Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fresh off the vine

Tad Barney photo
Last weekend was my husband's and his twin sister's birthday, always spent together, and they agreed to celebrate at a local pheasant farm. We had eaten there years ago and I was "game."

I had not anticipated the breadth of the feast, nor the event itself, something called dinner in the field, which included a hearty country meal (smoked pheasant and bruschetta appetizers, grilled pork and chicken, skinned mashed potatoes, giant kettle-cooked green beans, grilled corn on the cob, homemade bread and applesauce, crisp and light cole slaw, ice cream and fresh berries) and local farmers, including vintners and beer makers, with their products. It was a celebration of agriculture and felt like the American equivalent of a  Tuscan al fresco dinner. Long tables lined the apple orchard, where we sat communally savoring the multi-sensory experience of food, conversation, live music, acquainting with strangers and chatting with regional fruit, vegetable and animal growers.

It was magical.

And reminded me of an article I clipped years ago from Saveur, a real foodie magazine, focused on an Italian town that annually blocked the main street, while residents prepared a spaghetti feast for the entire population. There was a wonderful glossy black-and-white photo of those long tables, dressed in linen and dishes, end to end.

It gave me an idea to host such a meal in my hometown, Milford. Back then, I was involved with a terrific organization called Neighbor-to-Neighbor, initially created to bridge the 2001 Cincinnati race riots. I wanted this group to take it on as a "One Day Dinner" – kind of like a Sunday dinner, but with the emphasis of celebrating our alikeness, not our differences. It didn't fly, but the idea still hasn't left me.

I wonder why not.

I like the idea of a community pitching in, organizing, cooking and eating together. There's such ritual and congregation that revolves around eating a communal meal.

I LOVE food preparation. It's creative, cathartic, relaxing, energizing, sensual, artful and a bazillion other things. Imagine it magnified with more people involved.

I'm hungry all ready.

• How have I noticed food collecting people?
• What opportunities are there to gather my community?
• In what other ways could I be active in my community?
• How is it important to me to support local businesses/farmers?
• For what in my community am I grateful?

car lines
and macmeals


a walk
to the field
or farmer's
the garden

for something
off the

the dirt



  1. Cathy, this is a wonderful story of community and sharing. Years ago when I had an enormous garden and most of the people I knew also had gardens, we would get together monthly and share our home grown "goods". We would set up tables outdoors with all the lovely dishes and linens we had in our cupboards and light the night with lots of candles. It was a wonderful time.
    I got Saveur for years and now subscribe to their online version. I don't recall the article you mentioned but they have many great recipes and stories of time shared over food.

  2. I would have loved to have been your neighbor -- how delightful. Where was that? I can just imagine. I had been thinking about that on a small, yard-to-yard scale, here.

    As for the Saveur, I know it was an older issue; I subscribed when it first came out and, finally, combed through my stacks, clipping my favorite recipes and placing into a binder. I did a lot of cutting!

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!