It’s cook-out and picnic season! To me, this means sun, fun, family, friends and easy-to-make food. While it’s tempting to categorize easy-to-make food into the same category as fast food, it can actually be a significant step up. Easy food can be healthy and delicious as well as simple to prepare. Summer is my favorite season and cook-outs a favorite style of dining. I enjoy cooking for those that I care about but very much appreciate the simplicity of preparation that comes with many picnic-style recipes. That said, I don’t have a “signature dish” or stash of summer recipes at the ready.
In reality, I’ve been feeling like I’ve run out of ideas for sharable summer dishes. In order to get a few new ideas, I attended the Finger Food demonstration Cookin’ Class at Abbey Farms last Thursday. While anticipating the evening, I was particularly looking forward to getting some fresh ideas for food that was:
- Delicious, of course!
- Fast and easy to prepare. I work many hours over 6 days each week at the gym. That doesn’t leave much time for fancy food prep. I want maximum “wow” for a minimum of effort.
- Portable. My SO and I love to entertain, but we are frequently invited to social events that require bringing a dish to share. I want to be able to easily take my goodies anywhere without having to worry about keeping them hot or very cold.
- Grain- and dairy-free. I have trouble digesting dairy and several family members and friends have food allergies and sensitivities. I like to bring dishes that everyone can enjoy.
The Cookin’ Class featured family favorites from Chef Dave, the uncle of Adam Voirin, COO of Abbey Farms. I loved the family atmosphere of Abbey Farms as well as the casual, welcoming personality of Chef Dave, Adam and the other staff. Chef Dave demonstrated a number of recipes, ranging from salsa to skewers to a ceviche style dip. While only a few of the recipes met my #4 criteria, I definitely got some great ideas that could be customized to my own needs. Everything tasted great and the demonstration was easy to understand and informative – just what I was looking for!
The best part of the evening, however, was the fact that we were seated and served “family style.” I met several very personable women at my table and was absolutely fascinated by another table mate who just happened to be a local human interest writer for the Daily Herald. Amid the typical small talk shared by our group, she shared some of her favorite stories. I loved it! The Abbey Farms folks got it right – food is social! The overall experience was enhanced by the fact that they incorporated a social component into the learning experience. This social component reminded me also that we don’t really need to ruminate over how perfect our food is – it’s the social aspect that is most critical to a successful summer event. In fact, according to an article by the Social Research Institute Center, “(hunger) is also a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is also an occasion for sharing, for distributing and giving, for the expression of altruism, whether from parents to children, children to in-laws, or anyone to visitors and strangers.”
Good food is important, and I still want to prepare delicious food that meets my four criteria, but I want to do so with that casual, welcoming attitude that sets the stage for memorable interactions between all those that are present!