October 1st, 2007

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Dinner for Four (or Eight, or Twelve) -- Easy Breezy

You know how good friends and neighbors make dinner for your family 
when you give birth or have your appendix out?

Well, here's a little secret. 

Good friends and neighbors are making our dinner every Monday and Wednesday night for the forseeable future. And there's been no birth, death or hospitalization.

Say what?

Today was the launch of the Fall 2007 save-my-soul-and-sanity dinner co-op.
The feed-my-kids-and-make-me-look-like-a-supah-mama dinner co-op.
The don't-tell-me-they-want-dinner-again dinner co-op.
The you-can-call-me-anything-you-want-but-don't-call-me-late-for-dinner dinner co-op.

So, okay. 
It doesn't actually have a proper name, this gig, but it oughta. 
Anything this good deserves a little respect.

Here's the deal. 
For the fourth season, our family is partnering with two others to get good, hot meals on our tables without blood, sweat or tears. Each family is assigned one day a week, during which they cook a mess of food -- one family-sized serving for their house and two others to be doled out. 

The math works out like this: you cook just one nice meal a week but enjoy serving and eating three! 
I know... it almost sounds too good to be true. But believe me, it's fair and square.

For example, our friend El made eggplant parmesan this afternoon. 
We picked it up after school. A beautiful 9x11 pan of garlicky goodness. It just needs heating. 
On Wednesday, Jeana will deliver something equally delicious and on Thursday I plan on cooking big pots of carrot ginger soup. 

We agreed to mostly vegetarian meals, no raw cashews or apples, kid-friendly spice levels and the willingness to try new things. We get cheaper grocery bills, fewer hours cooking, smaller piles of dishes and more time in the afternoon to work or read or play. Plus, goodbye mac & cheese and frozen veggie burgers... hello mediterranean lasagna, black bean enchiladas and sweet potato curry.

The meals we make aren't supposed to be fancy -- remember, the whole idea is to take the pressure off -- but I have to admit to being a bit more inspired to crack open the old cookbooks than I usually am. It is a joy to cook for others -- the sense of intimacy is so concrete and the knowledge that they are breathing easy over at their house is gratifying. And the nights we're off? Besides being yummy, it is remarkably moving to sit down to a meal that has been lovingly prepared just for us. 

Just another hash mark in the It Takes a Village column. And I'm all full-up...