Thursday, January 26, 2012

Community Dinner

This semester I moved into the Eco-House, a house owned by Davidson College in which 10 residents strive to live more sustainably and be a good model for campus. We garden, compost, buy local and organic food, host community dinners, and try to improve the environmental friendliness of the house. So far, I have really enjoyed the experience. Although it is like another extracurricular activity, it is one that is meaningful and promotes a strong sense of community.

This Monday it was my turn to cook the community dinner with my roommate. We were expected to serve 16 people, which can be very daunting especially considering my total lack of experience in cooking for more than five or six people and how some of my cooking projects can turn into epic events. Luckily, we started early. Sunday night wasn’t very busy for either of us so we cut vegetables and made the actual meal; the only thing to do the next day was to heat up the meal for the masses. The recipe that we made was a vegetarian jambalaya, although I can imagine it would have been great with the addition of shrimp and/or sausage.

In accordance with many of my past experiences, this dish turned out to take several hours to make. We cut up half-frozen, slimy okra, chopped fresh veggies, rehydrated black beans in the crockpot, and thawed out a huge bag of frozen tomatoes. But this proved to be a relaxing time of manual labor and reprieve from academic work. It also was a great bonding experience, as deep conversation flowed while we worked.

The next day, I attempted to make bread in the bread machine for our dinner. We started to make it together but then I thought I would be nice and try to finish making the bread by myself (the first time I had done it in the bread maker without assistance). About four hours later I was horrified at the dense blob that I found in the still warm bread maker. I was reassured that it might still be edible but it turned out to be dense and overly sweet, aka not edible. I had obviously done something very wrong. Tears sprang to my eyes after I closed the bread machine on the failure and took a walk of shame back to my room. Baking can be very emotional.

Thankfully, the resident bread maker offered to make bread Monday at lunch. I was very relieved. The meal would be rounded out by the addition of bread. And, the bread that I had no hand in had just the right consistency and was rightly enjoyed by all.

Eco-House Family

Eco-House Family and Guests at Dinner

That night at dinner, everything thankfully went very smoothly. The jambalaya was heated up without any problem and everyone enjoyed the food and finished the large pot that we had made. This was my first time as one of the hosts of the community dinner; I had been a guest before but had not been behind the scenes to experience the stress but also the love that goes into the meal. We were proud of it and glad that everyone could gather around it to have great conversation and talk about the experience or prospect of living in the house.

Here is the recipe, We made many modifications to this (depending on the fresh and frozen produce we had at the house) and it turned out just fine. I think that most of the vegetables can be substituted and that doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling is very doable. Enjoy!


After: The pot of jambalaya scraped clean. Sorry I forgot to include a before picture.

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