help. Residents at St. Peter’s Place next door are able to place orders, and visiting Girl Scout troops fill and deliver the groceries. The Pantry looks forward to offering this ordering system to Episcopal House located on the west side of town. There is a food van that makes weekly stops to several places on the north side.

Gary began to head these projects six years ago along with Ms. Doreen Penczer, of Phoenixville, and 50 volunteers. There are plans being considered to expand their mission to include several new places in the area, including the Episcopal House. Their mission statement is to “Find and serve all those in need” — and they certainly live up to those words and more.

St. Peter’s Panty will share in Fill The Shelves For After the Holidays 2018 Challenge. This challenge in its second year, providing can and non-perishables foods to local food pantries. On Jan. 20, volunteers divided this year’s bounty. Along with St. Peter’s Pantry, the 2018 challenge will be shared with Hopeworx of Norristown.

GARY’S ITALIAN MEATBALLS

You will need several large cans of tomato puree — I use the kind that has the garlic and herbs in it — and several cans of tomato paste.

First, I brown country style spareribs in the pan along with a few links of sausage. Add one large onion cut up in quarters and brown with the meat. After everything is well browned, add about ½ cup water to scrap the bottom of the pan to get up all the browned pieces. Add your sauce and let it simmer. Don’t turn the heat up; it will burn fast. You have to stay with it and stir it often, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add salt, pepper, sugar (cuts the bitter acid taste), fresh garlic (chopped very small) and a small amount of oregano.

To make the meatballs, I use stale bread; everyone has that in the bread drawer. I soak the bread in milk and make a mush out of it. Take your ground meat (don’t buy lean meat; you want it to have some fat in it; I use 70 percent lean) and add the soaked bread, two eggs, salt, pepper, one large onion (chop it in small pieces). I sometimes add seasoned bread crumbs depending on how much stale bread you used. Mix all together and form into meatballs. Drop meatballs into hot sauce. Don’t stir the sauce for about 15 minutes until the meatballs take shape. If you stir right away, you will destroy the meatballs. You can kind of shake the pan to move them around. Let all of this simmer for about four hours.

Enjoy!

Let Better hear from you: banjack303@verizon.net. Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well phoenixvillenews.com (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.