A couple of weeks ago, Rob and I had the privilege of hosting five college students in Three Rivers over spring break. One of the highlights of our time was being able to cook together every evening at The Hermitage, where we stayed for most of the week.
On our first day, we planned our menu and went shopping. First stop: Miller's Discount, an Amish grocery store out in the country near Centreville, Michigan. Miller's, entirely non-electric with propane-powered lamps and refrigeration, carries bulk dry goods, canned foods, lots of candy, and several refrigerated items like cheese and ice cream. We purchased what we could there and then, for the sake of contrast, headed to Meijer to get the rest of our items.
Our menu for the week was pretty simple, yet amazing. Here's a summary:
- SATURDAY DINNER: Mabodofu, an Asian stir fry made by Johnathan who's spent a lot of time in southeast Asia
- SUNDAY LUNCH: Chocolate chili from Marian's all-chocolate cookbook and made with fair trade chocolate from World Fare
- SUNDAY DINNER: Potato Leek Soup for an Irish-themed potluck with the local sustainable food group (Our soup was joined by soda bread with homemade jams and butters, several stews with local beef, Guinness bread and several other delights.)
- MONDAY DINNER: White Bean Spinach Pasta, Curried Carrot Soup made with milk from a local cow and overwintered carrots we helped dig that afternoon at White Yarrow Farm
- TUESDAY DINNER: Moosewood calzones with two fillings (eggplant and spinach), that somehow expanded to also include pizza and pasta
- WEDNESDAY DINNER: Veggie Kapow (vegetables in foil packages) with a selection of Asian, Italian and Indian seasoning cooked over an outdoor fire
- THURSDAY DINNER: An amazing Korean meal prepared for us by Julie, who does small catering jobs on the side and lived in Korea for a year and a half
- FRIDAY DINNER: Yam curry with rice and potato cakes
- SATURDAY DINNER: Shrimp scampi, mushroom pasta and roasted broccoli graciously prepared for us by Barb, who wanted to serve those who served all week in the community.
We also ate homemade granola, oatmeal and scones for breakfasts, and had a steady supply of David's homemade breads throughout the week.
Instead of cooking a variety of perfunctory meals designed to be quick and cheap, meal times turned into extended communal rituals--from the shopping to the cooking to the eating to the cleaning up--that provided a perfect backdrop for reflection on our experiences and stories. Who says college students have to eat Ramen and pizza all the time? What made it possible:
- having a decent budget for food (total came to about $7 per person/day)
- cultivating a collaborative spirit with willingly helpful participants
- having open-ended time and space for cooking and eating
- commitment to flexibility for vegan and vegetarian diets
- willingness to improvise on short notice
- access to a well-stocked kitchen
- knowing the area well enough to be able to access local foods
See more details about the Three Rivers spring break trip at the Imagining Space blog under the March 2010 posts.