This past tuesday was my turn to cook lunch- At the farm, everybody takes turn cooking the noon meal, and everyone eats together. pretty much every other meal is self-serve, and the protocol is to plan for 30 people.
Now, thirty people may or may not sound like a lot to some. And in some cases, it may not be. If these were 30 mild-mannered air-conditioned suburban office workers, this might not seem like such a task. But these are 30 farmers. People that have spent the past 3-4 hours working in the hot July sun, leaving them ravenous and electrolyte deprived. Not to mention the men who sit down for the noon meal here tuck in and put away more in one sitting than I do in an entire day.
I’ve never cooked for such a volume before. Usually when I make meals its for 4 or 5 people. The most I’ve ever cooked for is 15, and thats really pushing it. Plus, when I plan a meal, I make lists. Oh the joy of a shopping list! After I spend a significant amount of time searching for what I want to make, I then spend a significant amount of time searching for the ingredients. No such luxury here. I must put to use what is already in the farm kitchen, which is a beast I’ve never faced before.
As I was musing on what to prepare, I found out that there would be a troop of girls coming for a few days, about 10 or so. So the guidance I used on the volume of food to prepare was more or less a stab in the dark, and I found myself petitioning the Lord to intervene in a loaves and fishes type manner if I happened to not make quite enough.
The farm kitchen (like almost all of the other buildings here) is not air conditioned. There is practically no ventilation, so the 3 1/2 hours I spent in there was one of the most intensive workouts ever. Really all the mechanical work required by one’s body to produce sweat in there is standing and breathing. Plus, I have the habit of running around like a crazy woman when I cook under normal, no pressure conditions. Here is what the kitchen table looked like after about 10 minutes:
Luckily I was able to procure a couple of chopping assistants, some young girls who were part of the volunteer group who came to work/’experience the farm’ for a couple of days. Extra mouths, yes, but they were really skinny and didn’t eat much. They were a huge help and chopped almost all of the peppers seen in this picture:
This picture (and a couple of the rest of these) would have probably been a lot better had I not smeared olive oil on my camera lens. Its a job hazard ’round these parts. They tasted excellent though.
Does this look like a hazard? Thats what happens when you have to improvise to open a can of tomatoes. Basically I found myself in a frenzy of not being able to open my cans of tomatoes of my spaghetti sauce, so this can (plus four more 28-ounce ones) looked a lot like this. Thanks again to one of my assistants for know how to do it “the old-fashioned way”. We decided it would be prudent not to recycle them.
I made this bread also. Its a really simple but delicious focaccia bread recipe found here. I follow the recipe pretty exactly except I use bread flour (it calls for all-purpose I believe) and that makes all the difference in my opinion. This was the 3rd time I’d made this bread since I came a week ago, and its been a quick favorite. I also added cheese, which I highly encourage.
That was the final result, a buffet line that included pasta, spaghetti sauce, hummus (about 20 pounds of it, all eaten) peppers and bread. There might have been a little sauce left over. Everybody seemed to like it (or at least parts of it) and I was very pleased. In the end I was sweat drenched and a little dazed, but it was totally worth it and fun.