One of my favorite things that I've been up to lately is a little thing called co-op cooking, or as my friends and I have so cleverly coined it: Meal Swap. Basically, my family, along with two other families, prepares a full meal including leftovers for each family and also for our own. Then we all get together and swap. We each walk away from the swap with a weeks worth of dinner. I have quickly embraced the ease, convenience and efficiency of this lovely idea. However, the best part is the delicious, home cooked meals that my friends cook.
I was a bit timid to start. I really wanted all those that would be eating my food to love every bite and I didn't want to let anyone down. I'm not sure about you, but i think food disappointment is especially bitter. Preparing and offering food to others is a kind of vulnerable act. I put my heart and soul into my food and I want people to love it as much as I love preparing it for them. But just like anthing else, we all have our own tastes - likes and dislikes. For the most recent exchange, I made potato leek soup from the Tassajara Cookbook and a butter lettuce, persimmon, feta and hazlenut salad.
Over time we have all grown more comfortable with each other and I have come to expect a certain style from each of the families. Mandy cooks simple, traditional food and it is always the most delicious you've ever had. Just in our last swap she made a rosemary roasted chicken with carrots and sweet potatoes and it was hands down the best chicken I have ever eaten. Maya is both a gardener and she is studying nutrition. I welcome her food because it not only pleases my appetite, but is always nutrient dense and perfectly balanced. We are all a little bit healthier after eating Maya's meals.
Some dishes that we have swapped that really stand out for me are the chicken skewers that Mandy made this past summer. She served them with a garlic aioli and herbed olive oil. Recently, Maya made a yellow split pea and quinoa pilaf topped with spicy pickled onions that I couldn't eat fast enough. Maya will often times send a little stir fry kit of greens, coconut oil, garlic, and a lemon - so convenient.
Mandy and I have also been trying to get together to can on a regular basis. At the end of October we put up a batch of applesauce and the kiddos love it! The sauce is nothing more than Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith apples puréed in the blender - completely simple and delicious.
Starting out I was really interested in the saving time and money part. What I find now is that I look so forward to deciding what to make, poring over cookbooks and recipes online, rifling through the CSA box, or checking out what looks best at the market. And then after the deciding and gathering is through, tying on my apron and getting to work. I love getting up early, putting on the coffee and embarking on the adventure of cooking a full meal. Starting dinner at dawn is peaceful, quiet - of a bygone era. I chop and chop. I stir, smell, taste, and all the while I imagine each family taking that first bite. I hope it pleases each one of them as much as it pleases me to prepare it for them each time.