The Sunday New York Times Magazine devoted their whole 10-10-10 issue to Eating Together. Well, the previous weekend the Heath Gourmet Club celebrated its 29th anniversary — 29 years of serving ourselves. Michael Pollan wrote about the 36 Hour Dinner Party that he enjoyed with famous chefs and his son in Napa, consuming a whole goat and a lot of really good produce and olive oil. They also had the pleasure of cooking in an outdoor ‘cob oven.’ Thirty-six hours of cooking and eating with a convivial company does sound like a lot of fun, but when I consider how much fun we have had over 29 years I know that I am blessed.
The Gourmet Club was formed on July 4th in 1981 when Sheila (pictured above with her foot in the air cast) and I and Catherine (who passed away several years ago) met in the town museum bewailing the lack of good local restaurants – not that any of us could afford to give them our custom anyway. So right there, we decided to form the Gourmet Club and we planned our first dinner for September. We were all busy with the Heath Fair in August, so September was to be our inaugural meal. The plan was simple. We would take turns hosting; the host would set the theme and make the entree. Other courses would be assigned the other couples.
We hosted that first meal. The menu was modest, A Simple Summer Supper with Soupe au Pistou. The 289 meals since then have sometimes been simple, sometimes complex. We have indulged in French, Moroccan, German, Russian, Tex-Mex, California, African, Clam Bakes, and Spanish themes – among others. We’ve had presidential meals with courses out of a White House cookbook, a Stuffed menu where every course was stuffed featuring the magnificent Turducken, a chicken stuffed inside a duck inside a turkey. Never once was there a disaster. At least not one any of us would admit to.
I can only think of one dinner where I couldn’t eat a course – and we made it. For some reason we all wanted Mock Turtle Soup and, as it happened, Henry was in Baltimore where they have the rare ingredient for Mock Turtle Soup. Henry was down at the seafood wharf and directed to a little old black man who knew the secret – ‘rat.’ Muskrat that is. And so, Henry hand carried two muskrats back home in a cooler and made the soup. I could barely watch. Those little heads with their beaver-like teeth coming out of the pot were too much for me. But everyone else had soup spoons at the ready.
There have been picnics, a tea party and a brunch held during an ice storm. We set out in our Rabbit, but slid into the ditch at the side of our road before we had gone 300 yards. We called Sheila and she said she’d pick us up in their Volvo. It took 400 yards for her Volvo to slide into the ditch. We called her husband, Budge, to get us in his pick up. We made it to the host house, but as you know, only two people can fit in the cab of a pick up. Henry and I and our basket of fruit cups squatted in the bed of the truck while the ice continued falling out of the sky.
We have celebrated all the local food we have used in our meals from the berries, herbs and vegetables from our own gardens, our own chickens and eggs, our own pigs, our own goat milk and cheese, as well as local beef, cream, apples, and cider.
Of course, the Gourmet Club has experienced more than food in 29 years. We have had two divorces, two deaths and one wedding. The wedding couple met at Gourmet Club!
Most of us spend a lot of time eating together at big family get togethers, and at parties. There are intimate lunches with a friend, or tea on the terrace or the nightly supper with spouse and children. The food doesn’t have to be fancy, but it is important. It is a symbol of the love and care we bear each other, nourishing and strengthening in ways we cannot measure. So, with the NYT, I celebrate the joys of Eating Together.