I like to feed groups of people, big groups of people, huge groups of people. Just in the past three days, I think you could say that I've cooked for 120 people. For real, no lie, and it's not even an exaggeration, I don't think so anyway.
At our church we've been offering soup lunches for a couple of years. It began with a Coming of Age service project called "What Could be Better Than Soup?" and just rolled from there. But really, I began doing soup lunches years and years ago at the Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship when I was the activities chair. It's a great way to build community. And a great way for families with young children to feed their kids BEFORE the hungry monster hits. Love that. Eat together. It's a really good thing.
So, this year I've committed to putting on a soup lunch every first Sunday of the month. I work for this great church who has no building and no way to get together in a big group any time but on Sunday without-- **ZAP** incurring at least $100 in fees just for meeting. So, we'll feed them. And if people throw money in a bowl to help us pay for stuff for the Religious Education ministry, well then yippy skippy, I'm happy!
On Sunday I'd committed the Religious Education Council to serving lunch, but-ha! no one was really around to help. So I made the soup and bought the bread. The middle schoolers on site on Sunday helped me assemble the basil and purple beans that turn green when you cook them and the rest of the soup ingredients. The guys in my family agreed to serve while I blackmailed, I mean recruited, families to actually register their children for classes this year. We served at least 40 people beef barley and bean barley soup. Psssht. So easy! Soup. That's only one pot! Add 6 loaves of bread and two sticks of butter and tickety-boo, you've fed a hall full of people.
Then yesterday we had a big huge 13th birthday party planned for our youngest. We were going to be at a local park that has a volley ball court and a basketball court and a tennis court as well as a great little dock on a nice little lake. We were bringing kayaks and inflatable boats and many hot dogs and hamburgers. But sometimes we forget that we live in Seattle and that when fall starts in pours on us all for weeks at a time.
By 10am we'd called and emailed everyone: no park! Our house! Ignore all dust! Come early, stay late but come to the house. You know the minute we did this the sun came out. But oh well, it was really windy and very, very wet. And our "birthday" parties are never just seven kids and a cake. His birthday is at the END of the summer, which means that all brothers are bored to death, and must make the most of any upcoming activity, including a little brother party. So there are finely crafted video invitations, and big fancy theme parties with elaborate treasure hunts designed by the treasure master (that's the eldest). And all the kids bring their whole families and whoever is hanging out at their house when they leave to come on over.
Come on! We're homeschoolers! These are BIG families! With lots of people hanging out! The party was huge. It might have been 40, but it really might have been a grand total of 50 people here if you count babies and young adults and the quick stops by some family members. At one point I felt like I was on a pinball machine running through my kitchen. Boing-boing-boing! Bouncing off people! We had a huge pan of cheezy noodles and a million dogs and burgers with a monster batch of hummus and as many chips as a grocery cart could carry, topped by a cooler full of discount soda. I spent most of the time at the counter cutting up more watermelon and opening a can of baked beans or slicing pickles to top the burgers. Yes! JUST where I wanted to be!
Then tonight we had our youth group dinner where we feed the homeless teens. The last time we served dinner there one of the teens asked for pasta with alfredo sauce and broccoli. She really wanted to be sure there was broccoli in the sauce. So today I went to Cash and Carry, the local restaurant supply store, and bought marinara and alfredo and meatballs and chopped lettuce and of course; broccoli. It was your typical flatbed cart full of supplies. We were making a pasta bar! No biggie, I'm used to it. We arrived at Orion Center at 5, FAST put water on to boil and ran around like crazy making the salad and marina and meatballs and meatless meat balls and baking the par baked bread. There were only three of us tonight. We had to do the hustle!
But we did it. We could tell from the minute we walked in that it was going to be a big group, and it was. Every table was completely full. All the chairs were taken. I don't think we've ever seen such a crowd in our two years of working there every month. We used every last noodle and every last meat meatball. Almost a whole sheet cake was gone and three cases of soda and a whole box if jaw breakers that I'd bought on a little impulse were gone. Yes. Isn't that just what you want? Youth who really need to feel special to, you know, take a box of jaw breakers and eat some fine alfredo with fresh parmesan? Yes. That is what I want. It's just what I want. Yes.
It's funny. For someone who desperately struggles with this awful disordered eating that makes me believe that food is love, I sure enjoy feeding huge crowds of people. I love it, I really do. I love that I can do it. And in some ways it really is healing. Food really can be good. This is a sort of proof.
And I wonder, did I miss my call? Am I really destined to be......a....caterer?!