Friday, June 24th, 2016

Food for Thought: Lunch Club

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I’m going to skip the apologies regarding my abysmally spotty blog posting…no excuses except for the intrusions of life, cookbook writing, and the fam. Also, I’ve been writing this blog for so long that I guess the blog-hatching part of my brain needed a break; perhaps to get some distance and remember what it’s like to write because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. Also I’m just intermittently inclined towards laziness so…yeah. There’s that.
But I have been busy in other ways. Besides chipping away at a follow-up to KEEPERS (more information will be dribbling to you over the next year or so!), I’ve also been in the kitchen and cooking a ton. Not just for recipe testing— although that takes up most of my energy— but also for luncheons, events, charitable functions. I love cooking for small groups because you learn a lot from the reaction you get from people who are not your relatives. Also, there’s something nurturing and civil about feeding folks in a more manageable setting, like someone’s house, instead of, say, the insane environment that is a restaurant (Sidenote: you must read the new novel SWEETBITTER, especially if you have ever worked as a server in a restaurant…it was scarily reminiscent of some of my own experiences working as a mildly abused but always entertained waitress in NYC, and I just tore through the sordid, heartbreaking, and beautifully written book…I think you will to).
Ok, back to what I was saying about being lazy and cooking for others… I’ve also been busy hosting something I call LUNCH CLUB, which is kind of exactly like it sounds. About 10 to 12 guests (a rotating list of friends, neighbors, acquaintances, friends of friends, local food lovers) come to my house and I make the lunch based on a menu that they know nothing about ahead of time, and that I prepare based on what is seasonal, what I’m testing for the cookbook, and what I’m just in the mood to cook.
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Also, I try to make sure that every dish is “doable”, so that I can get it ready it without much trouble and also pass along the recipe afterwards and be sure anyone can make it themselves. Below are some photos taken of a recent lunch so you can see what I’ve been up to. It helps that one of the guests was my friend Erin Kiernan Frigerio , who also happens to be an amazingly talented professional photographer. So I’m wondering if this is something you might do? Host  your own Lunch Club (and I guess this could also be a dinner club but there’s something about a daytime get-together that makes everyone feel relaxed and kind of European, like “look, we’re eating a lunch during the day, alongside other interesting people, at a table, and not with a plastic fork next to a keyboard and out of a plastic clamshell!). I highly recommend giving the concept it a whirl. And the requirements are simple:

SIMPLE LIST OF LUNCH CLUB THINGS TO KNOW
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-Prepare a menu that you want to make.

-KEEP IT SIMPLE. And as seasonal as possible.

-Try to have a few items  you can make in advance (example: salad dressings, cooked grains, marinated protein, dessert).

-Invite a group that is a mix of people you know and might like to get to know one another, try and avoid making up your table of an entire group that is already close friends. It’s nice to mix it up, have people make new connections and hear new stories.

-Ask if there are any dietary or allergic requirements but make it clear that they have to be ingredients that will really and truly make the guest feel unwell or sick, not just, “I’m not into lettuce.” The idea is to try new things!

-Have wine and sparkling water. Skip the cocktails. Although I served blood orange bellinis at one lunch and they were a big hit.

-Make the table pretty but skip the tablecloth (dry cleaning bill averted) and just give the wood a good shine. Pretty plates and flowers and handwritten place cards can be your focus.

-Eat with your guests!

-And have some disposable Tupperware on hand for leftovers…people really like that.

Perhaps you already do something like this, if so, let me know what you do and what has been a success. Would love to hear about it!
XOXO
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