Monday, February 07, 2005

Good Food = Good Times

Now there's a title I think we can all agree upon. Good food does equal good times. Once a month my husband and I have the unique opportunity to gather with about 80 young people. They are all between the ages of 18 and 30 and meet once a month to mingle and strengthen each other as they meet the world head on. It's a Sunday night and we meet at a local church. Our purpose, in being there, is to make sure they're fed.

It is an easy task. These young people don't expect a lot. They don't expect fancy. However, after years of the dinner being summarily reduced to "we'll make what ever we can to get you fed" ideology by others, we were called in to see what we could do. Well, I enjoy feeding a crowd. I enjoy being around young people. So I was excited to step in and take over the reigns of this position. After evaluating the SOP established over the years I was not impressed. It seemed a Potato Bar, Baked Stouffer's Lasagna, or Cold Cut Sandwiches was what qualified as a good meal. The Potato Bar was the least appetizing to me. Bake 80 potatoes, bring along sides of butter, cheese, sour cream, chives, chili and various other potato fixins and call it dinner, ugh! Presenting this as a balanced dinner is abismal at best, in my opinion. Get a grip folks! These are young people. Young people who seem to have a good grasp of nutritional studies and the ill affects of junk food in their lives. I took it as my personal quest to improve this menu. People said "this is the way it has always been done." To that I say "oh well, now we're doing it differently". Gasp! How will it be received????

Well, the first dinner I hosted was quite interesting. I must mention that part of the 'entry fee' for the dinner is an empty tummy and something to add to the dinner. Something, such as, croutons, dinner rolls, possibly cupcakes for dessert. A week in advance of the dinner I post a menu. Along with the menu is the acceptable add-ons. It is expected of the young people that if you're coming to the dinner - at least bring a supporting item. There is no cost and about half attending will show up with something. I'm not irritated if they come empty handed. I'm just glad they're there and I don't have leftovers. So even empty handed they're welcome.

Back to that first interesting dinner. I chose to serve Chicken Ceasar Salad, with dinner rolls. At first the mention of salad for dinner was a bit foreign, especially to some of the guys. The best comment of the evening was by a 19 year old young lady, "I didn't even know I liked Ceasar Salad until tonight". That was all I needed to hear. After years of potato bars and lasagna I have a break out to real food. Even green food! Yay! It has been an interesting few months. Last night proved to be the best yet. I knew I was competing with a 'sacred cow' trying to get young people out on Super Bowl Sunday. The food was going to have to be good. I chose a well known favorite of mine: Smoked Beef Brisket, Cole Slaw and Chips. Chips mostly so the kids would have an item to bring. There was no way I could rely on one of them to bring cole slaw. It is easy to do in mass quantities and I could do that with the brisket. Needless to say the crowd was a bit smaller. However, we still had about 65 attend. Everyone raved about the food and was very complimentary. There wasn't a bit leftover. There were seconds for all who wanted them and there was a group of five that didn't get anything at all. I told them next time instead of being 45 minutes late maybe they'd be on time or at least not so late. Their dinner was eaten by the seconds group of guys that couldn't get enough of Texas barbeque.

A lot of people will ask how do you cook for such a large group? It is realtively easy when you use basic consumption rules. 1/4 lb of any meat you're serving per peson. Salad - simple. You know how large your family is, when you make a salad at home how many does it feed? Divide that by the quantity you expect and you've got how much salad stuff to buy. Many people feel large numbers of people to feed are daunting. I say - just try it once - then you'll be hooked. Feeding people, making them feel at home, are the parts of life you don't want to miss. Coupled with the accolades of how good the food is makes it very worthwhile.