Category Archives: Operation: Dinner Party
Today is a cooking day!
Cooking calms and energizes me, all at the same time. It’s like that perfect massage—you’re relaxed but ready to greet whatever comes your way.
Life has been uber stressful for me lately. Work is booming. There’s no other word for it. In addition to my usual client-related work, I was volun-told to start working on a lot of other projects. I’m excited about the new opportunities, and given the current economy, I’m well aware I have absolutely nothing to bitch about, but everything starting at once makes my head buzz a little. When work overwhelms me, all I want to do is come home and sleep…which tends to take up the time I’d usually reserve for cooking and blogging. Add that to a couple bad dates, overly barfy cats, and just overall exhaustion, well, that’s a lot of sleeping.
I think I’m back on my game today.
Chef Matt sent me another, more involved recipe to test out for his upcoming cookbook. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to invite my friend Missy (same Missy from Oscar Night shrimp and grits) for a high quality lunch.
Not gonna lie, I was pretty intimidated when I saw the recipe Chef Matt had laid out for
me. Italian pork involtini is a pork cultlet pounded then, rolled up with beautiful happiness, and cooked to utopian doneness. I wasn’t so much scared of the skill involved. I’m pretty confident (sometimes too confident!) and would attempt anything at least once. It was the space!!
I don’t need to over state the fact that I have like, 2 feet of counter space. The recipe wasn’t complicated, but it involved a lot of ingredients—first I had to make a peperonata (basically sautéed bell peppers with some other stuff). Then I had to find a place for that to hang out while I pounded out the cutlets. Those had to go somewhere else while I prepped the other ingredients to be rolled.
Today’s lesson: a well-cleaned sink is an excellent place for prepped ingredients to hang out before everything gets mixed together.
The meal turned out wonderfully! Foodie Cat was incredibly jealous that we got involini and she didn’t. (Even small scraps of prosciutto didn’t placate the little beggar. FC sat on my feet the whole meal, hoping I’d either drop or throw down a morsel for her. Nothin’ doin’, kitty.) Beautiful strawberries with mascapone cheese for dessert? Bliss.
And now I need to go clean the kitchen.
I have a restaurant review to write tonight, but instead I think I’m going to do what every other blogger is doing tonight. Write about relationships. Not romantic relationships. Just general ones.
We live in a very weird, weird world today. As a society, we’re completely plugged in and connected almost 24/7, and yet we’re more isolated than ever. We have smart phones, multiple IM programs, email, Facebook, Twitter, message forums, blogs, text messages, not to mention good old fashioned, real life phone calls. And letters, if you can find a stamp. We even have phones that will funnel all these communication channels onto one screen. Never before in history have we had so many easy-access, low cost ways to communicate. And yet we don’t.
I think we’re losing our ability to just talk.
We’re so concerned with getting ahead at work, running the kids to soccer practice/ballet/piano/extra tutoring, writing food blogs, trying to get the cats to the vet, and rushing out the door before we miss our traffic window that we forget how to make those connections with those who should be closest to us. Our friends. Our family. Our neighbors. It’s like that saying—water, water everywhere but nary a drop to drink. So many ways to connect to people, but we’re still wrapped up within ourselves.
People are afraid to reach out anymore.
There’s no real debate in the role of family dinners in the development of children. Studies show that the more often families eat together, the lower the rate of adolescent suicide, depression, smoking, drinking and other general destructive behavior. Grades go up, confidence soars, and children are more likely to believe their parents are proud of them than their solo dining counterparts. I don’t think this importance ends in childhood. Just because you reach the age of 18 doesn’t mean you stop growing and developing. The shared meals, now encompassing our friends beyond our family, are still a vital part of our ability to flourish as adults.
I found this Times article discussing the importance of shared meals, with a very interesting quote by Robin Fox, an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University.
“Something precious was lost, anthropologist Fox argues, when cooking came to be cast as drudgery and meals are discretionary. ‘Making food is a sacred event,’ he says. ‘It’s so absolutely central—far more central than sex. You can keep a population going by having sex once a year, but you have to eat three times a day.’”
And so, I’m starting a movement. Operation: Dinner Party. For the next 30 days, until 15 March, lets share at least one meal with someone each week. I’m talking a Real Meal. Real food, real people, real conversation. None of this grabbing a bite for twenty minutes at a fast food joint before rushing off to soccer practice. Real. Meals. And let’s see how big we can make this–email this post to your friends and family, and urge them to do the same.
Bonus points if it’s a new friend OR super old friend you haven’t seen in forever. Double bonus points if you make it at home and triple bonus points if you make it together (or if it’s potluck. The idea is shared effort for the meal.) If you’re a family and can get your kids involved with helping to prep the food, you win my undying love and affection.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your menu, photos, and any recipes you’d like to share, and I’ll post them on the blog.