Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy New Year! (Meal #3)

I'm dreadfully behind on this blog, but I wrote the below after our first dinner of 2010 and thought I'd finally put it up!

I love the start of a new year. After the solstice, the light slowly returns. It's a time of opportunity, offering a chance for transformation and the possibility of creating something new and different—and better—for our lives and our world.

At New Year's, I always spend some time thinking back over the past year, reminding myself of what was good and imagining the changes I might want to make in the coming year. I know: I'm hardly unique in this! I realized that for me A Common Table has been one of the best parts of the past few months. I love the wonderful energy of our gatherings, the fact that people have spread the word to friends, some of whom have decided to join us, and the sense of a shared effort toward common goals. And you all make me feel appreciated—and I'm grateful to you for that. :)

Our first meal of the year:  I thought there was a special feel to this day. Everyone seemed happy to be here, to work together, to talk and connect and create something delicious.

Date: Sunday, January 10th (served at BFWC the next evening)
Host: Jenny Michael
Menu: pastel de choclo (Chilean corn casserole), green salad w/cranberries & pecans, potato rolls, chocolate & vanilla cupcakes
Participants: Michael Acker, Sandy Cate, Cole Chabon, Bob Fagan, Kevin Koczela, Maria Massolo, Jenny Michael, Deborah Pruitt, Rita Shuster
Photos: Cole Chabon, Kevin Koczela

I was still a bit behind in my preparations when people began to arrive: the chicken and the corn weren't fully thawed; the rolls hadn't yet been baked; the silicone cups that were supposed to let the cupcakes slip right out didn't... On the other hand, I had showered, changed my clothes, and finished the neatening that made me feel ready to have people come into my house! I've learned that as long as I have these basic things taken care of, I can deal with the rest on the fly.

The pastel de choclo, a Chilean dish that Maria Massolo has adapted, is simple to prepare, but in this large quantity the logistics were a bit challenging. So we worked in batches, sautéing onions and chicken, puréeing corn, transferring items back and forth from sauté pan to pot and back again. Then we seasoned and assembled the casseroles before putting them into the oven.

While they baked, we had fun decorating the mini cupcakes Michael Acker had prepared. Cole Chabon provided chocolate and cream cheese frostings, along with food coloring and multicolored sprinkles, and Maria and Kevin Koczela and Deborah Pruitt demonstrated keen eyes for color (pink and peach-colored frosting!) and their skill with the decorative icing tips, and the results were beautiful and delicious! 

About our finances: We are in the black! Thanks to generous donations from you all, plus additional funding from members of my family (thank you so much! I love you!), we have had no trouble meeting our expenses so far. I have put together a spreadsheet to keep track of our donations and our outlay, so we know where we stand. If you'd like to see it, please ask me.

This meal proved to be fairly inexpensive, especially since a good portion of the food was donated directly (cupcakes, icing, rolls). I decided to invest in some large rolls of foil and a couple of sets of heavy-duty foil pans, so we can easily package our donations for transport. Also, at the urging of the group, I bought a large bottle olive oil for our use, so I'm not continually depleting my own stock. 

More suggestions for future dinners: chicken enchiladas, shepherd's pie, pierogies, lasagna... 

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