Jam for the Church, one last bit of Irish humor

Europeans take their coffee sweet, or at least the Mediterranean countries do.  The typical coffee is a very strong brew served in a very tiny cup with 2 or 3 or even 4 large packets of sugar (and sometimes a dark, bitter chocolate that is meant to be melted in the coffee, not eaten as I always do).  The Spanish tend to use all of the sugar offered; the British very little.  I use half of 1 package.  At the Saturday lunch in Andorra (see 'Lunch at Ramon's') we all had, as our final course, a coffee.  There was often a sweet, little Irish lady there by the name of Fiona who would collect all of the unopened packets of sugar to "make jam for the church".  I should mention here that the Catholic Church in Andorra had small shops that sold donated goods to raise money for the needy.  In Andorra, destitute people were given certain benefits: a set of clothing, including shoes and a coat in winter; a free meal in a restaurant (not including wine); and a place to sleep for a certain number of nights.  They were not allowed to beg, panhandle in any way or sleep on the streets.  We all saved our sugar packets for Fiona, our little contribution to the effort she was making to do some good in the world.  And at her age; bless her! 

One Saturday her daughter, Joan, who was visiting for the week, came to lunch alone.  Her mother was feeling a bit under the weather, she explained.  Someone mentioned how proud we all were of Fiona and amazed that she was still doing so much for the Church.  Joan gave us a rather blank look.  We explained about the sugar and the 'jam for the church', at which point poor Joan could hardly keep to her chair she was laughing so hard.  "My dear mother has never made a pot of jam in her life" she got out finally, still laughing.  Then the coup de grâce:  "And she has never bought sugar!"

We still save the sugar packets for Fiona.  Anyone who has lived to the ripe age of 79, raising a family and running a household without ever buying sugar, deserves our support and, grudgingly, our respect for a little con, well played.

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