I had a dinner party in my new home last Sunday night. And I had new friends over. The crazy thing is that all of these new women friends, and their very cool partners have come into my life in just the past year, soon after I set an intention to deepen relationships in the community I’m now living in. Now out here in the boonies of western Massachusetts, community means anyone within a 40 minute drive. So be it.
The Dinner Guests
Into my life come the stunning, clear, genuine and heartfelt Gabrielle Bernstein, the smart, honest, vital, wise Terri Cole, the creative, elegant, warrior-woman, environmentalist Zoe Tyron, and my friend Pilar Gerasimo, not a local, but visiting from rural Wisconsin. She's the most fashionable, educated farm girl I've ever met – brilliant, beautiful, generous. All of these women are generous. They each have all of the qualities I wrote for each one. Wow, do I feel blessed.
They are also all foodies.
They eat healthy. Organic. Pilar’s boyfriend is an acclaimed wild food chef. So the meal had to be good. Really good. But for me, no problem. I love cooking and have been at it in the kitchen with good food for 35 years. I know how to “throw it down” says my husband, originally from Georgia (I mean, where else but in the southeast do they say throw it down?). Nourishing my family and friends is my most treasured and pleasurable thing to do in life. Okay, truth be told, in the early years of concocting natural foods recipes – umm – well, not all my tahini, rice flour, sugarless birthday cakes were even – edible. But now, yeah, I can throw it down. Even pretty quickly for big groups, because my own crew is a big group. Ten for dinner is not unusual. I've also learned how to make it generally quick, easy, and painless. After all, I've been a busy gal with four kids. Not a lot of time for fuss.
So I quickly brainstormed a relatively easy menu, for a dinner party that got organized only about a week before the gathering was to happen. I kept in mind dietary preferences and needs – no added sugar, everything with a dairy-less option, wild rice which is a seed not a grain in case anyone was grain-free, and fish for the main protein, as I knew everyone attending eats fish (I always ask before a party if I'm not sure of my guests' food preferences. I want everyone to be comfortable, with no surprises for me or them).
The menu I created allowed me to showcase almost entirely local organic food, some of which I’d purchase the morning prior from the Great Barrington Farmer’s Market, including some especially healthy-looking shiitake mushrooms. Dinner was to open with Butternut Squash soup, and was followed by Arugula Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Clothbound Aged Cheddar (on the side for the vegans). The main dishes were Wild Rice with Toasted Pine Nuts, (interestingly, the town Pilar is from in Wisconsin, where wild rice grows natively, is actually the First Nations' word for wild rice, Menomin, she told me as we cooked), Salmon with sauteed shiitake mushroom and onion, and Roasted Beets with Tomato, Dill and Chèvre. This was to be topped off with a variety of dark chocolate, local organic red raspberry sorbet, and tea and fair trade/fair wage coffee for dessert. There was wine for those who enjoy it, and water from my well, with lemon from my landscaper’s Meyer Lemon trees that he grows with great care in his greenhouse!
My husband graciously did the shopping for anything we hadn’t picked up at the farmer’s market, while I picked Pilar up from the train station. Back at home, we promptly started cooking it up in my kitchen, chopping, mixing, sauteeing and grilling for about an hour and a half before everyone arrived. All the food preparation went off without a hitch. Cooking with Pilar with a breeze. She's a natural in the kitchen, too, and joyfully acted as sous chef. We chatted and cooked.
Gabby and her wonderful life and business partner Zack Rocklin, arrived first, soon followed by Zoe and her partner Alexander Souri, founder of Relief Riders International, and then Terri and her husband Vick Juhasz, and accomplished political cartoonist an illustrator, arrived bearing gifts – she a gluten free blueberry cobbler, made with blueberries picked from her land with her hands, and Vick walking in carrying a GIGANTIC pot filled with vibrant pink, orange, and red mums. Gabby set a beautiful table and nobody minded that I hadn’t gotten to ironing the very wrinkly linen napkins – yeah for rustic decor!
When the first bites of soup were eaten, the table went quiet. Then there were rolls of wow, mmm, ooh, and finally, requests for the recipe. The rest of the meal was also absolutely delicious, but the Butternut Squash Soup would have taken a prize had there been a recipe contest. Other than Pilar, who saw me make it, I don’t think anyone believed that it is one of the easiest recipes in the world to make. Other than the annoyance of peeling the butternut squash (a job I find absolutely unpleasant and tedious because the thin skin is so firmly attached to the flesh of the squash, and the whole thing is heavy and slippery while getting peeled) there’s practically no work involved and the results are outstanding.
The Full Moon
The dinner was made even more magical by the fact that the perigee moon of September 27th was the same night, so we got up between courses to watch the eclipse. And since the event seemed so momentous, we decided to gather for a small intention “ritual” after the dishes had been cleared and dessert had. We gathered in my living room and each wrote on a paper the things we’d like to let go of, and the traits or intentions we’d like to bring in. Even the men joined us in our girlie-goddess ritual! Together we shed fears, overwhelm, chaos in our lives, aches and pains keeping some of my guests from fulfilling their joys and goals, and other limitations. We shared these with each other with the intention of supporting each other in letting go. We could also each relate to the other's struggles. Then we burned these in an old smudge shell I keep in my fireplace when not in use, along with some cedar and sage. Next we shared what we welcome in as our desired traits and practices: patience, presence, more time to ski were some of what we each welcomed in.
The End of the Evening
It got quite late – after 11 – which is now late to my friends who are mostly no longer in their 20s and who had work and early travel the next morning. A group photo, one more look at the moon past eclipse and turning red (the “blood moon”), and hugs, kisses and well-wishes for until we meet again as everyone parted.
During dinner Pilar leaned over to me and said, “You know Aviva, if this medicine thing ever doesn’t work out for you, you seriously have a career as a chef.” For now, I’ll stick with the medicine thing, serve food to friends and family, and share recipes with you, my dear reader. But, in so many ways, from its health giving effects to its heart and soul nourishment, both for the giver and receiver, food is the best medicine. So perhaps for me, food and medicine will always go hand in hand.