Dinner with Strangers

A common lesson taught to children at an early age is to not talk to strangers. Of course this rule is broken all the time and for good reason. We meet strangers in all aspects of our day. They become friends for life,  sometimes just for a moment in time and often they are in and out of your life in an instant. Usually the people you interact with fall into two categories, those with whom you develop a relationship such as your friends, family and co-workers and sometimes they are the people you speak with for just a little while such as a waiter, store clerk or passerby asking for directions. We feel most comfortable interacting with those that we know. That’s easy to understand.

What does this have to do with food you ask? Plenty. Last night I made the choice to spend an evening having dinner with seven strangers at Church (a restaurant, not a real one) though a meal organized by Grub With Us. I had willingly subjected myself to a potentially awkward social situation that falls between the fleeting encounter and long-term relationships and best of all I paid for it!

When I mentioned that I was signing up for this, most people that I spoke with thought I was crazy and said they would never do something like this themselves. The idea of sharing a meal with people I did not know is an interesting one. The possibility of starting an intellectual debate (read argument) about religion, politics, society or Casey Anthony just seem too scary for them and yet for me the unknown of how the evening would unfold from initial introductions to friendly good byes with stomachs full of delicious food was too good to pass up. What if we don’t get along they wondered? What if we have nothing in common? What if…? Well there wasn’t an “if”. We shared a love for food and socializing with others. It was fun.

The meal was shared family style, with each dish being described in decadent detail as it was placed on the table by the wait staff. The waitress had me at “lobster broth” when she described the ingredients for the mussels. Everything was so good. Each dish offered the opportunity for conversation about food and the sharing by passing around the dishes around the table seemed to break down all barriers of what could have been an awkward meal. We had become an instant family for the duration of the meal, sharing, savoring and serving seconds. The meal was pre-paid save for drinks thus removing the inevitable dispute of who owed what with someone leaving feeling cheated. Sharing a meal took away our individuality with respect to a food choice but allowed it to come out in other ways as part of conversation. It was a fascinating experience to watch and to be a part of. As someone commented at the table this idea would not have worked 10 years ago but it is one that will likely take off very quickly. I wish the Grub With Us team the best of luck.

Continue Reading

More baking…What’s going on here?

Yummy. I just baked another batch of muffins, cherry walnut to be precise.  I am sure this would not surprise you. I’ve been baking a lot and writing about it here. The muffins and the recipe are tried an true.

There is an interesting difference between baking and cooking. I live alone and when I cook, I cook for myself. Baking on the other hand allows me to create a food substance that is easier to share with people. It doesn’t have to be hot, and if properly stored can last a while. Sharing is a key component of being in the kitchen and a reason for my enthusiasm. I put my best foot forward along with my time and effort to produce items that are not only for me, but to share with others. The results have been well worth it. Sharing is something that is easier for me to do through baking until I get to the point where I am in fact cooking for others such as family and friends.

I’ve taken my muffins and bread into the office and received thanks and praise from my co-workers and my family enjoys my creations when they come for a visit. Baking is an equal part art and science as is cooking in the kitchen. It’s perhaps less forgiving than cooking over a stove  and yet it tends to be a relaxing activity employing the laws of nature and time.

As I continue my culinary education process and use the techniques I learn, I strive for balance between cooking and baking with the goal of being more well rounded with the culinary arts. Be assured though that I will continue my baking posts and share my experience good and bad. It’s just too tasty not to.

Continue Reading